What if you could make your white jewelry metals brighter, shinier, and more long-lasting? That’s what rhodium plating does!
Rhodium is one of the members of the platinum group metals. It is a rare silvery-white metal. and the most expensive metal in the world. An ounce of rhodium costs $14,100. It is only mined in a few parts of the world. South Africa is known to be the highest producer of rhodium, with Russia in second place.
Rhodium is a strong metal and does not need to be mixed with any other metal to make it durable. However, despite being hard, rhodium is also known to be brittle. This means it breaks easily if a chunk of it is used for plating.
Rhodium does not easily rust or lose its shine. These properties of durability, luster, and inertness make it the perfect metal for plating other metals like pure silver, sterling silver, gold, and platinum to make them more durable.
What is rhodium plating?
Rhodium plating involves coating a piece of (usually white) jewelry with rhodium to make it stronger, brighter, and shinier.
These are the steps needed for rhodium plating;
- The piece of jewelry to be rhodium plated needs to be polished using a buffer. This removes any scratches that may be present and prepares it for plating.
- The polished piece is then immersed in an ultrasonic cleaner to remove the dirt. This step involves using high-intensity sound waves in a liquid to remove unwanted elements from the jewelry pieces.
- A steamer is then used to steam clean the jewelry piece to ensure all the traces of dirt are gone.
- Next, it is immersed in an electro-cleaning solution for more purity. This solution is alkaline and helps remove oil residues from surfaces.
- The piece of jewelry is then immersed in distilled water to rinse out the electro cleaning solution.
- After that, it is immersed in the rhodium bath for a minute or more, depending on how complex the design of the jewelry is. This is where rhodium is electroplated on the piece of jewelry.
- Lastly, it is immersed in distilled water to rinse off the rhodium solution. The result is a bright, shiny white finish.
💡 Take Note: Because rhodium can be brittle, the recommended thickness of rhodium needed to coat a piece of jewelry is 0.75 to 1.0 microns.
Is rhodium plating safe?
Yes, it is. Rhodium is an inert, non-toxic metal that does not react to substances in the air or on your skin. It also does not irritate the skin since it does not contain nickel like some other precious metals.
Is rhodium plating necessary?
It’s not necessary, but can be very beneficial. Rhodium plating preserves the white shine of your jewelry and can protect skin when used to coat nickel-coated jewelry.
How long does it take to rhodium-plate jewelry?
It takes about an hour to an hour and 30 minutes to rhodium-plate jewelry.
How can you tell if jewelry is rhodium plated?
There are several ways to tell if jewelry is rhodium plated, but usually, only a jeweler can confirm this. Still, you can try these two testing methods:
- If the jewelry is silvery-white with a high shine, you may conclude that it is rhodium plated. If it lacks luster, then it may not be rhodium plated.
- A more reliable way to determine this is by checking the karat content. For example, a rhodium-plated piece of yellow gold will have 18k, 14k, or 10k stamped on it to determine how much gold it contains. If such a piece is bright white, then its yellow color has been plated with gold. Over time, some areas of plating will give way to the original yellow color.
Can you rhodium-plate yellow gold?
Yellow gold can be rhodium plated to give it a bright white finish, essentially transforming it into the silvery-shiny, white gold jewelry desired by many.
24K gold is soft and cannot be worn in its original state. So, rhodium plating improves it to a wearable state. Once yellow gold has been rhodium plated, it is impossible to know that it was once yellow except after consistent wearing.
Will rhodium plating affect the gemstones?
Rhodium plating does not affect most gemstones. However, soft gemstones like pearls and opal should not be immersed in rhodium solution to avoid damage.
Precious stones like diamonds and rubies can usually survive the rhodium plating process, and most professional jewelers will take protective measures to keep them safe. If you’re in doubt about whether your stone can withstand plating, we recommend talking with your jeweler before plating.
Is rhodium-plated jewelry safe for sensitive skin?
Yes, it is because rhodium is a hypoallergenic metal. It also does not contain nickel. Nickel is another metal that is used for coating other metals but is commonly known to irritate the skin and cause rashes and blisters. This isn’t the case with rhodium.
Rhodium-plated jewelry is safe for young children and anyone with sensitive skin.
Pros and Cons of Rhodium Plating
We’ve shared several benefits of rhodium plating but are there disadvantages or warnings to note? Let’s take a look.
Pros of Rhodium Plating
Here are some of the top benefits of rhodium plating:
- Enhances luster: Rhodium plating makes jewelry to be extra shiny, thus enhancing the elegance of the jewelry.
- Safe to use: It is safe for people of all ages due to its hypoallergenic nature.
- Highly durable: Rhodium is not affected by air and water up to 1112° F (600° C). This means it can withstand a high level of heat and moisture, while still remaining in good condition.
- Not overly costly: Although rhodium is the most expensive metal in the world, rhodium plating is more affordable than other precious stones. This is because only 0.75 to 1.0 microns are needed to coat a piece of jewelry.
- Protects jewelry: It protects jewelry from scratching and enables it to last longer because of its strength.
Cons of Rhodium Plating
Keep these disadvantages in mind as you decide:
- Needs replacing: If a piece of rhodium-plated jewelry is worn often, it will need coating in six months or less.
- Unsightly when it fades: When rhodium plating begins to wear off, the undercoat becomes visible. This gives the jewelry two unappealing colors.
- Might be too pricey for some: The scarce nature of rhodium makes it more expensive than it should be.
How long does rhodium plating last?
If you wear your jewelry often, you may need to recoat it in six months. If not regularly worn, it can last up to three years.
What causes rhodium plating to wear off?
Storing rhodium-plated jewelry in the same jewelry box as other precious metals can cause it to wear off faster. Also, wear can occur when rhodium-plated jewelry comes in contact with harsh chemicals such as chlorine
How much does rhodium plating cost?
The cost of rhodium plating varies depending on the size of jewelry that needs to be coated. It costs anywhere between $40-$120 to rhodium plate a piece of jewelry.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we wrap up, let’s answer your most puzzling questions.
Can rhodium plating wear off?
Yes! This happens when rhodium-plated jewelry comes in contact with harsh chemicals such as chlorine. If not properly cared for, it can wear off faster than expected.
Is rhodium plating good?
Rhodium plating is good because it has no side effects and gives jewelry a lasting and lustrous end product.
Does rhodium plating cover scratches?
Rhodium plating covers scratches completely only if the jewelry is polished first before rhodium plating. Otherwise, blemishes, dents, and scratches will show even after a piece of jewelry is rhodium plated.
How often should I rhodium plate my jewelry?
This depends on how often you wear your jewelry. Rhodium-plated jewelry will need to be replated as often as six months if the jewelry is worn often. If the jewelry is worn occasionally, then rhodium plating can last up to three years.
The most significant cue for you to rhodium plate your jewelry is when the color of the inner layer begins to show following rhodium wear. For instance, if the yellow gold becomes visible beneath the rhodium plating.
Is rhodium plating better than gold plating?
Whether to use rhodium plating or gold plating depends on the preference of the user.
However, many jewelry users (including us!) claim that rhodium-plated jewelry lasts longer than gold-plated jewelry because it is strong and more resistant to scratches. It’s also possible that gold-plating wear is more easily detectable than rhodium-plating wear.
Is black rhodium plating different from regular rhodium plating?
There is a slight difference. While the process remains the same, to get a shiny black finish, rhodium is mixed with other metals and chemicals to give it a dark color.
How to Care for Rhodium-plated Jewelry
Some tips on how to care for rhodium-plated jewelry:
- Do not store rhodium-plated jewelry and other precious metals in the same jewelry box to avoid scratching.
- Do not wait for a year to rhodium plate your jewelry if you wear them often. If you go early enough to your jeweler, it could be done free of charge, depending on their purchase policy.
- Do not wear multiple metal rings on one hand to avoid friction and scratches on your rhodium-plated jewelry.
- Avoid taking showers with your rhodium-plated jewelry. Constant contact with water will make it wear down faster.
Bring Extra Shine to Your Jewelry
Rhodium plating can lengthen the life span of jewelry while giving it a bright silvery shine. Although rhodium is rare, rhodium plating is relatively affordable because only a thin layer of rhodium is needed.
If you enjoy bright white jewelry or simply want your pieces to last longer with enhanced durability, rhodium plating is worth a try.
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