I make hair accessories, and I'm trialling gold plating my pieces at home. I seem to be able to physically do it, but not to any great standard. I'm not sure how to refine what I'm doing, so if someone could critique my method and answer a couple of questions, I'd be ever so grateful!

End aim is to be able to plate brass stampings I've soldered into my designs, but I'm currently testing with unsoldered brass blanks.

I'm cleaning with gp1 inhibited alkaline soak at 40c until they pass the water break test, and then activating with a non toxic pickle. I'm doing a nickel pre-plate in electrolyte I've made, which is coming out a very dull grey. I've read that to avoid adhesion problems, I have to gold plate immediately, so that's what I'm doing. I've got a 14k flash solution with stainless steel anode. End result is a very dull gold.

As well as the method, issues that I'm unsure about are as follows:

The nickel and gold isn't totally uniform after plating; sometimes there are shiny bright streaks (no idea why) and sometimes there are speckles. I'm wondering if I should get an anode bag for the nickel to prevent the speckles, but is that a sensible cause for these things and if so, is it the only one?

I think I made an error buying flash plating gold solution. Every time I try to polish the blanks at the end, I polish through the gold. Is flash plating normally used for jewellery or accessories pieces and if I purchase a plating solution for a thicker gold result, will that allow me to polish to a lustre/closest I can get to a mirror shine afterwards, or is there something else in my method I can change to help me get bright polished results?

Hope all that waffle makes some sense, any pointers very much appreciated.