Rhodium might not be a familiar jewelry term, however it plays an important role in the finish and durability of your jewelry pieces. For instance, rhodium plating helps enhance the luster of popular metals like silver and white gold. In addition, it adds smoothness and a shiny finish to jewelry materials.
While rhodium plating is beneficial for jewelry use, it can also require maintenance and re-plating over time. First of all, what is rhodium plating and why is it important in jewelry?
Rhodium is an element that’s part of the platinum metal family. It is used in jewelry to plate metals and add a layer of protection. Rhodium itself is much harder than gold, making it a durable protective material to plate metals with. Rhodium is also rare, which ultimately makes this precious material roughly 10-25 times pricier than gold. That said, it can protect your precious jewels, gemstones and metal jewelry. In short, rhodium is an investment to protect your jewelry.
Rhodium has a platinum, silver hue that is reflective and resistant to corrosion and tarnishing. That said, pure rhodium itself is not used in jewelry. In fact, rhodium is quite brittle and breaks easily. However, when rhodium is used as a plate to protect other jewelry elements, the jewelry piece becomes stronger and more hardwearing. Rhodium plating can also be called “rhodium dip” or “rhodium flashing.”
Essentially, rhodium plating can increase the lifespan of your jewelry. With that in mind, should you have your jewelry rhodium plated? Let’s explore further.
Ultimately, rhodium plating adds an attractive luster sheen and soft glow of light reflection to jewelry. It also heightens the durability of the jewelry, with the added bonus of being more resistant to scratches and tarnishing.
The most common use of rhodium plating is in silver metals including silver and white gold. Let’s break down how rhodium plating works, and what kinds of jewelry it’s compatible with.
Thickness: The most common thickness of rhodium plating is .75 to 1.0 microns. This thickness allows enough room to protect jewelry from wear and tear. Although this sounds like a miniscule measurement, rhodium plating can’t be too thick, otherwise it’ll crack. Conversely, if it’s too thin the jewelry itself can become discolored. The thickness really depends on the piece of jewelry that you’re having plated, which is why it’s crucial to consult with a jewelry specialist.
Sterling silver: Sterling silver can tarnish with time, that’s why rhodium plated silver can help keep the luster on the metal and protect it from tarnishing.
Yellow Gold: Rhodium plating works great in transitioning yellow gold to white. In time, as the plating wears off, a yellow color might appear, which is a good sign that it’s time to get the jewelry replated.
Safety of gemstones: Rhodium plating works best with hard gemstones like diamonds, rubies and sapphires. However, softer stones like pearls, turquoise and opal can be damaged during the rhodium plating process.
Is my existing jewelry rhodium plated? If you have white gold rings in your jewelry collection, they are rhodium plated because the natural color of gold is yellow. If you’re unsure whether or not your jewelry is rhodium plated, you can have a jeweler assess your piece.
One big concern about any piece of jewelry is whether or not it’ll irritate the skin. A great thing about rhodium plated jewelry is that it’s hypoallergenic. This means you won’t have to worry about having an allergic reaction with rhodium jewelry.
The most common culprit of skin reactions is nickel. A good solution to this problem is to have your nickel jewelry, or any jewelry items made from alloys that contain nickel, rhodium plated.
The first step to getting your jewelry rhodium plated is to give it a good, thorough cleaning. You’ll want to make sure all dirt and particles are removed, otherwise the plating won’t hold. There are a few options for giving your jewelry a solid cleaning: steam cleaning, electrocleaning or using distilled water. After the jewelry is clean, rhodium gets plated. The electroplating process involves dipping the jewelry piece into a rhodium solution. The rhodium fuses with the base metal with an electrical charge.
The lifespan of rhodium plating ultimately depends on wear and tear. For instance, just like other common jewelry metals, rhodium plating can wear down over time. It comes down to daily use and the thickness of the plating. However, certain items may need to be plated every year or so. This is especially common with rings that are worn daily.
Rhodium plating requires a little maintenance to keep the luster shining and metal underneath protected. Here are some tips for how you can elongate the lifespan of your rhodium plated jewelry:
Remove your rhodium plated jewelry when you wash your hands, as the rubbing from hand-washing can cause the rhodium plating to wear off quicker.
Use unscented soaps and lotions as chemicals and perfumes can cause the rhodium plating to wear.
The price of rhodium plating depends on the piece of jewelry. However the material itself is a precious metal which can increase the cost of the service. That said, when investing in rhodium plating, you’re really contributing to the protection and overall longevity of your precious jewelry.
Rhodium plating isn’t just a one time fee, either. Over time, you may have to have your jewelry rhodium plated multiple times which can rack up a steep investment bill. If rhodium plating doesn’t appeal to you, buy metals that already have natural luster, like platinum.
Truth is, any high-quality jewelry is going to require maintenance, polishing and cleaning. As we wear our beloved pieces, it’s inevitable to have scratches and tarnishing over time. Ultimately, rhodium plating adds an extra layer of luster and protection to keep your jewelry as gorgeous as the first day you bought it.
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