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What is Rhodium Plating?

If you’re considering purchasing an engagement ring, you may be asking yourself – what is rhodium plating? There’s more to choosing a metal than just its color – applying a coat of rhodium to a ring will add to its durability and luster at minimal cost. To figure out if rhodium plating is right for you and your ring, let’s explore exactly what it is.

What is Rhodium?

Rhodium is a silvery-white metal in the platinum family. It has highly reflective quality that does not tarnish. Rhodium is allergy-friendly, harder than gold, and extremely durable. This metal is idea for jewelry plating as it strengthens the durability and adds a glorious sheen to the metal below it.

What is Rhodium Plating?

Jewelry makers use two methods to plate jewelry – electrical or chemical. The procedure bonds a thin layer of one metal over another one. Plated jewelry allows jewelry makers to produce more affordable pieces, as the thinly plated precious metal sits atop a more common metal or alloy.

Rhodium plating, also called dipping or flashing, creates a durable, scratch-resistant, and shiny piece of jewelry. Jewelry makers usually use rhodium of .75 to 1.0 microns over silver-hued metals like white gold or silver.

Most rhodium plating processes use electroplating. Jewelers clean the original piece with steam cleaning or electro-cleaning to remove any dirt or contaminants that could affect the plating process. After cleaning, the jeweler applies a positive electrical charge to the piece, then fuses a thin layer of rhodium over it.

Electroplating is a precise procedure that can take up to 90 minutes per piece of jewelry. The electric current must be just right, or the plating can turn black and damage the metal below it.

Jewelers should avoid using rhodium plating over 1.0 microns as the brittle metal is prone to cracking. If the layer is too thin, the metal below it can discolor. Jewelry that people wear daily, like rings, needs a thicker layer of rhodium than pieces like earrings or pendants.

White gold aquamarine signet ring

Can Jewelers Use Rhodium Plating Over Yellow Gold?

Jewelers can put silvery-white rhodium plating over yellow gold. They can also use rhodium over metals with other colors, like rose gold or copper. Rhodium plating will cover the yellow, completely changing the look of the jewelry. As the plating wears off, the yellow color will show.

Most jewelers won’t put rhodium plating over cheaper metals because rhodium can be costly. Jewelers who will plate brass with rhodium only use a thin layer because brass jewelry isn’t worth the cost of plating with precious metal. If you have rhodium-plated brass jewelry, you’ll know when the plating wears as the brass will turn your skin green.

What is Black Rhodium Plating?

People who like an edgy look to their jewelry can ask for black rhodium plating. Jewelers add black ink during the plating process to give jewelry a mysterious look. This type of plating costs more than traditional rhodium plating and needs more frequent touch-ups to maintain the shiny, black look.

What are the Benefits of Rhodium Jewelry?

Rhodium is a precious metal with attention-getting reflective shine and anti-corrosive properties. Here are a few of the benefits:

How Long Does Rhodium Plating Last?

Because rhodium is rare (miners excavate about 20 tons annually), jewelers do not use much of the metal when they plate jewelry. The thin layers of plating need to be replaced to maintain the high shine and protective qualities. While thicker plating lasts longer, it can also make the plating brittle. Thicker plating makes rhodium look like platinum, with its silver color and high shine.

Like other plated jewelry pieces, you’ll need to have your rhodium pieces replated occasionally. Harsh chemicals, like heavily chlorinated pool water and cleaners, can reduce the lifespan of rhodium plating. Some perfumes and cosmetics can damage rhodium and other precious metals, so clean jewelry as soon as you notice any residue.

Pieces you wear daily might need to be replated every 12 to 24 months. The plating process is easy for jewelers, and most can have your jewelry ready for you in a few days. Pieces you wear infrequently might need replating every ten years.

How to Increase the Lifespan of Rhodium Plating

You can extend the life of your rhodium-plated pieces by wearing gloves or taking off your rings when working with chemicals. Remove your jewelry before you go swimming and when you wash your hands and put on your jewelry after you’ve applied fragrances and makeup. While water won’t harm the rhodium plating, the friction from towel drying can wear it down.

If you have yellow-gold jewelry with rhodium plating, you’ll notice the yellow color show through as the plating wears. White gold pieces take longer to show as the plating is similar in color. You’ll most likely notice areas with less luster as the rhodium plating wears.

Rhodium Plating FAQs

Is rhodium-plated better than silver?

Silver is a soft metal that scratches easily, so most silver jewelry has a small percentage of alloy to strengthen it. The small amounts of copper and nickel cause silver to tarnish. Rhodium-plated silver does not tarnish or scratch.

Sterling silver is lovely on its own but adding rhodium plating ups the value and shine. Rhodium-plated sterling silver costs more than sterling, and the plating makes the jewelry hypoallergenic. As the two metals have similar colors, you can wait longer between replatings.

Is rhodium-plated better than white gold?

Rhodium plating gives white metals a slightly darker tone. It’s extremely durable but does fade so it will need replating once a year. White gold is also durable, has a slightly more silvery finish, and does not require replating.

Does rhodium plating turn green?

Pure rhodium that is nickel-free does not tarnish – it’s also corrosion-resistant and therefore won’t rust. But because rhodium is ultra-durable, it is often alloyed with metals like nickel or copper that can leave behind green marks on your skin.

What color is rhodium?

Traditional rhodium is a vibrant silvery-white and highly reflective when clean. It’s often used to plate white gold or platinum to not only make the metal more durable, but also to give it a more silvery, attractive color. Rhodium can also be tinted with ink and applied to white metals to give rings a black finish.

Is rhodium hypoallergenic?

As long as it does not contain trace elements of nickel, rhodium is hypoallergenic. It acts as a guard between the metal and the skin to keep it safe. If you have a nickel, gold, or other allergy rhodium is the perfect choice to protect your skin from irritation.

Does rhodium tarnish?

Rhodium does not tarnish. It should be kept clean, however. You can use soap and a toothbrush to gently cleanse your jewelry of dirt or other build up. To protect the integrity of the rhodium don’t wear it when you go swimming or perform other strenuous activities (like lifting weights).

What is the cost of rhodium plating?

Rhodium plating can cost anywhere between $60-150 for an engagement ring or wedding band. The price will vary depending on the quality of the rhodium and the quality of the jeweler’s work.

How do I know if my jewelry is rhodium plated?

Rhodium displays a much more silvery finish than white gold which tends to appear more yellowy. Most white gold in the jewelry industry is rhodium plated and you can always check with a local jeweler whether or not your item is plated.

How often do I need to get my jewelry replated?

Plan on getting your jewelry replated with rhodium once a year for regular use. If it’s a ring and you wear it all the time, you may want to consider getting it replated twice a year to retain durability and ward off scratches.

Final Thoughts

Rhodium is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a true silver finish on their white metal jewelry. It also adds an extra layer of protection to keep your piece of jewelry unscratched. You will need to plan on having your rhodium plated jewelry replated, though, so make sure to consider that cost before purchasing a rhodium ring, necklace, earrings, or bracelet.

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