Gold has been considered a precious metal for centuries, prompting humanity to fight wars, cross deserts and seas, and discover new continents. The Greeks told tales of Midas, a king who turned everything he touched into gold. The three primary reasons for the Spanish exploration have been cited as “gold, God, and glory.” More recently, Bruno Mars has revived “24-karat magic” in his latest single. Throughout the years, gold has historically represented power, wealth, and glamor – and it still does today. But when did gold plating start? And where is it going today?
The manufacturing of solid gold objects has always been extremely expensive and is, in many cases, impractical because of its softness and high density. The search for a method of depositing a thin layer of gold on an object led to the development of gold gilding and, eventually, gold electroplating.
The History of Gold Electroplating
Gold plating is a method of depositing a thin layer of gold on the surface of another metal such as copper or silver by chemical or electrochemical plating. The first known gold plating occurred in northern Peru, where Pre-Columbian smiths gilded and silvered copper pieces by electrochemical replacement techniques. During excavations in the late 1980s, archaeologists discovered gold and silver ornamental and ceremonial artifacts dating all the way back to AD 50-300. These Pre-Columbian smiths used alloys of copper with gold and silver known as tumbaga.
However, it wasn’t until 1805 that Italian chemist Luigi Brugnatelli invented electroplating. Brugnatelli relied on Volta’s voltaic pile, which would later lead to the development of “voltaic” electrical batteries, as a primary source of electricity. Brugnatelli was the first person to successfully plate a thin layer of gold onto silver.
The Benefits of Gold Plating
Oxygen is one of the most active elements and can affect the corrosion of certain kinds of metals. However, since gold is a noble metal, it’s resistant to corrosion and oxidation in most environments. Gold is the most non-reactive of all metals and is untouched by moisture and heat. Unlike other metals, gold won’t rust when exposed to the natural elements and wear will be minimal.
Since it doesn’t react with oxygen, Gold is also an excellent conductor of electricity. Since corrosion can’t occur, gold can’t build a coating of poor conducting or effect the transmission of electrical current and can withstand electrical connections that create elevated temperatures. Since gold is malleable, it’s relatively easy to create a thin layer over other metals like nickel to create an even more durable surface. The gold can be layered on, allowing coating thickness to vary from project to project.
With over a hundred years of combined experience in metal finishing, our highly skilled team at Bend Plating is available to help you with your gold plating needs.