Silver is electroplated using electrolysis. A piece of silver metal is placed at the anode end, and the object to be plated at the cathode end, of a power source. These are both placed in water, and the electric current causes silver ions to enter solution in the water, travel to the cathode object, and adhere to the surface as metallic silver.
In order to electroplate, the object to be plated, the cathode, must be very clean. This generally requires using the proper solvents to dissolve any oils on the metal. Current must also flow freely through the water bath where electroplating is to take place. This requires electrolytes, and these vary depending on the metals involved. The one most often used for silver is silver cyanide. This compound slows the deposition of silver and limits the concentration of silver ions, resulting in a more durable and smooth plating.
Electroplating was first discovered in 1805 by Luigi Brugnatelli. The first use was an experiment in the electrodeposition of gold. His discovery was ignored at first, but electroplating was refined in 1840 by the Elkington cousins. Their advances, using potassium cyanide as an electrolyte in the water used for electroplating, made electroplating feasible on a larger scale..