Science

Understanding How Plating Works

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Often known from fine jewelry and elegant silverware, the process of plating has been around for centuries to improve the appearance and durability of items. Most jewelry that has been plated with gold or silver has more sparkle and shine than unplated metals. In addition to accessories and home goods, plating has been an important element in technological advancements for fields such as nanotechnology, aerospace and the fuel industry.

What is Plating?

Plating is the process of applying a coat of metal over the conductive surface of an item. There are many different ways to plate objects, which has led to a variety of developments in the usage of plated items. Plating can be done in gold, silver, chrome, copper, zinc, tin and rhodium, to name a few. The metals are chosen depending on the intended use and necessary characteristics of the metal.

How is Plating Done?

The plating process differs depending on the industry, but there are two main methods. The first is called electroplating and involves the usage of electrons to bond a non-ionic metal coating onto an ionic surface. In electroless plating, the item to be plated is submerged in a liquid solution until chemical reactions occur and either release hydrogen or become oxidized. This action is often performed inside plating tanks specially designed for this process.

How Long Does Plating Last?

The longevity of plating depends on the metal that was plated, as well as the usage of the item. Jewelry items that are worn for long periods of time and come into contact with soaps or environmental chemicals may have their plating worn away; the same is often true for plated silverware or household objects. However, modern advances in alloy plating have led to very durable plating that can go for years without needing to be replated.