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What You Should Know About Rhodium Plating

Posted on April 20, 2021 at 1:20 PM

  I want to talk about Rhodium and how it is used to enhance your jewelry. Even though Rhodium is very commonly used in a wide variety of jewelry today, not many know what it is. Often times, rhodium plating is used on pieces to enhance the shine and durability of jewelry made from white metals such as white gold and silver. Also, it is used with diamond settings to enhance the brilliance of the diamond.

 

 When gold is extracted from the earth and purified, it is yellow. White is not a natural color for gold, so alloys (other metals) must be used to create white gold. So even when the alloys are added, the gold will still have a slight yellow hue. Without the plating, they won’t have the very reflective silver color and bright shine. For this reason, most if not all rings as well as other jewelry pieces made of white gold, are rhodium plated before they go out on the showroom floor.


  Although there are many reasons to rhodium plate a piece of your jewelry, there are some downsides you need to keep in mind such as cost and time as well as the need to re-plate over the years when the rhodium gets worn out.


First, let’s talk about what is rhodium.

 

 Rhodium is a precious metal used in jewelry along with Gold, Silver, Platinum and Palladium. These metals tend to be less reactive and maintain a high shine. Rhodium is quite a bit more expensive than gold, sometimes up to 25 time as much. It is silver in color, highly reflective and is known for its resistance to tarnishing and corrosion. It is harder than gold and thus, very durable.

 

 Because it is so hard, it also tends to be quite brittle and thus, pure rhodium cannot be made into jewelry. However, it can be used to plate other metals to enhance the luster and durability of the metal.


Benefits of Rhodium Plating/Dip.


  Due to its hardness, a jewelry piece that has been plated will be more scratch resistant, thus keeping its shine much longer. This is mainly done to silver colored jewelry such as white gold, silver or palladium. The thickness of the plating will depend on the jewelry and how much wear it gets. This can range from 0.2 -1.0 microns in thickness.

 

 If the plating is too thick, due to its brittle nature, the rhodium may crack and would need to be redone. If the plating is too thin, it will wear quickly, exposing the metal underneath.


What to Plate.

 

 Rhodium can be used on any gold, however if it’s used on yellow, red or any other hue, it will change the piece to white. As the plating starts to wear off, the original color will come through. This will require more frequent re-plating.


 Although not as common, you can plate sterling silver. This will prevent the silver from tarnishing.


Rhodium is Hypoallergenic!


 Because rhodium is a pure element, it is hypoallergenic. Most people that have metal allergies tend to be allergic to nickel and sometimes copper, which are commonly used in gold and silver alloys. For this reason, if you have a piece of jewelry that has caused a skin rash or irritation, plating the piece can fix this issue.


How Long Does the Plating Last?


 Just like any other metal, rhodium is subject to wear and tear with constant use. Depending on how often you wear the piece, the color of the metal underneath and thickness of plating.


 Typically, a piece will need to re-plated every 12 to 18 months.


Is it safe for Gemstones?


 Not all gemstones are equal so this will depend on the stone.

 

 Your tougher stones such as diamonds, sapphires and rubies are quite durable and have no problem with the plating process. However, some softer stones such as coral, turquoise, pearls, topaz and peridot just to name a few, are not as resistant to the process. In order not to damage these stones, plating is either avoided or the stones must be removed before plating.


Caring For Rhodium Plated Jewelry.


  • Avoid constantly rubbing the plating. Frequent hand washing will wear it off much faster.
  • Avoid exposure to harsh chemicals and cleaning solutions. Either remove the jewelry or wear gloves.
  • Avoid heavily chlorinated water such as pools and Jacuzzi, this will damage the plating.


Cost of Plating.


There are several factors that can contribute to the cost of plating your piece.

  • Just like gold, the cost of rhodium fluctuates regularly.
  • Quality and thickness of the rhodium.
  • Size of your piece of jewelry.
  • Time and Labor involved.


 In conclusion, white gold is the most common type of jewelry to be plated. Rhodium plating will maintain a shiny, scratch free surface for much longer. Rhodium is hypoallergenic, so will not cause rash or skin discoloration. Plating will need to be maintained ever 12-18 months, depending on how often you wear the piece. Finally, cost will vary depending on the piece of jewelry being plated.


If you have any question regarding your jewelry, please don’t hesitate to call. We are at your service,


Shpigel Family

 

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