Electroforming involves a bit of science, which means there are many reasons why your jewelry wouldn’t come out shiny of your bath. Sometimes I get a super shiny copper plating, other times I get very dull results. It doesn’t bother me much because I don’t like the natural look of copper, and I patina everything I make. But I know some of you want to get super shiny results. So, here are some tips on what to do when your electroformed jewelry is not shiny.
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1. Polish your item
The first and easiest thing you can do is to simply polish your item once you’re done electroforming it. You can use a steel wool pad, a Dremel, or a tumbler. You’ll get a super shiny piece with a beautiful light copper color. Obviously, it’s not the same as getting a beautiful, smooth, and shiny place from the bath, but the result is quite close. If you do it with a tumbler or Dremel, you can obtain a very beautiful shine at the end of the process. I know that polishing can be time consuming, but in my opinion, it is the best way to make your piece shine.
If you are not happy with the result after polishing, you can still patina with Liver of Sulphur. I also recommend that you polish before. This will make the highlight of the patina brighter.
2. Filter or change your bath
Sometimes the reason why you don’t get a shiny plating can be simple. Your bath could be dirty or contaminated. Remember to filter your bath every time you feel like it’s oversaturated – you will see copper deposit at the bottom. Filtering your bath can be easily done with a coffee filter and funnel. Once you’re done filtering, add some copper brightener. Your bath will be like new, and your next projects should come out nice and shiny!
If filtering doesn’t work, you can also buy a brand new bottle of solution and change your bath. As far as I’m concerned, I only do this when my bath is contaminated because bottles of pre-made solution are expensive. You can keep your bath for months, even years if you filter it and maintain it properly.
See also: How to maintain your electroforming bath
3. Change your conductive paint
The quality of your conductive paint can also affect the final result of your piece. There are two types of paints you can get for electroforming: graphite paint (the black one) and copper conductive paint (the gold one).
I don’t know if it’s true, so take this with a grain of salt, but I have been told that copper conductive paint gives better results than graphite paint. Because copper conductive paint is copper-based, it is supposedly more conductive than graphite. I’ve only used graphite paint so far, but I’m going to buy copper paint soon to test both and see the main differences!
So, if you think that your paint could be the reason why you are not getting good results, you can switch it for a new one and see how it goes.
4. Turn up the amps
Another simple thing you can try when your electroformed jewelry is not shiny is to turn up the amps a little bit. If your pieces have a salmony color, it means your amps are too low. Turn up the power, and see if your piece becomes shiny after a few hours! Also, remember that you need to leave your piece for a few hours in the bath (ideally 24 hours) to get the best result.
If the piece becomes brown or bumpy, it means the amps are too high. In this case, you’ll have to turn down the amps. Find the right balance and you should get a beautiful plating.
5. Try a smaller piece
This one is just a personal tip based on my experience. I get shinier results when the piece I’m electroforming is small. I run a 1-liter bath, so I can’t really put anything too big in it. But when I electroform small leaves, for example, they come out with a beautiful even plating. Bigger items will have harder time electroforming and the plating won’t be nice or shiny.
I think the size of your item compared to your bath size does have an impact on the final result. I’ve seen many electroformers with big bathes – around 2 or 3 liters – that electroform only one piece at a time, and they get super shiny results!
So if you have any doubt about your bath’s chemistry, I suggest that you try electroforming something small to see if you get a shinier plating. Like I said before, I’m no chemist so this information could be inaccurate, but it doesn’t hurt to try!
I hope these tips will help you get a shinier plating on your items. Don’t forget also that experience will help you make more beautiful jewelry over time. Some people spend years working and learning about the chemistry involved in electroforming, and for this reason, they get wonderful results! If you’re new to electroforming, don’t worry too much about getting super shiny results. You can easily fix it by polishing your item once it’s finished electroforming. What do you do when your electroformed jewelry is not shiny? Let me know in the comments below!