I collected a bowl (okay, several bowls) of natural found objects for a long time. I saved interesting leaves, twigs, acorn caps, shells and other organic bits that I wanted to plate in metal. But then I learned about electroplating, also called electroforming! Naturally, when our new electroforming jewelry video was released, I was thrilled with the possibilities of electroplating jewelry! I was excited to learn about the electroforming process, specifically copper plating.
The complete electroforming jewelry process is explained in our new free video tutorial, Electroforming Jewelry: Equipment and Supplies for Copper Plating, hosted by Denise Peck, editor of Step by Step Wire Jewelry and senior editor of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. Denise shares all the tools and supplies you need to start electroforming jewelry and explains how to set up an electroforming station.
Electroforming coats objects with a layer of real metal. This allows you to use complex organic shapes in your metal jewelry without difficult fabrication. Electroforming jewelry is a simple process, but the results are stunning while looking quite complicated. When electroforming a piece of organic material, metal particles from the wire or solution attach to the item you’re plating via electric current. You can attach jump rings to the objects before you electroplate them so they’re ready to use in your creations later.
Imagine creating electroformed jewelry components from found objects and materials! It’s incredibly fun and rewarding. In this free video, Denise explains the supplies needed for jewelry electroplating as well as the basic jewelry electroforming process.
Electroforming Jewelry: Piece to Electroform (Cathode)
I’m not the only one who loves finding unusual and intricate finds in nature and in antiques shops. Those found objects are known as the cathode portion of the electrical process required to electroplate jewelry pieces with metal. (The anode is the copper wire.)
In order to get the object to electroplate, it must conduct electricity. Nonmetal objects that you want to electroform should be coated in a metal conductive paint. Several coats of water-based lacquer are needed over the organic objects to protect their shape before they’re painted with conductive paint. You can also electroplate a piece that is already metal, which further customizes a purchased jewelry element. Unlike nonmetal pieces, metal pieces don’t have to be coated first.
Electroforming Jewelry: Rectifier
It’s important to note that the regular current from a home outlet is too strong. It will burn the pieces you’re trying to electroform for jewelry. That’s why the most important element in electroforming jewelry is the rectifier. It converts the alternating electrical current from your outlets to a direct current. In the video, Denise explains how the rectifier uses electrical currents to pass metal particles from the copper wire onto your objects during electroforming.
Electroforming Jewelry: Electroforming Solution for Copper Plating
Simply put, electroforming solution makes an electric current from the rectifier move. It’s required to electroplate the copper or other metal particles onto your jewelry object. When electroplating copper, copper particles come from the copper wire. If you’re electroforming jewelry using a non-copper metal, the metal particles are suspended in the electroforming solution. Copper plating is the only electroforming jewelry process where the metal particles from a piece of copper (the anode) are deposited to your object instead of the particles coming from a liquid solution.
Electroforming techniques can be used for gold, nickel, silver and copper plating. With these steps, you can turn all kinds of found objects into beautiful and one-of-a-kind pieces of wearable art. Watch our free video tutorial Electroforming Jewelry: Equipment and Supplies for Copper Plating to learn more about copper electroplating. Watch it today for an introduction to the magical process of electroforming jewelry!
Have you experimented with electroplating jewelry at home? Let us know in the comments below!