Electroforming Jewelry: Equipment and Supplies for Copper Plating
I've been collecting a bowl (OK, several bowls) of natural found objects for as long as I can remember. Even before I knew about electroplating (also called electroforming), I saved interesting leaves, twigs, acorn caps, shells, and other organic bits and pieces that I wished could be plated in metal and used for jewelry. Naturally, when our new electroforming jewelry DVD came out, I was thrilled with the possibilities of electroplating jewelry, excited to get started, and curious about the electroforming process, specifically copper plating.
All of the electroplating/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 get started electroforming jewelry and explains how to set up an electroforming station.
Electroforming coats objects with a layer of real metal, which allows you to use complex organic shapes in your metal jewelry without difficult (if not impossible) fabrication. Electroforming jewelry is a pretty simple process, but the results are stunning and look quite complicated. Basically, when electroforming a piece of organic material, the item you're plating is hung inside the beaker so that metal particles from the wire or electroplating solution attach onto it via electric current. You can attach jump rings to the objects before you electroplate them so they'll be ready to use in your jewelry creations later. Imagine creating custom electroformed jewelry components! It's incredibly fun and rewarding, and in this free video, Denise explains all the supplies you'll need for jewelry electroplating and provides an introduction to the basic jewelry electroforming process.
Electroforming Jewelry: Piece to Electroform (Cathode)
I know I'm not the only one who loves picking up unusual beach finds and intricate vines and other natural treasures in the woods or digging through junk drawers in antiques shops. In the process of electroforming jewelry, those found objects (they could be just about anything–plastic and glass too) 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 (for particles of metal to attach to it), it has to conduct electricity. In order for that to happen, nonmetal objects that you want to electroform need to be coated in a metal conductive paint. You can even electroplate a piece that is already metal, further customizing a purchased jewelry element. Metal pieces don't have to be coated first. Organic objects have to be covered in several coats of water-based lacquer (to protect their shape) before they're painted with conductive paint for electroplating.
Electroforming Jewelry: Rectifier
Perhaps the most important element in electroforming jewelry is the rectifier, which converts the alternating electrical current from your outlets to a direct current. (Regular current from a home outlet is too strong; it will burn the pieces that you're trying to electroform for jewelry.) Denise explains how the rectifier uses electrical currents to pass metal particles from the copper wire (or the electroforming solution, if you're using other metals) onto your objects during the electroforming process.
Electroforming Jewelry: Electroforming Solution for Copper Plating
Simply put, electroforming solution makes an electric current from the rectifier move, and it's required to electroplate the copper or other metal particles onto your jewelry object. Copper particles come from the copper wire when electroforming with copper; if you're electroforming jewelry using a metal other than copper, as is the case in silver plating, gold plating, and nickel plating, the metal particles are actually suspended in the electroforming solution. Copper plating is the only electroforming jewelry process during which 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 plating, nickel plating, and silver plating as well as copper plating, which is covered more in detail in our free video tutorial, Electroforming Jewelry: Equipment and Supplies for Copper Plating. Watch it today for an introduction to the magical process of electroforming jewelry!