What is Gold Plating

An Introduction to Gold plating or Electro plating

Gold plating or electro plating is a term being thrown around a lot, especially when talking about metals, but what exactly does it mean? Why is electro plating used? And how did it come into existence?

Well, in layman terms, electroplating is quiet simply the coating of an object with a metal. It can also be defined as an electric process by which electrolytic cells are evenly and thoroughly applied onto the surface on an electrode (electrically conductive object).

As you have probably figured out by now, gold plating is nothing but electro plating in which the metal layer being used as a finishing coat is gold. Likewise, if silver were to be used as the coating layer, it would be termed silver plating. Silver plating and gold plating is usually done to create inexpensive jewelry or silverware that looks like the real deal, but in reality, it is only a thin layer of gold or silver on top of a much cheaper metal, just to give it a certain appeal and kick up the value by a notch.
So how do you apply a thin layer of metal onto another metal? Metals aren’t like liquid paint. You can’t just spray or brush it on. How do they do it?
Electro plating requires electric current to work. Electric current basically melts or dissolves metal cations (which are formed when a metal loses electrons and a non-metal gains them) from a solution so that these cations can be used to coat a conductive material or object.

The aforementioned answer is only a gist of the process. There are several methods by which electro plating is achieved. Some of these processes are Pulse Electroplating, Brush Electro plating and Electroless deposition.

Real world practical uses of electro plating

So why go to such lengths just to give some cutlery a shine, you ask? Well, apart from using it for the purpose of creating inexpensive jewelry and silverware (aesthetics), there are many other advantages and real world applications of electro plating.
Not only does electro plating add to the look and value of a certain object but it also protects the surface from corrosion. Especially when copper, nickel or chromium is used as the coating metal; they are resistant to erosion and hence make a great protective layer.
Another industrial application of electro plating is for the purpose of making things conductive. Some metals are poor conductors of electricity. Metals like gold and silver are great electric conductors but are also expensive; hence, a cheaper metal is coated with an expensive metal to make it a good conductor. This technology is used in electric circuits, cell phones and even in computers.

History of electroplating

Electro plating was invented by Luigi V. Brugnatelli, an Italian chemist, in the early 1800s. He first invented and successfully electroplated in 1805. It is said that his innovations were initially made confidential by the French Academy of Sciences and hence was never actually put into use. However, almost 35 years since Brugnatelli invented it, other scientists from Russia and Britain had also come up with similar procedures to electro plate. Some of the first general uses of these procedures were seen in Russia in the 19th century, huge galvanoplastic sculptures were some of the first manifestations of electro plating.