The techniques of gilding in jewelry. Here are the things to know before buying and what to do to avoid damaging the jewelry ♦
You do not need to buy a piece of solid gold to show off something golden. And you do not even need to resort to jewelry clad with yellow metal. If you want to save money, just choose something that has the color of gold or, better, be covered with a layer of precious metal.
But have you ever wondered how earrings, rings and necklaces are made of steel or silver and gold-colored on the outside? The most common method of gilding is the galvanic process. It is a complicated and rather recent process: in the past, in order to make as gold the jewels made of another kind of metal, the laminating system was used, that is the application of a thin sheet of gold on the underlying surface. For this you will never find an antique jewel with a galvanic gilding. Galvanic gold plating is, in fact, a fairly recent type of electrochemical process: in the so-called galvanic bath, a thin layer of gold is adhered to a metal using electrical current. This current carries positively charged gold ions and adheres to the metal of the jewels which, on the other hand, has a negative charge. The result is that a uniform and thin layer is deposited. This processing is not performed by companies that design and sell jewelry, but by specialized companies. Be careful, though: sometimes this layer is so thin that it can be very easily erased or scratched. So, be aware that not all jewels with gilding are the same: it depends on who performed the galvanic process and how thick the ionized gold layer that covers the jewel is. Obviously, a greater and more resistant gilding is reflected in the price … Any case, the gilding can be made in the classic yellow, or pink or white. But there are also galvanic processes with other metals, such as titan or silver.
How to clean the jewels
Since the galvanizing process only adds a very thin layer of gold powder, the jewels made with this technique should not be rubbed against rough surfaces: it is very easy to scratch them. For cleaning, it is better to use warm and not hot water and a very soft cloth, or a toothbrush but with natural bristles. If the jewelry is very dirty, you can dissolve in the water a drop of neutral liquid soap.
The history of the galvanic process
Now it is used all over the world, but the galvanic gilding was born in Italy, in 1802. To be precise, at the University of Pavia, where Luigi Valentino Brugnatelli experimented with this procedure (not particularly for gilding jewelry), with the use of the new galvanic pile, developed by Alessandro Volta, of which Brugnatelli was a friend and collaborator. The solution used was based on gold fulminate. When you say destiny …