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While rhodium plating is frequently used in jewelry, not all people know what it is and its advantages. Generally, rhodium plating is used to add luster and enhance the durability of metals such as white gold and sterling silver, giving it a smooth, shiny finish.
A rhodium plating looks incredibly attractive when applied to diamond rings, as it reveals its true brilliance. On the other hand, there also some minor drawbacks in choosing rhodium-plated jewelry, including the time, maintenance, and money involved in the continuous replating each year.
For those who are still not sure if rhodium plating is something you want for your jewelry, this guide will teach you everything about rhodium plating, including its lifespan, rhodium plating cost, benefits, product reviews of the best rhodium-plated jewelry in the market, etc.
Read on and let this guide show you why rhodium plating is a great investment for your jewelry.
Table of Contents
- What is Rhodium?
- Chemical Properties of Rhodium
- Rhodium Plating in Fine Jewelry
- How Rhodium Plating Works
- Rhodium Plating on Sterling Silver
- Rhodium Plating on Yellow Gold
- Examples of Rhodium-Plated Jewelry Items on Sale Reviewed
- Cost of Rhodium Plating
- Advantages of Rhodium Plating on Jewelry
- Disadvantages of Rhodium-Plated Jewelry
- Final Verdict
- Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs
What is Rhodium?
For starters, rhodium is a rare and precious metal that is 10 to 25 times more expensive than gold. It holds a great distinction as one of the most expensive metals worldwide. Since it is much harder and sturdy than gold, rhodium makes a durable protective layer to plate metals.
Rhodium is a member of the platinum family. It was discovered by William Wollaston in 1801 and can only be found in trace amounts within nickel ore and platinum. As of January 2015, its price went as high as $1220 per troy ounce.
Rhodium is often used for plate metals and jewelry as an added layer of protection. Besides adding an extra layer of beauty, rhodium makes a great investment as it can also protect gemstones, precious jewels, and metal jewelry. Plus, rhodium can also increase a jewelry item’s lifespan.
Its appeal lies in its highly reflective, rare silvery-white appearance that is non-reactive and won’t cause any allergic reaction.
However, pure rhodium is never used in jewelry. At first, it can be extremely brittle and breaks easily, but once used as a plating on jewelry, it becomes stronger and hardwearing. This process is called rhodium plating. It can also be called “rhodium flashing” and “rhodium dip.”
With all this in mind, you might be considering if you should have your jewelry rhodium-plated. To answer your questions, you may explore this guide further.
Chemical Properties of Rhodium
Rhodium is a hard, silvery-white metal that is corrosion-resistant. It is known for its impressive luster that reflects up to 80 percent of light. It gives off the best shine possible, making it a popular material for fine jewelry.
Rhodium is very rare as it can be never be found as a single mineral. It is cultured in very small quantities within platinum ore and nickel. The global production rate is roughly 20 to 30 tons yearly, which is very few compared to other precious metals. For example, copper production can go as high as 20 million metric tons per year, while aluminum has a whopping 63 million metric tons.
Combine its sheer scarcity with huge rhodium demand and ultimate shine, and you get the world’s most expensive metal. In truth, rhodium beats silver and gold by a huge margin.
Rhodium is widely used as a coating for silverware and fine jewelry since the 1930s. It was also used as plating for writing instruments and cigarette lighters. One of the companies that use rhodium plating was Ronson Lighter Company, known for its art-deco style products during the 30s.
Rhodium Plating in Fine Jewelry
Ultimately, rhodium plating can give any jewelry an extra oomph by giving it a soft glow of light reflection and an attractive luster. It can also increase a jewelry’s durability as it becomes more resistant to tarnishing and scratches.
Almost all white gold jewelry has rhodium plating. Why? The natural color of gold is in its yellow form, like a shiny yellow gold nugget. In making white gold, pure gold is combined with white metals like nickel by bleaching its color and turning it into white.
However, what you get is more of an off-white, a kind of a dingy white color. For a nice, crisp, and bright white color, just like platinum, the jewelry should be rhodium-plated. This way, it gives off a white gold appearance.
How Rhodium Plating Works
Rhodium plating can be a tricky process. However, when done the right way, the money and time spent will make it worthwhile.
Rhodium is plated using the electroplating process. Before a jewelry piece is dipped into a rhodium solution, a few steps must be followed to get the best results.
Before a jewelry piece gets plated, it should be thoroughly cleaned by removing all contaminants. It is not enough to wash it in a bowl of water. It is done by polishing the jewelry to a bright finish and cleaning it using an ultrasonic. If there are any stubborn dirt attached to the piece, the plating will not take place.
Once the piece has been thoroughly cleaned, rinse the jewelry using a distilled water. Steam it off using a jeweler’s steamer. Afterward, the jewelry shall be electro cleaned, where it will eliminate visible blemishes and scratches by transferring it to an ultrasonic unit, taking it out for power steaming, and rinsing the piece in an electro cleaning base. These measures are done to ensure that the jewelry is clean and prevent the rhodium coating from attaching.
The electro cleaning process starts by setting the temperature at 120°F set at four volts for two minutes in a stainless beaker with a positive lead attached to the beaker and negatively attached to the piece while being plated. At OR 120°F, it will be set in four volts for two minutes in a glass beaker in a stainless-steel anode with a positive lead attached to the stainless anode and negatively attached to the piece while being plated.
Once again, rise the jewelry in distilled water. It will be placed on an activator at room temperature with no voltage for 30 seconds. Rinse it again and dip it in fresh distilled water.
The rhodium plating process starts by placing the jewelry at room temperature at 4.5 volts for 20 to 30 seconds. The negative lead is attached to the piece being plated, and the positive lead is attached to a platinized titanium anode.
Rinse the jewelry in distilled water, steam clean, and dry it off. Other jewelers may opt to use a blow dryer to dry the jewelry.
As you may have observed, rhodium plating is a complex process. If not done right, the results will be a dark spot on the plating, or the rhodium has a frosty look. Once you encounter any of these, consult a skilled jeweler to redo the job.
Buying a rhodium plating solution can be expensive, where a single bottle costs around $250. You will be wasting an entire bottle if it gets contaminated. It contains toxic sulfuric acid, and it can produce acidic fumes during the plating process. That is why rhodium plating should be performed in a well-ventilated area with protective gear, such as a breathing mask and goggles. Otherwise, the fumes can knock you out and pose some health concerns.
Jewelers have to ensure that a jewelry item gets plated with the ideal thickness. The most common thickness for a rhodium plating ranges from .75 to 1.0 microns. The thickness should allow enough room to protect the jewelry item against wear and tear. Although it may seem like a small measurement, a rhodium plating should not be too thick, or else it will crack due to brittleness.
Conversely, if the plating is too thin, the jewelry is susceptible to discoloration. More often, the thickness depends on the type of jewelry piece that you’re having plated. For example, jewelry pieces that are not worn frequently or small items, such as pendants and earrings, should have a recommended thickness of .10 to .50 microns.
Rhodium Plating on Sterling Silver
Sterling silver is a form of white metal that doesn’t need a rhodium plating to acquire its white color. However, silver tends to tarnish over time. To prevent this, rhodium plating on silver ensures that the piece is extremely lustrous and remains tarnish-free for a while.
As the plating wears off over time, you will notice that the white of the sterling silver will come off but will remain unnoticeable. The exposed sections can acquire some tarnish, but you can easily polish it at home.
Rhodium Plating on Yellow Gold
Since not all people prefer traditional yellow gold, some jewelry items are available in white gold form. However, keep in mind that as the plating starts wearing off, you may notice that its original yellow color will come off over time with yellow-tints or discolored parts. You can avoid this by having it replated.
Examples of Rhodium-Plated Jewelry Items on Sale Reviewed
Discover some of the bestselling rhodium-plated jewelry in sterling silver and white gold.
- Rhodium Plated Wedding Engagement Ring by World Jewelry Center – Best Overall
- Intertwined Design CZ Right Hand Ring by Lavish Store – Best Value
- Rhodium-Plated Mesh Earrings by Media Imports – Editor’s Choice
- Black Rhodium-Plated Sterling Silver Engagement Ring by Metal Masters Co.
- Rhodium-Plated 14k White Gold Diamond Initial Letter 'A' Necklace by The Men’s Jewelry Store
#1. Rhodium Plated Wedding Engagement Ring by World Jewelry Center – Best Overall
- Made from .925 sterling silver
- 2.5mm ring width
- One-carat center stone
- AAA grade cubic zirconia
- Comes with a gift box
Mesmerize your fiancé-to-be with this beautiful Rhodium Plated Wedding Engagement Ring in sterling silver. It comes with a AAA grade cubic zirconia that gives off an incredible brilliance, just like an actual diamond ring.
|Great budget option||Slips off very easily
|Doesn’t look cheap|
|True to size|
#2. Intertwined Design CZ Right Hand Ring by Lavish Store – Best Value
- Crafted from rhodium-plated .925 sterling silver
- Intertwined design
- Sparkling cubic zirconia
- Single paved and double paved bands
- Wider band for comfortable wear
Sparkle in style with the Intertwined Design CZ Right Hand Ring. It is the perfect cocktail ring for formal and semi-formal occasions. It comes with single and double paved bands with a dazzling cubic zirconia accent, giving it an eye-catching silhouette.
|Gives off a feminine look||Easily falls out
#3. Rhodium-Plated Mesh Earrings by Media Imports – Editor’s Choice
- Crafted from sterling silver
- Italian-crafted design
- Omega backing
- Mesh hoop design
- Weight: 6.05 grams
Stand out from the crowd with the Rhodium-Plated Mesh Earrings from Media Imports. It is a part of the Amazon Curated Collection, featuring an Italian-crafted design in a sterling silver mesh hoop. It comes with an omega backing for more secure closure.
|Very substantial in size||Leaves indentation on skin|
|Nicely crafted in silver||Lever back is too tight
- Made from .925 sterling silver
- Black rhodium plating
- Two carat princess-cut cubic zirconia
- High polished mirror finish
- Three-piece bridal set
The Black Rhodium-Plated Sterling Silver Engagement Ring is a one-of-kind bridal ring that is finely crafted of sterling silver and shines with a high polish finish. It is set with two-carat black princess-cut cubic zirconia center stone, accented with round cubic zirconia for a feminine and elegant look.
|Two-tone silver and black plating||Catches on fabric easy
- 27 hand-set diamonds
- Hypoallergenic rhodium-plating
- Polished 14k white gold
- Cable collar-length chain
- Includes 3-inch extender chain
Dazzle elegantly with the Rhodium-Plated 14k White Gold Diamond Necklace, featuring 27 hand-set diamonds placed on a cursive letter A style. It is crafted in 14k white gold with hypoallergenic rhodium-plate. It comes with a collar length chain, allowing the pendant to sit gracefully at the neck.
|Perfect for layering with long necklaces||Very pricey|
A rhodium plating’s lifespan depends on the type of jewelry and the amount of friction it is exposed to. For earrings and necklaces, rhodium plating can last for a long time.
Meanwhile, essential jewelry pieces that are often worn daily and exposed to continuous wear and tear, rhodium plating may start to come off after a year. A great example is a ring that you wear daily. The plating will come off if you often wear it while cleaning the dishes, handwashing, gripping things that create friction, etc.
If you plan to rework rhodium-plated jewelry, keep in mind that when a torch flame is involved, it will certainly burn off the rhodium plating.
Regardless of its durability, rhodium plating is always bound to wear off over time. However, there are ways to make it last as long as possible and enjoy its incredible shine.
- One way to weaken a jewelry’s rhodium plating is through continuous rubbing and friction. Constantly washing your hands or doing the dishes can speed up the wear and tear process. Take it off if you will be doing extreme handwork.
- Exposing the jewelry to harsh chemicals can also ruin the rhodium plating. You can prevent getting in contact by taking it off ahead of time or wearing rubber gloves.
- Avoid wearing rhodium-plated jewelry when swimming in heavily chlorinated pools as the chlorine can ruin the plating.
- Cosmetics and perfumes may also affect rhodium plating. Avoid spraying perfume when wearing rhodium-plated jewelry. If it comes into contact by accident, wipe away the residue immediately.
It is fairly easy to know when a jewelry piece requires some replating. You will notice that the metal color will start to tarnish, revealing its original yellow color. It also becomes apparent if you check the bottom, where most parts receive the most wear and tear.
Most jewelry items are eligible to be replated, although two-toned pieces can be more expensive since the process must be performed by hand. Prices may still vary based on the plate’s thickness, where the thicker the plating and the higher the metal quantity used, the more expensive it is. You may opt for a thicker layer since a one-time expense will pay off with guaranteed long-term durability.
Cost of Rhodium Plating
Since rhodium is very rare and expensive, it is not surprising that plating is also costly. A rhodium-plated white gold ring may cost around $100. However, prices may still depend on the quality of the rhodium solution used, turnaround time, jewelry size, jeweler’s skills, and the finished effect.
Some jewelry stores charge anywhere from $35 to $60. Since it’s a time-consuming process and the material is incredibly expensive, you may expect that rhodium plating service can be a little pricey.
The common issue most people have with rhodium plating is that the ongoing cost adds up over time. You can prevent this by getting an already white lustrous metal that doesn’t require plating, like platinum, since it has a lustrous silver hue on its own.
However, maintenance costs are always involved regardless of the metal. Even a high-quality metal like platinum may still acquire scratches and scuff marks, which may also require periodic polishing.
Another practical solution is to find a dealer that offers free rhodium plating maintenance. One example is James Allen, which offers rhodium plating services as a part of their lifetime warranty. Although it reduces the continuous cost of replating, you have to pay the shipping fee to send it to the retailer for maintenance.
One of the biggest concerns about any jewelry is whether it will irritate the skin, especially those who are very sensitive to metals. Another great thing about rhodium-plated jewelry is that it is hypoallergenic, which means you don’t have to worry about getting an allergic reaction.
One of the most common culprits of skin reactions is nickel. A piece of jewelry that contains nickel is safer with a rhodium plate. If you have any favorite jewelry that triggers skin reactions, rhodium plating is a practical solution.
Advantages of Rhodium Plating on Jewelry
From adding a layer of brilliance and incredible durability, there’s no doubt about the benefits of rhodium plating. Get to know more about the advantages of what rhodium plating can do for your jewelry.
By adding a layer of rhodium plate for your fine jewelry, you are preventing it from acquiring scratches and scrapes when wearing it. In other words, jewelry becomes more scratch-resistant.
Since a rhodium plate has no nickel content and other harmful materials, it is completely safe to wear, especially for those who have sensitive skin. You will unlikely acquire skin allergies, which makes it ideal for those who have trouble looking for jewelry items that won’t leave itchy, red marks. You can also have a jewelry rhodium-plated if it is causing you allergic reactions.
Rhodium plating can help your jewelry extend its visual appearance by reflecting light. It can provide an incredible luster and create stunning pieces of jewelry. The coat allows the jewelry to shine brighter while slowing down tarnishing and minimizing the blemishes.
Disadvantages of Rhodium-Plated Jewelry
While rhodium plating has its great purpose for jewelry items, it also has a fair share of drawbacks.
While rhodium plating can initially provide a bright sheen without tarnish, there are cases when the plating doesn’t work well for various reasons. Since only a very thin layer of rhodium is applied in the plating process, the layer will eventually come off through normal use. Other factors include the amount of wear and tear and the thickness of the plating.
Some examples are necklace chains and rings that come into close contact with the skin. The continuous rubbing may cause the plating to wear off more quickly. As a result, it will require a thicker layer of plating, altering the jewelry’s original color.
Thick layers of rhodium plating have a noticeable dark color than the brilliant sterling silver, which may ruin its appeal to some customers.
One of the biggest drawbacks of rhodium plating is its price. Since rhodium is two times more expensive than gold, using a rhodium plate can add pressure to your budget. Even rhodium-plated jewelry can cost you around $100. Since it tends to wear off after some time, you have to spend another $100 to have it replated.
Rhodium plating services are less common around small suburbs. Due to its expensive price, independent jewelers seldom offer rhodium plating services. To find one, you need to travel out of town or opt for a mailing option. However, others are not comfortable with sending off their jewelry for fear of getting lost and the shipping cost.
Rhodium plating is indeed an effective way to add a touch of aesthetic appeal to any jewelry item while protecting it from scratches and blemishes. You may want to consider it if you own any high-end pieces that you wear daily. Despite its expensive price, getting rhodium-plated jewelry is still a worthwhile investment if you want to maximize its great qualities.
If you consider having your jewelry rhodium plated, it is recommended to weigh the pros and cons and consider your budget. If you have enough funds for rhodium plating, it can help you take good care of your jewelry by making it last for several years and create a more stunning statement.
Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs
How do I know if my jewelry has rhodium plating?
Almost all white gold jewelry pieces are rhodium plated since others prefer a sleek white finish. White gold in its original form has a yellowish hue. It is also a legal requirement for a jewelry retailer to disclose any jewelry piece that has been rhodium plated or not.
Will the rhodium plating affect my gemstones or diamonds?
The answer depends on the gemstone. Softer gemstones, such as coral, turquoise, topaz, opals, pearls, peridot, and treated or heavily included emeralds and rubies can be easily damaged through the process. These gemstones cannot cope with the heat and sulfuric acids involved in electroplating solutions. As a result, it acquires damage by becoming studded and spotty.
Should I rhodium plate my jewelry every year?
It is not recommended for any jewelry to be rhodium plated, as it will only wear it down prematurely. Every time a jewelry piece gets jewelry rhodium plated, it will undergo a complex procedure by stripping off the old plating, taking out old scratches, cleaning, and preparing for the new plating to be applied.