How Does Gold Plating Work?

Gold plating is becoming increasingly popular. You wouldn’t believe some of the items we’ve been asked to give a new lease of life. We’ve even done work on a gold plated iPhone! But what exactly is gold plating and how does it work? Here’s the lowdown on this interesting craft.

Quite simply, gold plating is just a way of leaving a thin layer of gold onto the surface of another metal, typically either silver or copper, through the process of chemical or electrochemical plating.

The practice has been around for quite some time, with smiths in northern Peru in ancient America gilding and silvering copper objects using a variety of techniques. Between 1987 and 1990 at Sipan, gold and silver artefacts were discovered that were dated from AD50-300.

These days, all sorts of different items can be plated, from jewellery to electronics – and even to cars! But it’s not all just for aesthetics and it’s done in the manufacturing process of jewellery to help prevent tarnishing. In the electronics industry, gold plating often appears in printed circuit boards and electrical connectors in order to provide a corrosion-resistant layer on copper.

All electroplating will need a metal conductive surface in order to carry the electrical current that is required in order to enable the gold plating process. If you have non-conductive items, you can still have them plated but you’ll need to paint them with a conductive paint first in order for the procedure to be successful.

Aluminium can be plated but you have to use zincate first so as to avoid the metal from oxidising after the pre-treatment required for plating. Want to find out more? Read this article on Explain That Stuff.