What is the process of rhodium plating?
Not many people know this but a lot of contemporary jewelry nowadays that is created from white gold, is actually rhodium plated to make it look more shiny and more durable. In this article I will do my best to explain the process of rhodium plating and I will so give some tips and advices on how to maintain rhodium plated jewelry.
Rhodium is a very rare chemical element, one of the five main precious metal used for jewelry and a member of the platinum group. Rhodium plating is used, usually on jewelry items, to provide a plate that will protect the underlying metal from scratches and tarnish, and will also give a shinny white, almost reflective appearance.
Rhodium plating is usually found found on jewelry made of white gold and very rarely on ones made of silver or platinum. The name white gold is actually an incorrectly used term. Gold is, in reality, yellow, what people usually refer to white gold today is a mixture of gold and a white looking metal, usually silver, nickel or palladium (one of rhodiums cousins). The metals which are believed to be white are actually of a gray color, but white gold has a yellowish color. Since the person that wears the white gold is looking for a shinier look, a very thin layer of rhodium is used to make the jewelry item more white looking and bright. Rhodium plated while gold will also look good for a longer period of time, rhodium, being a much harder metal, will not tarnish or discolor, and will not be easily scratched.
It is also wise to keep in mind that rhodium plating does not last indefinitely. If it is on something that is worn constantly, like a wedding or graduation ring, the rhodium plate will only usually last two to three years, but if its something that is used on special occasions like a necklace or a pair of earrings then the rhodium plating can last up to ten years.
When you start noticing the color of the metal underneath then just visit your local jewelry and ask that your item be rhodium plated again, prices will be set depending on the thickness of the rhodium plate that you want. I would recommend to choose a thicker layer for jewelry that you wear daily, like your wedding ring, so you wont have to replace it every few years.
Keep in mind that a rhodium plate will not eliminate dents and scratches, it will only make the jewelry more shiny and bright (some would even say more expensive looking!). Remember to ask your jeweler if he or she is planning to clean and polish your jewelry before its re-plated, if not then ask for it. The smoother the jewelry item is when starting, the more shinny it will look after the rhodium plating process.
As I stated earlier, on rare occasions, you will find silver or platinum jewelry items that are rhodium plated. With platinum this is made because rhodium is a little bit brighter than it, so it is used to make it more shinny. For silver, it is done for a different reason. In reality, silver is shinier than rhodium, but silver is also a softer and more malleable metal, and can be scratched and dented more easily. So jewelers may choose to rhodium plate some jewelry items to make them more durable.
When the rhodium plating begins to disappear from a silver or platinum jewelry item, it will be much less noticeable because the underlying metal will look gray, not yellowish.
If you are jewelry shopping for something made in silver, platinum or white gold, remember to ask the jeweler if the item has been rhodium plated. A lot of times, customers buy rhodium-plated jewelry without realizing it.