Electroplating, which uses the power of electricity to deposit metal on the surface of many sorts of objects, is employed in a wide range of current industrial and commercial applications. The cathode is the object, and the anode is the substance to be coated, which is oxidised by the charge, reduced, and deposited on the cathode. While this may appear to be a cutting-edge technology appropriate for the present period, the process dates back to the early 1800s. Electroplating, the consequence of thousands of years of technological advancement and discovery, has progressed further over the last two centuries to become a staple of various sectors, with applications that the inventors could never have imagined.

Age of Bronze | Electroplating

From the fourth to the second millennium BCE, the Bronze Age lasted. While it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact era of the finishing techniques revealed due to corrosion, researchers believe the first occurrences of metal inlays date from the third millennium BCE. To transform the physical appearance of these artefacts, metal foil and wire were inlaid into grooves, wrapped around, or crimped onto them. The layers appear to have thinned through time, with statues from the second millennium BCE decorated with metal leaves rather than foil.

The Iron Age

From the 12th to the 5th century BCE, the Iron Age saw the first occurrences of complete plating of things, which was accomplished in ancient Greece by wrapping metal foil and wire around an entire object.

Period of the Romans

The Romans appear to have been the first to coat items with displacement plating. Between the first and fourth centuries CE, objects from the Early Roman period show indications of electrochemical plating employing the natural potential difference between different types of metal. Around the same time, another coating procedure, mercury gilding, was invented. Despite the fact that mercury gilding originated in Central Asia, Pliny the Elder was the first to write about it in the first century CE.

Small particles of gold were mixed with mercury in a one-to-eight ratio to create a sticky amalgam that could be brushed onto the surface of a substrate in this procedure, also known as fire gilding. After that, the piece was heated until the mercury vaporised and the gold coating was left behind. Because the procedure produced deadly mercury vapours, which, when paired with insufficient ventilation, resulted in mercury poisoning, which ruined the gilders’ sanity and eventually killed them after around four coats, this technique was also known as the Lost Apprentice Technique.

Period of the Middle Ages

Between the fifth and fifteenth centuries, the mediaeval period saw the growth of techniques acquired during the Roman period. Europeans devised displacement plating techniques for iron armour in the ninth century, which covered the armour’s surface with copper to prepare it for mercury gilding. Damascene, called after Damascus, Syria, where it was most usually seen, was also produced around this time. In this inlay technique, the metal substrate was cut into a design, then the decorative metal was cut and hammered into it. False damascene was also created, which uses a similar procedure but instead of cutting into the substrate metal, scores it.

Renaissance

 In the Renaissance period, which lasted from the 15th to the 17th century, clock dials were plated with silver using silvering salts like pastes and solutions.

Industrial Revolution

While preceding techniques such as displacement plating laid the framework for the development of electroplating, electroplating truly began during the Industrial Revolution, which occurred during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1800, Alessandro Volta created the first working electric battery. The voltaic pile, named after Volta, used stacked galvanic cells to generate an electric current. French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte praised Volta’s invention and appointed him a count for his efforts. This pivotal invention provided the impetus for displacement plating to advance to the next level, which occurred shortly after Volta’s invention.

In the Industrial Revolution, the lethal gold mercury fire gilding process was replaced by the dangerous gold-cyanide electroplating procedure., which was replaced by the reproducible, safer plating processes developed in the twentieth century. Electroplating has evolved from a black art to a trade secret to a reproducible science over the course of its long and illustrious history, and it will continue to do so in the future.

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