April 15, 2021 8 min read 5 Comments
There’s more to a metal than its color. That’s why choosing
between rhodium plated, sterling silver, or white gold is no
small matter. They’re all silver in color, but the difference
lies in durability, luster, and cost. If you’re looking for a
high-quality ring, necklace, or earrings in a bright white that
catches the light, then rhodium
plated jewelry is your best choice. Rhodium plating offers
protection from hard knocks and illuminates surrounding
gemstones. Rhodium may be just the extra sparkle you’re looking
for. To help you decide if rhodium jewelry is right for you, we
compiled and answered some of the most frequently asked questions
about the metal.
Rhodium plating defined
Rhodium is the whitest and most precious metal used for jewelry. It is rarer than gold or platinum and whiter than silver. The metal is found so infrequently by itself that it’s usually extracted as a byproduct from platinum mines. Rhodium comes from the same group of metals as platinum (known as the platinum group), which includes Platinum, Rhodium, Iridium, Ruthenium, Osmium, and Palladium. Rhodium’s extreme shine, reflectiveness, and strength make it desirable in industries that produce automobiles, lighting, and mirrors, as well as jewelry.
Rhodium plated means jewelry made from a base metal of gold, silver, or other alloy that is coated in a thin layer of rhodium for extra strength and luster. Jewelry plated in rhodium is shinier and more durable than other metals. Rhodium plating does not scratch, dent, or corrode and retains its luster.
Rhodium is vibrant silvery-white and highly reflective. We choose
to plate our jewelry in rhodium rather than designing with white
gold or platinum because of its brilliance and quality. Other
colors like black, rose, or yellow can be added to rhodium
through ink binding.
See rhodium’s silvery sheen in our White Rhodium Edge Earrings.
Black can be added to rhodium by binding black ink to the metal
during plating. Black rhodium plating has an edgy, mysterious
look, but it is expensive to maintain. Rhodium plating must be
touched up occasionally, and requesting black rhodium replating
adds to the cost.
Rhodium plating benefits
Rhodium plated jewelry adds an extra layer of protection to jewelry and produces a brighter white than sterling silver, white gold, or platinum. Realistically, jewelry cannot be crafted from solid rhodium because, despite its strength, rhodium is brittle. A layer of rhodium plating must be just the right thickness to keep it from cracking--.75-1.0 microns is perfect. Any thinner and the metal underneath would show; any thicker and the coating would crack. That perfect layer of rhodium can enhance the appearance, quality, and longevity of your jewelry.
Rhodium is hypoallergenic because it does not contain nickel that can cause serious skin reactions. It actually guards against other metals alloyed with nickel to keep your skin safe. If you have a nickel allergy or just want to protect your skin, then rhodium is an excellent choice for you.
Absolutely. Rhodium is non-toxic and completely safe. It’s the recommended option for sensitive skin, babies, and new piercings. Because rhodium is nickel-free, it does not irritate ears or leave behind skin rashes.
Rhodium is nickel-free, so it does not tarnish. Rhodium is also
corrosion-resistant and does not rust. Because rhodium is strong,
it does not need to be alloyed with other metals like nickel or
copper that, over time, will corrode and leave behind dark green
marks on your skin.
Rhodium plating comparison
Rhodium plated silver is sterling silver coated in rhodium to make it whiter and brighter. Silver is a softer metal, so rhodium protects it from scratches or wear. Solid silver is too soft to be fashioned into jewelry, so it contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% of other metals like copper, nickel, or a combination of the two. The traces of copper and nickel in sterling silver cause tarnishing. Adding rhodium plating prevents this from happening.
Silver is not as white or reflective as rhodium. It is softer and must be combined with other metals that make it susceptible to tarnishing. Sterling silver is often a base metal for rhodium since it is sturdy and high-quality. Rhodium adds some value and imperishability to silver.
Whether you prefer rhodium plated or sterling silver jewelry is based on preference. But luckily, you're not forced to choose. Rhodium plated and sterling silver jewelry work best together. Sterling silver does contain nickel and copper and will tarnish and turn your finger green over time. But when coated in a layer of rhodium, silver becomes a better metal. Rhodium protects your skin from the small amount of nickel silver and removes the risk of tarnishing. When rhodium plating begins to wear, it isn’t as obvious with silver since both metals have a similar color. This means you may be able to wait longer between replatings.
It can, but if it does, it won’t be rhodium’s fault. Brass is corrosive, but rhodium is not. If rhodium plated brass turns your finger green, then the rhodium plating has worn off, which happens easily with brass.
Brass should not be used as a base metal under rhodium in fine jewelry. Brass is cheap, and rhodium is precious. Because brass is used for inexpensive jewelry, a rhodium layer must be thin. But a thin layer wears fast. Brass is malleable, and rhodium plating would increase its durability but would not be a wise investment. Rhodium plated brass would need replacing every few months. You would soon end up investing more in maintenance than the jewelry is worth.
Both rhodium and platinum are silvery precious metals and are part of the same metal group. Rhodium is extracted with platinum, and they are both rare and valuable. Rhodium is even more scarce than platinum and has a much higher price tag. But when rhodium’s thickness exceeds 1.0 microns, it becomes brittle, so a jeweler cannot create a piece entirely out of rhodium. Platinum is more malleable and does not crack when thick. It is used to create jewelry that is easy to maintain and durable. However, platinum jewelry is more expensive than rhodium plated jewelry, even though the metal itself is less valuable. Rhodium jewelry has only a thin coating of fine metal, which makes it more affordable but just as beautiful and even more reflective than platinum.
Color is the most obvious difference between rhodium and gold--gold has a warm yellow hue, while rhodium is a cool silver. Both metals are durable, precious, and costly. Jewelry can be made from solid gold, just like platinum; whereas, rhodium is only used for plating other metals. Unless you want to turn your gold jewelry silver, plating yellow gold in rhodium is not recommended. Over time, the gold will show through the rhodium. Before receiving rhodium plating, gold is often bleached and made white by combining it with other metals.
The cost of rhodium is twice as much or more than gold depending
on the market. Solid gold jewelry is more expensive than
rhodium-plated jewelry, but both are high-quality. Compare the
price and color of our
14k gold blue topaz ring and our
rhodium plated blue topaz ring.
Most white gold jewelry in the commercial market is actually rhodium plated. If your “white gold” jewelry is lustrous silver, then it probably has a layer of rhodium. If it has a light yellow tinge then it’s likely true white gold. But owning rhodium plated white gold is not bad--the rhodium coating increases the value and durability. You will just have to prepare for some maintenance to retain that reflective shine.
Solid white gold isn’t white but slightly yellow. Rhodium plating
white gold gets rid of the yellow tinge. Different shades of gold
come from alloying or combining metals. To make white gold,
nickel is often added as a bleaching agent. A layer of rhodium
will protect your skin from contact with the nickel in white
Rhodium plating care
On average, rhodium plating lasts one year. Prepare to have your jewelry replated annually. But how long rhodium plated jewelry lasts depends on the frequency of friction it receives. Otherwise, the metal is extremely durable. If you wear your rhodium plated jewelry daily, then it may need replating after 6 months. But if you save your rhodium jewelry for special occasions, then you may be able to wait several years before replating. The best way to tell if your rhodium jewelry needs replating is to eyeball it. If you can see the base metal through the rhodium, then it’s time to replate. When to replace rhodium plating also depends on the type of jewelry. A rhodium plated ring will wear faster than a rhodium plated necklace unless you wear the necklace more often than the ring.
We recommend that you not try to regularly clean your rhodium plated jewelry since rubbing makes it wear faster. We promise it will not tarnish. But if you do decide to clean it, avoid soap, water, and definitely harsh chemicals. Also use a material to wipe it down that will not create too much friction. If your rhodium jewelry has lost its luster, then it's probably worn off and is time to replate it. Try to wait as long as possible before replating because frequent maintenance may wear down the base metal.
Rhodium plating cost
Replating rhodium costs between $40-$100 It is not time-consuming but is a complicated process. Rhodium is more expensive than any other metal, but rhodium plating is less costly than solid gold or platinum. The price of your rhodium plated jewelry depends on the value of the base metal. If it were possible to create a solid rhodium ring, then it would be incredibly expensive.
Whether or not rhodium plating is worthwhile depends on the look
you want and how large an investment you want to make. Rhodium
plating is a more affordable alternative to gold or platinum, but
it does require upkeep.
If the maintenance does not appeal to you and you want to invest in an heirloom piece, then shop for platinum or 14k gold jewelry. If you like the protection rhodium plating provides but love the warm yellow of gold, then shop for gold-plated 18k vermeil jewelry. You can also take a look at the other silver jewelry we offer. We think the brilliance and beauty of rhodium jewelry are well worth a little extra maintenance because no other metal can out-shine rhodium.
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