What Is Rhodium Plating: Jewelry Process, Costs & Benefit Guide

what-is-rhodium-plated-jewelry

Do you remember the song line that says all that glitter ain’t gold? I just wonder what Prince who once sang would answer today to the fact that actually turning gold by rhodium plating it into white-looking jewelry is the trend now.

To be fair, rhodium-plated jewelry has actually a long tradition. How, why, and which effect it has on your beloved fashion accessories is the subject of this brief article on the world of plating rings, pendants, or bands.

Rhodium plating jewelry is the process of taking either e.g. white or yellow ring and coating it through a chemical bath electroplating process, to turn the item into a reflective shiny appearance. Next to changing the visual aspect, the rhodium element layer over the jewelry protects the piece.

As much there are noteworthy advantages of rhodium electroplating your necklace, earring, or wedding band unfortunately drawbacks do exist.

I will help you not just be aware of them, how to shop, and what best to do with your precious jewelry collection concerning cleaning or caring.

How Rhodium Plating Works

What’s the use of knowing what jewelry plating is when you are unable to understand the basic underlying principles of how it works?

Here are the simple 7 steps of rhodium plating:

  1. First, take the e.g. yellow ring, chain, or band and polish it carefully (get rid of attached dirt)
  2. Dip the piece into a jewelry electronic cleaner solution for a more thorough cleaning procedure
  3. Now a steam cleaner is used to dry and remove undesirable particles left-overs 
  4. The rectifier machine is turned on to start the electroplating process 
  5. Dip the yellow ring into different fluid solutions before adding it into the rhodium-added solution for a few seconds
  6. The rhodium elements move towards the yellow ring and coat it while the current runs
  7. Finally, take out the turned white ring from the rhodium electroplated solution

The seven steps of rhodium plating are quite straightforward. Usually, a thin layer of rhodium is applied to the ring though thicker layers do exist, but have their own disadvantages which I will cover in a minute.

Why Rhodium?

In the world of jewelry, there are, next to rhodium as a preferred coating metal, other elements like gold itself or nickel and copper to turn a metal piece into a new color. 

Moreover, as part of the 6 precious metal group, short PGM,  rhodium has superior qualities that make it an ideal white silver or yellow gold coating layer.

One of those specific advantages is rhodium plated pieces are preferential in case you want to have a specific jewelry appearance by changing the color of a ring from yellow gold to white gold, without necessarily buying a new one. As learned, rhodium additionally possesses protective properties too.

Furthermore, you simply let your ring be rhodium plated, whereby you can rhodium-coat your silver-looking jewelry too. At least if you are looking for that typical lustrous ring appearance created by rhodium.

Now’s it’s time to explore the positive and negative sides of rhodium-plated jewelry before you buy her or him that stunning white gold collar, hoops, or bracelet.

Pros and Cons of Rhodium Plating

Turning a yellow ring into a white dazzling piece comes at a price that you can only be ready to pay, once you know the truth about rhodium plating your diamond stud engagement rings. 

Or for that matter breathtaking sterling silver curb chain and so forth.

Benefits of Rhodium Plated Jewelry

Undoubtedly, the rhodium plating of remarkable studs, omega necklaces pendants, and the likes is at an all-time high, since the trend of electroplating began in 1930.

Reasons for that are the following advantages associated with it:

  • A typical thin rhodium layer turns a dull-looking accessory into shiny treasured metal jewelry again
  • Rings and other fashion items that are rhodium-plated tend to last longer than non-rhodium coated
  • Rhodium plating on silver or gold produces more scratch-resistant jewelry items
  • A rhodium covered ring is hypoallergenic unlike e.g. nickel skin allergy accessories
  • Since rhodium is the rarest precious metal jewelry, it possesses a high perceived value

Truly impressive properties indeed. 

Gold may be king, but white gold is becoming a respected rival to the ancient value and timeless fashion of the yellow gold standard.

However, just like most things in life, where there is light, there is also a shadow and rhodium-plating is no different.

Drawbacks of Rhodium Plated Jewelry

  • The rarity of rhodium makes it an expensive part of the precious metal group (PGM).
  • Naturally, rhodium is rather brittle therefore re-plating is eventually necessary to undertake
  • Despite being a glistening metal it is nevertheless darker than e.g. 925 sterling silver jewelry
  • Maintenance costs might be overall higher than straight silver due to regular replating

There you have it.

On one side the downside of e.g. rhodium-plated birthstone rings, charm necklaces, or dangles, and on the other the positive attributes of getting your favorite jewelry collection a bit of a new bright look.

A solution to the possible high maintenance investments associated with rhodium plating could be a thicker layer you might say.

Though this is doable and existing, the difficulties of extracting rhodium in the mining process have led to vulnerabilities in terms of calculating the costs and therefore production of rhodium.

On the other hand, a thicker rhodium coating may alter the color of the underlying metal be it gold or silver into an undesirable color outcome, due to the inherent properties of rhodium and electroplating.

Is rhodium-plated jewelry bad for you?

Not necessarily. Rhodium is a simple high valued precious metal, higher than gold or platinum.

One way to reduce the overall maintenance cost could be wearing rhodium plated jewelry in a way that prolongs its protective qualities as you will discover below. Another plus, it’s hypoallergenic.

Why Rhodium Plating?

Rhodium plating prevents the silver layer from the oxidation process (chemical reaction with oxygen) which in return extends the item’s longevity. Depending on how often rhodium-plated bracelets, earrings, necklaces, rings, and other accessories are worn or rubbed against the skin, the plated metal under the rhodium coating may be protected from oxidation as a metallogenic means of maintaining the durability of the item.

Does Rhodium-Plated Jewelry Tarnish?

A rhodium-plated item like a locket might overtime tarnish as a result of the brittle character of the rhodium precious metal. Since only a thin layer of rhodium is applied to the underlying gold or silver metal, rubbing, wet, or chemicals like chlorine trigger slow wear and tear off.

How Long Rhodium Plating Lasts?

Jewelry that is rhodium-plated can generally last from a year up to 2 years on average, provided that the accessory piece is being maintained properly. To achieve that you need to adhere to ideal standards of cleaning, storing, and wearing rhodium coated jewelry. The more often you wear it, the likely you’ll need to replate it.

Is Rhodium Plated Jewelry Expensive?

According to the ever-changing rhodium price chart, this precious metal is not only the rarest to extract but also the most expensive of the precious metal group (PGM) associated with a price tag of over $14600.00 per ounce. 

Bill Dominic

Bill is an art history and business graduate. Moreover, he loves to test, compare, shop jewelry & fashion items for his 5 sisters, girlfriend, nieces when not enjoying a great novel.

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