• February 3, 2023
Rhodium

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What is Rhodium?

Rhodium metal is a rare and precious element that can be 10 to 25 times more expensive, harder, durable than gold. It is a member of the platinum group of metals and is silver-hued, highly reflective, and does not tarnish or corrode.
However, it is a very brittle metal and is not easily shaped or formed. On its own, it can easily crack and break somewhat like glass. As a result, pure rhodium cannot be made into jewelry. But when used to plate other jewelry, rhodium metal enhances the durability of the metal.

Why should one Rhodium plate my jewelry?

Rhodium plating, also known as rhodium dip or rhodium flashing, is used to increase the durability, luster, and light reflection of a piece of jewelry. Because it is a hard metal, rhodium jewelry will be more scratch-resistant. It is mainly used on silver-hued metals, such as white gold, palladium, or silver with rhodium plating. The usual thickness is 0.75 to 1.0 microns.

What is the process of Rhodium plating?

Rhodium is plated using an electroplating process. For a piece of jewelry to be plated, it must first be thoroughly cleaned to remove all contaminants. If there is any dirt on the piece, the plating will not hold.
Distilled water, steam cleaning, and electro cleaning are some ways that the item is cleaned before it is dipped into the rhodium solution. A positive electrical charge is then used to fuse the rhodium onto the base metal.
Care must be taken because if the electric current is too high, the plating will turn black. The process takes roughly an hour and a half to be completed.

How thick should the Rhodium plating be?

The ideal thickness for rhodium plating is 0.75 to 1.0 microns. Although this may sound extremely thin, it is considered thick enough for rings and other jewelry items exposed to rough wear. For jewelry items such as earrings and pendants that are more sheltered or for jewelry that is not worn frequently, a thickness of 0.10 to .50 is acceptable.

If the rhodium plating is too thick, it can crack due to the rhodium’s brittleness. If it is too thin, it can cause the jewelry to become discolored. Thus, jewelers have to ensure that they plate the jewelry with the ideal thickness.

Can I rhodium plate with a yellow gold or silver piece?

Yes. Rhodium plating can be used on yellow gold to change its color to white. However, remember that as the plating starts to wear off, the rhodium gold yellow color will begin to bleed through. This will result in a piece of rhodium plated jewelry that looks discolored or yellow-tinted. To avoid that, the piece may require re-plating more frequently.

Will rhodium plating affect gemstones?

This depends on the gemstone. Some softer gemstones such as peridot, pearls, opals, topaz, turquoise, coral, and treated or heavily included rubies, and emeralds can be damaged during the process. These gemstones, and many others, are not able to cope with the sulfuric acids and heat in the electroplating solutions and their surfaces can be damaged, becoming spotty and studded.

Rhodium plating - an electroplating process - Assignment Point

Is Rhodium-plated jewelry safe to wear?

Yes, it is. Because rhodium plating is hypoallergenic, you won’t get skin reactions by wearing rhodium-plated jewelry. This is because rhodium does not contain any allergens such as nickel. If you have a piece of jewelry that is causing you skin reactions, the piece can eliminate this problem.
However, note that while rhodium itself will not cause any rashes, white gold often contains nickel in its alloys. As the rhodium plating wears off, you may be exposed to nickel allergies as your skin comes into contact with the original metal of the jewelry.

How long does Rhodium plating last?

Many shoppers believe that rhodium plating is permanent. While it is permanent, like any other metal used in jewelry, it tends to suffer wear and tear with exposure.
Rhodium plating wears off over time and will need to be re-plated. Typically, a ring would need to be re-plated once every 12 to 18 months, but this can vary depending on the wear and tear the piece sustains as well as the thickness of the plating and the color of the base metal.
Sometimes, the wearer’s body chemistry is also a factor that can affect how quickly it wears off. If the base metal is yellowish, there is a high chance that the color will bleed through before the 12 months is up.

Five things you need to know about Rhodium Plating – Maleny JewellersHow can I make Rhodium plating last longer?

Rhodium plating is bound to wear off after a while, but there are some steps you can take to make it last as long as possible.

  • Avoid rubbing the plating on your rhodium ring.
  • Avoid exposing your jewelry to harsh chemicals. Always take off your jewelry when dealing with chemicals or wear rubber gloves to protect your rings.
  • Take your rhodium jewelry off when swimming in heavily chlorinated pools as the chlorine can damage the plating.
  • Perfumes and cosmetics can also affect rhodium plating. Avoid contact with these and wipe away any residue if it does come into contact.

What is the cost of Rhodium plating?

Because rhodium is very rare and expensive, plating is somewhat costly. Replating a white gold ring can cost around $100, but rhodium prices vary based on the quality of the rhodium, the jeweler’s skills, and the size of the jewelry.
The issue many people have with rhodium plating is that it is an ongoing cost that adds up significantly over time. To avoid this, you may wish to choose an already white lustrous metal that doesn’t require plating, such as platinum, as it is lustrous and silver-hued on its own. However, note that there are always maintenance costs involved regardless of the metal you choose.
Even platinum tends to acquire scratches and scuff marks and requires periodic polishing.

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