Anodizing, Electroplating, PVD, and Other Terms

Anodizing, Electroplating, PVD, and Other Terms

If you’ve been looking at jewelry for a while, you may have come across some terms that you don’t understand. What is the difference between “anodized” and “electroplated”? What the heck is PVD? Today, we’re going to take a look at these terms so that you always know exactly what you’re getting!

     PVD stands for “Physical Vapor Deposition”. The most simple explanation is that it’s a coating that allows you to change the color of a piece of metal. The piece being coated is placed inside a vacuum chamber and all the air is sucked out. Then it is negatively charged which allows atoms of the coating to settle on it. The end result is now the color you wanted – and PVD can be used to create a wide range of colors, from black to rainbow to rose gold tone.

     Anodizing is a little different. It’s not a coating, exactly, but an electrochemical process that changes the color of the metal with an anodic oxide finish. The item goes into a chemical bath and electricity is applied to it. If you compare it to PVD, it’s a bit like comparing permanent hair dye to semi-permanent. Permanent hair dye (anodizing) gets into the strand and changes the color, while semi-permanent dye (PVD) coats the outside of the strand to change the color. One interesting thing to note is that piercing-quality, solid titanium cannot be black. If a piercer offers you a black titanium piece of jewelry to pierce you with, something is wrong. There’s no problem with plated jewelry, but you definitely want to get pierced with ASTM F-136 titanium. That cool black jewelry will have to wait until you heal.

     Electroplating is similar to anodizing. The jewelry is placed in a bath of electrolyte solution and then an electrical current is applied. This causes microscopic particles of metal in the desired colors to deposit on the jewelry. Another term that can cause confusion is “annealing”. This is a heat treatment that makes metal less brittle and more malleable. It helps to prevent the metal from cracking when being worked or stressed. This makes it ideal for jewelry like closure rings, where there is a lot of bending of the ring to open and close it. If you change your jewelry frequently and happen to like that particular style, you may want to look for rings that are annealed. 

     Sometimes the differences between pieces of jewelry can seem confusing and the terminology can seem almost overwhelming. Hopefully this basic outline of some of the more common terms will help you make smarter purchases while still getting the look you love. 

Happy piercing!