There are a wide variety of plating options available on pen kits sold today. Choosing which finish to use for a pen can be difficult and may be based on the wood used, customer preferences, pricing etc. This guide will go over some of the options available. The number in parenthesis is my wear rating from 1 to 5 (least durable to most durable) and is purely my opinion - others may well disagree.
The first determination of quality is often how the plating is done at the manufacturing plant. Unfortunately, this information is only rarely available. The cheapest kits are plated using the tumbled method of plating, resulting is a thin, uneven inferior coating. The better method is the rack method where parts are separated during plating and results in a much more consistent and durable coating. Most kits sold in the United States today are plated using this method.
Gold: Still the most common plating sold. The quality of gold plating can vary from very poor to excellent, depending on both the way the plating is done and what combination of gold and other additives are used in the plating process. There also seems to be a wide variation in the color of gold plating that may be related to the manufacturers plating formula and/or some variation in each batch of plating solution. By it's nature gold is a very soft metal and gold plating regardless of quality will wear off of pen parts over time.
- 24kt: (0.5) The least wear resistant of any pen plating. Usually is thinly plated with a coating of epoxy over the gold to increase durability.
- 10kt: (1.5) A combination of gold and nickel, resulting in a more durable finish.
- Cobalt gold (sometimes called upgrade gold): (2.5) 24kt gold with cobalt or palladium added to the plating chemicals. Much more durable than either 10kt or 24kt gold.
- Titanium Gold: (4.0) Titanium nitride is matched to the color of the gold, then plated onto the parts and the 24k gold is sputtered on top of the titanium plating. The gold of this finish still wears off fairly rapidly, but since the titanium beneath the gold matches the gold color, the wear is not noticable.
- 18kt Rose Gold: (3.0) Plating is an alloy of gold and copper. The finish has a pinkish cast.
- Satin Gold: (2.5) Gold finish with a slightly textured matte surface.
Chrome: (3.5) Bright silver colored chromium finish. Very good durability.
Silver: (2.0) Thin sterling silver plating with an epoxy coating.
Sterling Silver: (4.0) Usually refers to a much thicker silver plating (20 microns instead of 5 microns). Very durable and very expensive. Coated with epoxy to slow the tarnishing of parts.
Satin Pearl: (3.0) Nearly white textured metallic finish.
Platinum or Rhodium: (4.5) These two terms are often used interchangeably. Most manufacturers still call their plating platinum, but usually it is actually rhodium (closely related to platinum and part of the platinum group chemically). Platinum is more durable than rhodium, but both are very durable finishes.
Satin Nickel or Satin Chrome: (3.0) These terms are often used by different manufacturers for the same finish. Grayish in color with a slightly textured surface.
Black Titanium: (5.0) This is a titanium oxide plating process. It is very hard and durable and much tougher than titanium nitride and should last a very long time.
Gunmetal: (2.5) Actually a black nickel plating that looks very much like black titanium at a much lower cost, but also less durable.
Black Chrome: (3.0) Chrome and chrome oxides combined in the plating process, resulting in a shiny black durable finish.
Black Enamel: (1.0) Just as it says, a black enamel coating. Similar in appearance to black chrome but with a smooth matte surface.
Tactile: (2.5) Black rubberized textured coating.
Copper: (2.5) Bright copper plating often with some gold added.
Satin Copper: (2.5) Copper plating with a matte, textured surface.