How to Silver-Plate Plastic

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Silver electro-plating is an easy process that requires sophisticated equipment. You can silver-plate small plastic items in your home or studio with a rectifier, a small glass container and specialized chemicals. Large plate projects require expensive equipment that is usually not affordable for small studios or suited for home use. Silver-plating plastic is a great way to produce lightweight jewelry or objects. Many jewelry designers sculpt plastic or wax, silver-plate the creation and leave the wax or plastic as a solid core to create jewelry that is durable and looks large, but requires little silver to create.

Things You'll Need

  • Rectifier
  • Electro-conductive paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Silver electroplating chemical solution
  • Alligator clips
  • Glass container
  • Coffee filters
  • Clean the plastic with soap and water.

  • Paint the plastic with electro-conductive paint and a paintbrush and allow the paint to dry. Cover the entire surface.

  • Attach the rectifier's positive lead to the sheet metal that supplies the plating solution with an alligator clip. Attach the negative lead to the plastic object painted with electro-conductive paint with an alligator clip.

  • Pour the plating solution into a glass container. There should be enough solution to completely immerse the prepared plastic object.

  • Immerse the painted plastic item into the silver-plating solution. Turn on the rectifier and adjust it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The electrical current will cause the silver molecules in the chemical bath to coat the plastic painted with electro-conductive paint so that a “skin” will develop and plate the plastic.

  • Remove the silver-plated plastic item once you are happy with the plating results and rinse it with water.

  • Filter the solution and return in to its original container for storage. Two coffee filters work well. Clean and dry the rectifiers and the alligator clip attachments before storing.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from the chemicals. Wear eye goggles to protect from splash and a respirator to protect from chemical fumes.
  • Use caution when working with electrical current.

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References

  • \"The Complete Metalsmith: Professional Edition?;\" Tim McCreight; 2005
  • \"Metalsmithing;\" Robert Ebendorf, Michael Jerry, and Thomas Markusen; 1973
  • \"Jewelry Concepts and Technology;\" Oppi Untracht; 1982
  • \"The Penland Book of Jewelry;\" Marthe Le Van; 2005
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