Wondering what the heck rhodium plating is?
Perfect, you're in the right spot! In this LearningJewelry guide, you'll learn:
- What actually is "rhodium" plated jewelry?
- Is rhodium jewelry safe to wear?
- What's the best way to care for rhodium plated jewelry?
- And much more!
Rhodium looks fantastic with diamonds and other gemstones, but it does come at the cost of putting money back into your ring routinely in order to keep up appearance.
But is rhodium worth it?
You be the judge.
Here is everything you need to know about rhodium plating.
What is Rhodium Plating?
When a ring is rhodium plated, jewelers apply an extremely thin layer of rhodium, which is a very white metal. It is used in silver colored metals such as white gold, sterling silver, and palladium. The process can be referred to as rhodium plating, rhodium dipping, and less commonly, rhodium flashing.
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Not all jewelry is rhodium plated. All solid white gold jewelry is rhodium plated, but only some other precious metals are. Jewelry that is white gold plated also has rhodium, as well as some sterling silver jewelry. Alternative metals like titanium or stainless steel can be rhodium plated, but this is generally to ensure hypoallergenic qualities. Yellow gold and rose gold don't get rhodium plating unless you're intentionally trying to change the color of your ring.
What is the Rhodium Plating Process?
A rhodium plated piece of jewelry uses an electroplating method to rhodium plate jewelry. Before the rhodium coating is added on, a jewelry piece must be clean extensively, including between any kind of basket or crown setting, as well as underneath the shank.
Electrocleaning is common to do with these jewelry items because dirt prevent the rhodium from sticking. Other cleaning process that might be done include steam cleaning and distilled water.
The clean jewelry piece is then dipped into rhodium solution, which is a mixture of rhodium concentrate and water. The rhodium is then fused onto the original metal by means of an electrical charge
A jeweler must be cautious because rhodium is a very delicate process, usually taking around an hour and a half. But if you have your ring replated through a mega jeweler like Jared, it'll be about two weeks before you'll get that ring back. For this reason, I recommend going to a local jeweler so you don't have to be without your ring.
How Long Does Rhodium Plating Last?
A lot of people think that if something is high quality, it needs to last forever. In jewelry, this isn't always the case. Rhodium plating is no different. While rhodium is long-lasting, it's not permanent.
It's difficult to tell how long rhodium plating lasts on jewelry. The average time frame is said to be around 12 months, but has also been longer. The timeframe really determines on a few variables. The main factor that will determine the longevity of rhodium is going to be the conditions in which it's worn.
If you wear it all day long, the oils in your skin will start fading your rhodium plated jewelry, especially wedding bands and engagement rings. For instance, rhodium can fade for someone quicker than someone else in the same conditions. Different body chemistries in the skin can cause rhodium to fade much quicker than our average timeframe.
Other weather and exposure conditions cause rhodium to fade faster as well. If the rhodium plating is made of thicker layers, it will not last either. The thickness of the plating will have a big effect on how long rhodium will last.
A good way to tell that a ring needs a rhodium dip is to look at the shank of the ring carefully. If the white metal appears yellowish and doesn't seem to hold the same luster, it's time for some rhodium re-plating.
Is Rhodium Plated Jewelry Safe to Wear?
One of the biggest questions about jewelry metals is if it is okay to wear if you have metal allergies. Rhodium is a member of the platinum family and it is hypoallergenic. In the event of rhodium being plated on a white gold ring, the rhodium will protect the wearer for as long as it lasts.
Thankfully, there aren't many who have allergic reactions to the alloy metals in a 14K white gold diamond ring, but if you are severely allergic, you'll want to make sure you're keeping up with the rhodium.
Rhodium on sterling silver jewelry can help prevent the inevitability of tarnishing the jewelry piece. While all sterling silver will tarnish at some point, by adding rhodium as a barrier between your oils and other wear and tear conditions, it'll take long.
However, it's worth noting that once that rhodium does start to wear off, you'll be able to notice the different silver color and tarnish start popping through in patches. Unless you're severely allergic to one of the alloy metals in sterling silver, this jewelry is safe.
In the case of cheaper metals such as copper, brass, or other metal alloys, the risk is deepened for those with metal allergies. As a member of the platinum group, rhodium can definitely protect you from reactive metals, but for how long? Once the rhodium fades, you're exposed. So, it's better to stick to precious metals with rhodium plating that you know wouldn't cause any issues if that rhodium started to fade.
How Do You Care For Rhodium Plated Jewelry?
Even though we know rhodium will come off eventually and need to be re-plated, there are things you can do to increase the longevity of that rhodium, as well as save from the costs of keeping it up. Rhodium can be a little expensive for some, usually around the top-side of $100. And, if you're someone whose body chemistry fades it faster than the average, rhodium can become costly, quick.
If you're buying white gold jewelry, you should buy it from a company that offers rhodium plating for free. My personal recommendation is to purchase from James Allen. Not only do they have a fabulous collection of white gold jewelry with diamonds and gemstones, but they have an excellent lifetime warranty routine maintenance. If you buy a white gold ring from James Allen, you can save yourself a lot of money over time with free rhodium plating for life.
How Can You Tell if Jewelry is Rhodium Plated?
If it's white gold, it should be rhodium plated. Unless you're buying cheap rings off the street, it's safe to assume all solid white gold jewelry has been dipped. Further than that, it is a legal requirement for a jewelry store to state either verbally or printed in the description if a piece of jewelry has rhodium plating.