What is silver electroplating/electroforming?
Electroforming and electroplating are two very similar arts, yet they should be used in different situations for different purposes.
For both arts, you can use many metals such as copper, gold, or silver for example. In this article, we’ll focus on the latter of those, silver!
We’ll cover everything you need to know on both electroforming and electroplating with this precious metal!
What is silver electroplating/electroforming?
Silver electroplating or electroforming is the process of covering a certain object with a new layer of silver, in electroplating, this layer is very thin and only has a cosmetic purpose, the layer in electroforming is thicker and forms a solid shell around the object!
In this article, we’ll take a dive into the world of silver electroforming and electroplating, and we’ll discover how to create beautiful silver-looking results with this technique! So, without further ado, let’s jump right in!
What Does Sterling Silver Electroforming Mean?
As some of you may know from buying jewelry, there’s different categories of silver to choose from.
Mainly being pure silver and so-called ‘sterling silver, they’re not the same and actually have different lifespans and prices, but what is sterling silver, and which one do we use for electroforming?
Sterling silver is an alloy, or a mixture of multiple metals, it consists of 92.5% pure silver and the remaining 7.5% is an alloy, usually containing cheaper metals like zinc and copper.
Using pure silver to make jewelry, and to electroform, can quickly get very expensive.
Therefore, we prefer to use sterling silver as it yields the same results to the naked eye!
The electroforming process is often used in so-called ‘hollow’ jewelry, basically, jewelry that isn’t solid metal, this significantly brings down the cost and weight of the jewelry!
Can You Electroplate/Electroform Sterling Silver?
As we’ve covered in the previous paragraph, using sterling silver can safe us significant costs, while not having any influence on our final results!
Sounds great, but is it even possible, and if so, how difficult is it? With Sterling silver being an alloy, these are both valid questions, as we don’t have much experience electroforming or plating with alloys just yet!
To quickly get to the point, yes, it’s possible to electroform with Sterling silver just like we would with any other metal! In fact, it makes easier for us, as pure silver is generally considered to be too soft to be used in jewelry! With that worry out of the way, let’s look closer at the process itself!
What Is The Difference Between Electroplating And Electroforming?
In the previous parts of this article we’ve been using the terms
Electroforming and Electroplating mostly in the same context, but as we mentioned in the introduction, they’re far from the same thing!
They’re similar in nature, yet different in use, but how are they different? And when should you use which?
The difference between the two lies in the amount of material deposited, with electroplating the new material becomes part of the object and creates a cosmetic metallic appearance.
With electroforming, on the other hand, a completely solid shell is created around the object, this shell can exist on its own and no longer relies on support from the object itself.
So, if you’re purely looking for cosmetic results electroplating is the technique for you, if you’re looking for a solid and thick shell, you should look into electroforming instead!
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What Is The Silver Electroforming/Electroplating Process?
As we’ve discussed in the previous paragraph, the differences between electroforming and electroplating don’t lie in the process, rather in the duration of the process.
So now it’s time for the part we’ve all been waiting for, let’s get to business! In this paragraph we’ll look at the electroforming and electroplating process with silver, we’ll guide you through the process step by step!
As you might have noticed when searching the web for the silver electroplating process, information on the topic is quite scarce as most sites aim their focus on commercial solutions using cyanide, which, for obvious reasons, isn’t available to us at home! Luckily for us, using silver for our home projects is still very much possible, but the process is a little different!
To start, the electrolyte using Hydrogen Peroxide and Vinegar doesn’t work very well, as a chemical reaction takes place, leaving a white gel, not what we’re looking for! Instead, we should use a mixture of Hydrogen Peroxide and Sodium Carbonate.
Sodium Carbonate can be created at home by heating baking soda for an hour at 375℃, or 707℉. Mix some Hydrogen Peroxide with a few tablespoons of Sodium Carbonate, after creating your electrolyte, it’s time to get to the process.
Set up the electrical circuit you’ll need, anode to the positive terminal, cathode to the negative terminal, and set the power supply at a low voltage, around 5V seems to work well for silver.
Be careful when submerging the clips of your wires into the electrolyte, as they’ll decompose and contaminate your solution, so be sure to keep them dry!
Let it sit and monitor the amount of silver building up on your piece, and there you go, there you have the silver electroforming and plating process!
Can You Electroplate/Electroform With Silver?
As we’ve already covered, electroforming sterling silver is very much possible, but does the same go for pure silver? And if so, what are the advantages and disadvantages to using rare and expensive metals such as silver in our electroforming projects?
Usually when people say electroforming silver, they actually mean electroplating, as fully electroforming silver can quickly become very expensive.
To get back to the theoretical question though, is it possible? The answer is quite simply, yes, with enough research and tweaking any conductive metal can be electroformed or plated, even gold!
You have to be willing to put some time, effort, and money into it, but anything is possible!
If you found this article informative please visit Can You Electroplate With Vinegar And Hydrogen Peroxide? (Best Way)
All in all, using silver in your electroplating and electroforming projects creates some very interesting, and beautiful results!
Depending on your purpose, you can choose to electroform, if you’re looking for a solid shell, or electroplate, if you’re looking for cosmetic appeal only.
Whichever one you choose, experimenting with different metals is always fun, and it yields some interesting results!
You now know What is silver electroplating/electroforming?
Thank you for reading, and good luck on your electroforming journey!
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Sources In MLA Format:
Brierley, Jon. Silver Plating at Home, 1 Jan. 1970, homechemexperiments.blogspot.com/2009/08/silver-plating-at-home.html?m=1.
Davis, Deven. “What’s the Difference Between Sterling Silver and Regular Silver?” Roma Designer Jewelry, Roma Designer Jewelry, 17 Feb. 2021, www.romadesignerjewelry.com/blogs/education/what-is-the-difference-between-sterling-silver-and-regular-silver.
Haab, Sherri. “Electroforming or Plating with Gold, Silver or Other Metals.” Sherri Haab Designs, 9 June 2015, www.sherrihaab.com/blogs/news/33679876-electroforming-or-plating-with-gold-silver-or-other-metals.
jobanglesAdmin. “Electroformed Sterling Silver Jewellery.” Jo Bangles, 21 Apr. 2016, jobangles.co.za/electroformed-sterling-silver-jewellery/#:~:text=Electroforming%20is%20the%20formation%20of,(similar%20to%20hard%20plastic).
Knol, Harrie. “Electroplating vs Electroforming: What’s the Difference?” Veco Blog, 4 July 2017, insights.vecoprecision.com/electroplating-vs-electroforming-whats-the-difference#:~:text=In%20electroplating%2C%20the%20deposited%20metal,is%20entirely%20created%20through%20electrodeposition.