How to Plate Various Metals

We realise that with such a wide range of metal surfaces out there to choose from, it can be confusing to know exactly what steps and which chemicals are required for plating. Sometimes, things can get even trickier to decipher when the steps required for plating in a certain metal vary or are completed in a different order, when brush plating versus tank plating.

We have created a step by step explanation of the steps and chemicals that you will need to plate the most popular metals. It has been designed to remove any uncertainties that platers may encounter so that you are armed with all the necessary knowledge. We are going to assume that the final plating finish is gold, but all steps leading up to the final stage are appropriate regardless of finish, unless otherwise noted.

Please note: the first metal in each list represents the surface that would be plated over e.g. our first example details the steps required for plating over copper.

 

Copper

Brush plating steps:

Polish → electroclean → nickel plate → nickel activator → electroclean → gold plate

Tank plating steps:

Electroclean → Electroforming Copper → nickel plate → gold plate

 

Brass

Brush plating steps:

Polish → electroclean → Copper Strike → nickel plate → nickel activator → electroclean → gold plate

Tank plating steps:

Polish (if heavily oxidised) → electroclean → Electroforming Copper → nickel plate → gold plate

 

Stainless Steel

Brush plating steps:

Electroclean → stainless steel activator → electroclean → gold plate

Tank plating steps:

Electroclean → stainless steel activator → electroclean → 18K Gold flash plate → gold plate

 

Steel (non stainless)

Tank plating steps (not recommended for brush plating):

Electroclean → stainless steel activator → electroclean → 18K Gold flash plate → Nickel plate for 40 minutes → gold plate

 

Zinc / Zinc-Based Alloys

Brush plating steps:

Degrease with detergent (not a plating stage) → Copper Strike → nickel plate → nickel activate → electroclean → gold plate

*On some occasions, after Copper Strike, you may need to brush on Electroforming Copper and polish back before progressing to the next step.

Tank plating steps:

Degrease with detergent (not a plating step) → Copper Strike → Electroforming Copper → nickel plate → gold plate

 

Silver

Brush plating steps:

Polish → electroclean → nickel plate → nickel activator → gold plate

Tank plating steps:

Polish → electroclean → nickel plate → gold plate

*If the silver that you are plating is jewellery, swap the nickel plate for palladium plate.

 

Aluminium

Tank plating steps (cannot be brush plated):

Polish → electroclean → AllyCu Solution → nickel plate for 40 minutes → gold plate

 

Iron

Brush plating steps:

De-rust and polish → electroclean → Copper Strike → Electroforming Copper followed by a polish → electroclean → nickel plate → nickel activator → electroclean → gold plate

Tank plating steps:

De-rust and polish → electroclean → Copper Strike → Electroforming Copper → nickel plate → gold plate

 

Titanium

Brush plating steps:

Electroclean → stainless steel activator → electroclean → gold plate

Tank plating steps:

Electroclean → stainless steel activator → electroclean → 18K Gold flash plate → gold plate

 

9K - 18K Gold

Brush plating steps:

Electroclean → nickel activator → electroclean → gold plate

Tank plating steps:

Electroclean → nickel activator → electroclean → gold plate

 

Palladium

Brush plating steps:

Electroclean → gold plate

Tank plating steps:

Electroclean → gold plate

 

Rhodium

Brush plating steps:

Electroclean → gold plate

Tank plating steps:

Electroclean → gold plate

 

Nickel

Brush plating steps:

Electroclean → nickel activator → electroclean → gold plate

Tank plating steps:

Electroclean → nickel activator → electroclean → gold plate

 

Chrome

Brush plating steps:

Chrome Stripper with polarity reversed → switch polarity back then use nickel activator → electroclean → gold plate

Tank plating steps:

Chrome Stripper with polarity reversed → switch polarity back then use nickel activator → electroclean → gold plate

 

Helpful hints: if you are plating jewellery made from any of the metals in this list featuring a nickel-plating stage, you must use palladium solution instead which does not need to be activated.

If you are plating aluminium and it has been anodised, the anodise must be removed with G.S.P Anodise Stripper prior to completing any of the steps that we have set out.