If you are especially passionate about jewelry made of platinum, silver or white gold, it is quite probable that you have heard the term rhodium plating many times before. If not, it is absolutely not your fault. There is a lot behind than what our eyes can see when admiring the jewelry creation, but usually, the secrets of the piece’s ‘making of’ are reserved for those standing behind the curtains, or more precisely, to ‘those’ who created it.
When it comes to rhodium plating, the first thing to say about it is that this is the most important element in the creation of silver, platinum and white-gold jewelry. In fact, its existence is the ultimate cause for the jewel’s exceptional durability, strength and sparkling look that is unbeatable by other precious metals. This is why rhodium-plated jewelry usually comes at prices not easily affordable for customers, who on the other hand, are left with no much choice to make and opt for other rhodium-plating alternatives that seem to be way more cost-effective and approachable.
To better understand the current subject and enrich your beginner’s jewelry expertise with additional information, we are going to first explain what rhodium actually is and then we will turn our attention to rhodium plating.
Rhodium: What is it exactly?
In the periodic table, the symbol ‘Rh’ belongs to rhodium, a pure silver-white element classified as a transition metal. Thus, rhodium takes part of the rich platinum group, counting the iridium, palladium, osmium, ruthenium and platinum presence.
Being exceptionally rare, rhodium is considered the most expensive precious metal, beating the reputation of gold and silver jewelry. To get a clearer perspective about its value and pricing on the current market, prepare yourselves to read that a simple ounce of pure rhodium comes usually at a skyrocketing price of $2,500, while the maximum price ever reached is unbelievable $10,000 an ounce. Pretty impressive, isn’t it?
What makes rhodium more expensive than other precious metals?
- CORROSION RESISTANCE
- TARNISH & SCRATCH RESISTANCE
- SURPASSING REFLECTIVE PROPERTIES
Exploring the rhodium plating.
Also known in jewelry as rhodium flashing, the rhodium-plating process is consisted of coating a fine layer of rhodium over jewelry that has been primarily made out of platinum, silver and white gold. The final goal of this process is to enhance the piece with additional levels of shine, luster and durability.
However, the effects of the rhodium-flashing process are not everlasting and the only negative point about it is that jewelry plated with rhodium is prone to wear as time goes by. The particular ‘wear time’ depends on the exact frequency of using (wearing) the jewelry piece and how thick the plating is. As an illustration, we are going to compare a pair of earrings and a wedding ring, both plated with rhodium. Hence, a pair of rhodium-plated earrings that have been used only for special evening occasions will retain their original plating for the years to come, while on the other hand, a rhodium-plated wedding ring that has been worn as an everyday accessory will require a re-plating every two years. Moreover, if the original rhodium plating of the jewel is extremely thin, again, another re-plating process will be necessary to keep the piece alluring and alive.
What happens to the jewelry that is not plated with rhodium?
No matter if made of silver, platinum or white gold, the jewelry piece will start to look yellowish with time, which will destroy the ultimate purpose of its creation – to glitter with the most out of sparkle and brilliance in crystal-white hints. In such a case, rhodium re-plating can come to the rescue by giving back the piece its original color and refreshing its overall look by making it appear like a brand-new one.
How thick rhodium plating needs to be ideally?
When it comes to jewelry of promise, the perfect level of thickness of the rhodium plating is measured between 0.75 and 1.50 microns. As you can imagine, it is super-tiny and invisible to the naked eye. To get an idea of how thin exactly it is on a well-designed wedding band, we are going to compare it with one human hair whose thickness is about 100 microns.
The general rule says: “the ticker the rhodium plating of the piece is , the better”. This applies particularly to everyday jewelry (engagement and wedding rings). On the other hand, jewelry accessories worn only on particular occasions may retain their original rhodium plating for years with a 0.20 to 0.50 plating.
Hence, a jewel with rhodium plating of less than 0.75 microns will certainly wear off in a short period of time, while rhodium coating showcasing less than 0.20 microns will provoke severe tarnishing and discoloration of the piece. Jewelry coming with a rhodium coating of more than 2.0 microns is highly durable, but prone to break easily.
That is why it is of the utmost importance to pay special attention to the rhodium-plating feature when choosing white-gold, platinum or silver jewelry. Keep in mind to respect the recommended thickness of rhodium coating from 0.75 to 1.50 microns.
How to purchase rhodium-plated jewelry?
Unfortunately, today’s jewelry market is overwhelmed by retailers of cheap jewelry with even cheaper rhodium plating, which results in products with poor quality and durability. Another existing risk when buying this type of jewelry is the fact that many of the retailers are not upfront about the rhodium properties of their jewels, mostly in terms of the coating thickness, which is essential for the piece’s real price and overall worth.
When browsing engagement or wedding jewelry made of silver, platinum or white gold, eliminate those that feature brass or copper presence that has been further plated with rhodium.
To ensure the most out of quality and affordable purchase, we are inviting you to take a look at our sumptuous collection of white-gold bridal sets that guarantee maximum durability and versatility.
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Written by: Liljana Tomova