Well, actually, the photo does show two curious bits … if you’re counting both pieces that make up one pair of earrings. But it was just one quick little experiment. For some time now, I’d been curious about the “Magical Silver Plating Paste” that, I forget when, I had noticed on Val Lewis’ website. So, after I’d earned a little bit of extra money earlier this month (Thanks, Deb!), I ordered myself a little jar of it to try out.
Now, I will admit to being surprised when I read, in various online forums, about someone having bought some new product who spent hours if not days trying to create some masterpiece with it straight off, and then feels devastated when something goes wrong. Often, something that any experienced person would have known from the start would have gone wrong… Now, I will admit that I’ve had a few big-time failures with things I really thought should have worked, but not many. I tend to start small, first time out, and then work up to bigger stuff, even if something big is the reason I want to head down that path.
So, when the paste arrived, I did not immediately go off trying to plate something big and intricate. Instead, I dug around in the nooks and crannies of the cabinet in my studio where I stash leftover bits and pieces. I found two little disks I’d made months ago out of Champagne Bronze. They were made during a push to produce a lot of earring in a short bit of time. I’d used up all the anodized niobium earwires I had on hand that day, and just stashed a few remaining “elements” in the cabinet to use in the future, once I’d made or obtained more of the wires.
And, even though I’ve not yet gotten around to replenishing the stash of dark earwires (that I tend to use with bronze), I thought, “Hey, if I plated these, I could use a couple of the sterling earwires I still have in the drawer.” A little later on I came to realize that this design had an interesting mix of two different textures on it: I could try plating just one part and leaving the other in its natural color, so I could then compare how things looked from the start and how the different parts held up over time.
The instructions for the paste say to just apply it with your fingertip, but that the product can stain your skin so it’s best to wear rubber gloves. First time out, I do tend to follow instructions, so that’s what I did. And there I was, holding each of these little (barely 10 mm) disks in the rubber-gloved fingers of one hand while trying to apply the paste with a rubber-gloved index finger of the other one. Oh, and not to the whole piece, just to the bottom half of one side, a decision I made only after I’d begun applying the stuff to the first piece! So, please understand: any “imperfections” in the coverage are entirely due to operator-error first time out. In the future, if I decide I want to plate part of a piece, up to a very specific point, I’ll spend a bit of time before I start thinking how best to achieve that. For a brief, initial trial, however, I am pleased with this result, with a sort of gradual shift from dark yellow bronze to a sort of silvery bronze to a deeper silver.
As to the process, the application was easy! I scooped just one tiny “drop” of the stuff out of the jar, and achieved this coverage on both pieces. It did take about three passes to get what looked like good coverage. I wasn’t at first sure what I was getting, because the stuff looks a dull gray as it goes on. Since my fingertip was a tad moist (per instructions) as I applied it, I waited briefly for some drying to occur. Then I buffed it a bit, decided to add a few grains more to one edge, buffed again, and decided that was fine for now. Again, as instructed, I then gave it a good wash, dry, and polish, before taking this photo.
I have some ideas for more complex copper and/or bronze pieces that I’ve been wanting to make, but have not tried yet because I wasn’t sure that they could bring in enough revenue to justify the time involved in making them. That’s the thing about working in base metals: the materials cost less so customers (understandably!) think they should be priced significantly lower than precious metals, while artists (also understandably…) know it typically takes as much, and sometimes more, time to make a piece out of those materials. My thought in buying this stuff was that being able to promote them as having at least select portions silver-plated might help justify in customers’ minds a more appropriate price, while not adding too much additonal time at my end.
I’ll do a few more experiments on simple, little elements like these and, if I continue to see success with this approach, then I’ll move on to the more complex designs. Whatever the final outcome, I’m sure I’ll have fun experimenting!