We will talk about this process in steps:
1. First step is to prepare the solutions that you will be using. Preparing the solution simply means that you have selected which plating solution you will be using. For jewelry, the following solutions are most common: Electro cleaner, copper, nickel, rhodium and gold in 14k, 18k, 24k, Green and Rose gold color. A striping solution is also available. Each one of these solutions must use its own anode and will require DC voltage as recommended by the solution manufacture.
The area you select for your plating laboratory must be kept as clean as possible because dust from polishing compounds and other contaminates could contaminate your plating solution. Your plating rectifier should be away from the fumes of the solutions. You should always wear a dust filter mask and surgical gloves when plating.
Anodes for each of the above-mentioned solutions are as follows:
Electro cleaner – SS (stainless steel) anode,
Rhodium – platinized titanium or platinum anode,
Gold – 24 or lesser karat if the manufacturer of the solution so indicates or a SS anode.
Note that by using a SS anode in the gold plating solution the gold content in the solution will dissipate more rapidly than when using a gold anode.
Once you have selected the solutions to be used, read the labels and follow the directions given on the labels as to solution temperature and voltage. In most cases, you will be using at least two kinds of solutions. The first being the electro cleaner and the second, the color plating solution. It is possible that more than two types of solutions will have to be used in which case all must be prepared.
2. Second step is preparing the article to be plated. The article must be highly polished. In the polishing process, remove as many scratches
as possible with Tripoli as any scratches on the article will be highly accentuated. The brightness of the plating depends on the high luster of the metal that has been polished.
3. Step three is cleaning the article. All items that are being plated MUST be surgically clean. Standard cleaning methods employed are ultrasonic cleaners with a good detergent formulated for removing polishing compounds and a pressurized steam cleaner. After cleaning, inspect the article for any dirt and or polishing compounds that may be left on the article. This cleaning process is vitally important, because any dirt left on the article when immersed into the plating solution will contaminate the solution rendering it useless. When the article is clean, place it on a clean white cloth.
4. The fourth step is also a cleaning process, which is to utilize the electro cleaner solution. Attach the article to a copper wire and attach the wire
to the cathode or black lead of the plating rectifier. Clamp the red wire with the alligator clamp to the SS anode. Using the specified voltage recommended by the manufacturer of the solution, immerse the article into the electro cleaner solution and slightly agitate for approximately five (5) seconds. Upon removing the article from the solution, dip rinse in distilled water. Do not dry the article.
5. If selecting gold plating solution, be certain to read the manufacturers recommendation for solution temperature and voltage. Most of the available gold plating solutions will effectively plate when the solution is heated to approximately 120° to 140°. If no temperature thermometer is available, heat the solution until the liquid starts to slightly precipitate or cause bubbles to rise. Make certain that the red positive lead is connected to the anode.
Dial in the recommended voltage, which in most cases will be 5 to 6 volts and immerse the article into the gold plating solution and slightly agitate for approximately 5 to 10 seconds. Remove the article from the plating solution, rinse in the distilled water and dry with a clean white cloth.
The procedure for rhodium, copper, silver and nickel are basically the same with a few of the following exceptions.
1. Different solutions may require different voltage. Always check the manufacturers recommendation.
2. Do not plate rhodium directly on to silver. Always first, plate the article with copper solution and nickel or gold over the copper and then rhodium. Plating rhodium directly on to silver will contaminate the rhodium solution.
3. When plating nickel, immerse the nickel anode into the solution to approximately 1⁄2”. Never the full extent of the anode as this may cause a darkened surface.
4. Never leave the article in the plating solution longer than the recommended length of time. A longer length of time will not produce a heavier coat of the plated metal. This will only cause an uneven surface and flaking on the surface. There are gold solutions designated as hard gold plating solutions, which will produce harder longer lasting plating. These solution, however, are mostly designed for other specific purposes.
It is important to keep in mind that most plating that is performed in
jewelry repair shop is of a decorative nature. Standard gold plating will
last approximately 6 months to a year, which is longer than an article that is simply polished and cleaned. However, some manufacturers of gold plating solutions have what they call Hard Gold plating solution which will last much longer. Rhodium plating will last longer and can normally be removed only by polishing.
It is important to remember that cleanliness is as imperative as following all the correct procedures.
PEN PLATING HOW TO GUIDE:
Pen platers require a special concentrated solution. Without this solution, the pen plater will not function. Consult with the manufacturer of the solutions as to the recommended voltage for proper results. If this information is not available, follow the voltage procedure listed below.
To successfully plate with the pen plater, you must follow these steps carefully. First, the article to be plated must be highly polished and surgically clean. After polishing, clean the article using an ultrasonic cleaner with the proper cleaning detergent to remove all residues of the polishing compounds. After cleaning with the ultrasonic, thoroughly clean with a steam-cleaning machine. Finally inspect the article closely for any traces of dirt and or polishing compounds. If the necessary equipment is not available, clean the article as best you can. Keep in mind that if the article is dirty from any kind of contaminate it will contaminate and ruin the plating solution.
Connect the Pepetools plating pen to the power source. Be sure the on-off switch is off. The power source, being any plating rectifier that has the capacity to regulate the voltage. Pepetool pen platers are supplied with a positive (Red) and negative (Black) plug in type connectors. Insert the felt tip in the pen and push the tip at least 3/16” to 1⁄4” into the end of the pen. Be sure to use surgical latex gloves or surround the tip in a small zip lock bag so as not to introduce any contaminate to the tip. Insert the felt tip into the pen plating solution and let it absorb the solution, 2 to 4 minutes. The solution must reach the platinum wire in the pen.
Please note that voltage is critical. If the voltage is known for the solution you are using, turn the rectifier to on and turn the voltage to the proper voltage setting. If the Voltage is unknown, use the following procedure:
For gold pen, plating solutions set the voltage at four (4) volts and increase the Voltage one-(1) volt at a time, until you reach the desired results. Satisfactory results are normally achieved between 4 to 6 volts.
For rhodium pen plating solution, start at 5 volts. Satisfactory results are normally achieved between 5 to 12 volts.
Next, connect the alligator clip to the article to be plated. Dip the article in distilled water, do not dry or touch. Dab and slightly rub the surface with the end of the Felt tip. At this point, adjust the voltage if necessary. The reaction is a slight fizzing on the surface being plated. After plating, dip the article in distilled water. Place the newly plated article on a white clean cloth. Never place or dry the article on or with paper towels.
It is a good idea to remove the felt tip from the pen when not in use. Simply mark on a zip lock bag what kind of solution the tip was used for, close the bag properly and set aside until you are ready to use it again. Remember to never touch the tip with your bare fingers. Always keep the area where you are plating as clean as possible.