Surface Finish of Jewellery

Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of a shine on their adornments? Of course, there are more practical reasons for jewellery plating, namely to protect it from weathering due to external factors like sunlight, moisture, dust etc. Plating is a cover applied on the surface of a metallic substance. The application of plating serves to fulfill multiple purposes: to prevent corrosion, to increase soldering capacity of a metal, to reinforce paint adhesion, to reduce friction, to improve conductivity and also to decorate and embellish jewelry.

Plating has existed for hundreds of years, and was initially conceived for electroplating, where electric diodes were placed on an electrolytic solution and the dissociated ions would form the layer upon the metal. In its extensive use in jewelry, plating has been done mainly with gold and silver, besides rhodium and platinum plating. However, to understand gold plating, mention should be made of 22K and 24K gold varieties.

K stands for karat, which is the measurement of purity of gold. 24K gold is the purest form of gold, which is too soft for usage in manufacturing jewellery. Hence, an alloy or another metal is added to the pure gold in order to make it suitable for making jewellery. 24K gold is also used in the purpose of gold-plating jewellery pieces to give a shiny layer of gold coating. 

22K gold is the less purer version of gold, with 91% of gold in it, which is mixed with around 9% of other metals to strengthen its capacity. It is often used for the purpose of gold-plating as well. Other such varieties include 20K, 18K, 14K, 12K and 10K gold with gradually diminishing purity. 

Rose Gold: Another kind of surface finish used in plated jewellery. Worn extensively in the West, and having quite the impact in eastern countries as well, rose gold has existed for a long time across many cultures due to the popularity of the metal copper, an essential for manufacturing Rose Gold. Rose Gold is composed of 22K or 18K gold and the rest of it is copper, which gives the product its unique coral-pink rosy glimmer. The purest variety of gold, 24K gold, is however not capable of alloying with copper to make any rose gold jewellery, and hence gradations below it is used to make this type of surface finish. Rose gold rings, earrings, pendants and chains have an exquisite lustre to them, which makes it so desirable to many a customer.

White Gold: Another variety of plating that has popularized itself among jewellery collectors for the past few decades. In this case, the gold is alloyed with another white-coloured metal like nickel or palladium. Moreover, the gold used is generally 18K or 14K having 75% and 60% of gold respectively in it. Thus, when it is mixed with a white metal, it gives its signature white polished surface appearance. This is further accomplished by adding a layer of white rhodium over the existing layer and it can be reapplied by the jewellers once the rhodium layer wears off.

Rhodium Plating: Perhaps the most desirable kind of jewellery plating. One of the most precious and rarest of metals found upon the Earth’s crust with naturally existing platinum ores of North and South America, rhodium is a strong white-coloured shiny metal that has a high melting point and is extremely durable. Due to its many uses and value, rhodium is much more expensive than gold. This is why rhodium is only used a layer of coating to plate the jewellery, like in the case of white gold or sterling silver.

Ruthenium is a rare transitional element which is naturally found along with its parental Platinum ores along the Ural mountains and in North and South America. Highly useful in several chemical processes, ruthenium plating gives a shiny jet-black to gun-metal grey layer upon the plated metal, and makes it extremely resistant to scratches. Essentially, ruthenium-plated jewellery has a very sophisticated and bold appeal due to its grey black colouration and is referred to as Black Ruthenium plating.

Silver plated jewellery: In the list of surface finishes for jewellery, this is the most common kind. This is done by plating the existing jewellery with an extremely thin film of 100% pure silver which is only 2 to 3 microns in thickness. Sometimes, a layer of electric coating that affixes a layer of organic lacquer upon the piece is also associated with the silver plating process.

Platinum is a thin white metal with a high melting point which is highly resilient to weathering from air. Malleable and ductile, this is a shiny metal found across the ores in North and South America and has gained immense popularity in the world jewellery since its discovery. Lustrous with a greater shine than silver, it enhances the glimmer of diamonds. Hence, platinum plating has become quite desirable with its worth for value in case of durability and its sophisticated appeal that pairs wonderfully with various precious stones like rubies, emeralds etc. and of course, diamonds.

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