Jewelry, Gems, & Minerals/Gold over Silver

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Hi Thomas. Someone gave me a diamond heart shaped pendant as a gift. I found out it was gold over silver when I put it in jewelry cleaner. It looks awful now. The front is fine but the back as you can see is messed up. Can this be fixed and who would I need to take it to? Thanks for your time.

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Dear Tammy,

Veremeil (ver-may) is the name for sterling silver with a flash plated layer of gold on the ourside. The gold is very thin and not nearly as durable as heavier plated surfaces. This kind of jewelry remains popular because it is silver, a precious metal, and is quite pretty with the gold surface color.  Unfortuntely, the thin layer of gold prevents polishing and repair by a jeweler because the gold layer will simply buff or burn away very easily.

Electroplating at a jewelers is generally rhodium plate, the white metal used to give white gold a whiter look and sometimes used to make yellow gold jewelry look like white gold. Fortunately, jewelers can just as easily gold plate jewelry items. Gold may be plated dierectly onto sterling silver, returning your heart to its vermeil gold over silver condition.

The problem is whether or not a jeweler has gold plate solution on hand.  With gold prices so very, very high,  the electoplate solutuons are likely quite costly, too. Where I used to work, we had the solution on hand from a time prior to the very high gold prices. Since there was little call to gold plate anything, the solution was not used up.  Had it been used up, I doubt it would have been replaced at current prices of about $160 per quart.  A jeweler who has gold plating solution on hand should be able to do the work for you. If not on hand, it is not worth it to purchase the solution to do one job.

The process is relatively simple in jewelers terms. First, the jewelry is gently buffed to remove residue from the original "cleaning" and to put the desired shine on the metal. Then all is thoroughly cleaned with ultrasonic and electrocleaner. Rinsed off well, it is placed in the plating solution, a waterlike mix containing gold ions in solution.  When a low electrical current is applied, the gold in the solution moves to the jewelry and is deposited on the surface. The actual plating takes only a short while.  

Cleaning always can be a little risky since stones can come out. If any stones are not set tightly, they will become loose or come out. For that reason, it is a good idea for the jeweler to clean the item by placing it in a ziplock baggie with cleaning solution in the baggie then putting it all in the ultrasonic cleaner. Any gems that fall out will be kept in the bag and may be reset in the jewelry.

I do not know what the price might be to do this plating.  Much depends on how much work is needed to restore the proper surface to the silver prior to electroplating and whether or not labor is needed to reset or tighten the stones. To rhodium plate a ring might run about $40 and I suspect this work with the pendant will be at least that much if not more.  You need to call around and find a jeweler who does gold plating on silver and take the pendant in for a ballpark estimate.

If the pendant is not plated with gold, possibly it may be buffed to make it all shiny sterling and that will cost less overall.  Of course, it must be sterling silver in the first place. Look for a 925 or sterling stamp on the pendant to confirm the metal is sterling silver.

Tammy, now you have a possible solution to returning your pendant to the original gold color or to sterling, either of which is a nice look and will save the pendant.

Thanks for the photos.

God Bless and Peace, Thomas.


Word to the wise: There is a silver cleaner referred to as "silver dip". I recommend that cleaner not be used for any cleaning  because it is terribly harsh when the "dip" time is exceeded. Used sparingly, it works to remove light tarnish but much too often I hear horror stories of "my jewelry is ruined"  concerning silver dip.

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Thomas

Expertise

Have a question about jewelry repair or working with precious metal jewelry and gemstones? For many years up to December 31, 2010, I was a working professional bench jeweler, involved everyday with setting stones in mountings, designing and making jewelry, repairing and limited custom manufacture. If you work with jewelry as a hobby or as a profession, I might be able to help. I deal with the retail business, not mass production. Ask privately if you wish. See the box for that: It keeps your question between us. Please DO NOT ask MAKER'S MARKS, but metal quality marks are fine to ask. Please DO NOT ask diamond prices. See a gemologist for that.

Experience

I have extensive experience in design, service and making of jewelry. I deal mostly with precious metals and gemstones but work with many materials as needed and usable to create an artistic design. My experience also includes freelance photography and photographer of jewelry and similar items for a former employer and individuals. Design of custom items requires reading the desires of the client and being clear on what can be done within that framework...then fulfilling the transition of idea to reality. Effective communications is essential in a working designer/producer and customer relationship.

Education/Credentials
Education is English/Physics! Started in human resources, to advertising, to jewelry...wow, what a road. I have had formal training in jewelry work and many shared experiences with top grade jewelers. We just never know were we will go or be. Follow your best, your dreams, with some discretion! Don't let the work tear up your body along the way as it has mine.

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