As a jewelry enthusiast, you’ve probably heard that sterling silver, white gold, platinum, or accessories made of other metal alloys are often rhodium-plated. Although rhodium is so widely used in jewelry, many people still don’t know the science behind it. So, what is rhodium plating and why is it used in jewelry?
The answer is pretty straightforward: rhodium plating protects the metal while giving the jewelry enhanced durability, exceptional luster, and a more affordable cost.
If you’re still wondering whether rhodium-plated jewelry is the right choice for you, keep reading. In this article, we share everything you need to know about rhodium plating, its uses, types, durability, and more.
What Is Rhodium Plating
Rhodium (Rh) is one of the platinum-group metals that is characterized by a silvery-white color, high reflectivity for light, and outstanding resistance to corrosion.
As rhodium is extremely durable and harder than metal alloys used in jewelry production, it’s a perfect plating material that can not only improve durability but also add a touch of glorious luster to the metal.
Rhodium plating is a technique used to cover jewelry made of a base metal or alloy with a thin layer of rhodium. To do so, jewelers use either electrical rhodium plating or chemical rhodium plating. Here’s the difference.
Electrical Rhodium Plating: Electroplating or electrochemical deposition is a process during which electrical current passes through a solution, causing metal ions to migrate from a positive electrode (anode) to a negative one (cathode). As a result, the solid object at the cathode is coated by rhodium ions from the solution.
Chemical Rhodium Plating: Chemical plating involves autocatalytic reactions that occur directly on the metal surface. In the process, jewelers use a rhodium salt and a reducing agent. Although it’s currently not as popular as electroplating, chemical plating is a more environmentally friendly option that has been attracting more and more attention during the last few years.
Why Is Rhodium Used in Jewelry
Rhodium is widely used in jewelry, but rarely as a base metal due to its high cost. Instead, rhodium is added to already-made jewelry pieces as a thin layer of coating to provide extra protection and sheen.
Here are four main reasons why rhodium plating is used in jewelry.
Prevents Rust and Tarnish
Rhodium is a corrosion-resistant metal that won’t tarnish when exposed to air or water. It’s much more durable and scratch-proof than silver, gold, platinum, or other metal alloys.
That being said, rhodium-plated jewelry is less prone to water damage, rust, tarnish, and scratches. Along with preserving the overall appearance of jewelry, rhodium plating significantly increases their longevity.
Prevents Allergic Reactions
Some people are allergic to certain metal alloys, making it hardly possible to wear silver, gold, or nickel-containing jewelry. And this is when rhodium plating comes to the rescue.
Rhodium is a hypoallergenic metal that forms a thin protective layer covering the base metal, reducing the risk of allergic reactions or skin irritation. So, if you struggle with metal allergies, rhodium-plated jewelry is a true blessing.
Unique Color and Shine
Since rhodium is a lustrous silvery-white metal, its coating gives jewelry a distinctive color and reflective shine. Therefore, rhodium plating is widely used for giving different accessories a more luxurious appearance.
While rhodium plating can make silver, white gold, and platinum look even shinier, it can also change the color of different metals to silver.
To Make Jewelry Affordable
Jewelry pieces are often made of cheaper base metals and then are covered with a more expensive metal coating. For example, gold-plated jewelry is way more affordable than pure gold jewelry.
Similarly, rhodium is applied as a thin layer on less expensive base metals, making them both affordable and luxurious. That being said, rhodium plating enables jewelry designers to create budget-friendly jewelry pieces that resemble statement accessories made of white gold or platinum.
Types of Rhodium Plating
Rhodium plating can be applied to various base metals and metal alloys, including gold, silver, platinum, and nickel.
Rhodium plating is commonly used in white gold jewelry. As rhodium is harder than gold, it provides a layer of scratch protection as well as improved water resistance.
Along with protecting gold jewelry from tarnishing, rhodium plating gives white gold a more reflective and bright look.
While rhodium is generally used over white gold, it’s also a perfect choice for plating yellow or rose gold jewelry to give it a silvery-white color.
Rhodium-plated silver jewelry is the most common option on the market. Rhodium enhances the luster and durability of silver items.
The combination of sterling silver and rhodium plating results in exceptionally shiny jewelry that maintains its appearance for an extended period.
Although rhodium-coated silver jewelry can be slightly more expensive than sterling silver, the items will last longer, making it a reasonable investment.
Platinum is a precious and durable metal itself, and therefore, rhodium-plated platinum jewelry is more uncommon than the options discussed above.
However, rhodium plating can further enhance platinum’s durability and appearance, so it’s something that you may want to consider.
A thin protective layer of rhodium plating gives platinum jewelry a more lustrous white color and attractive finish.
Rhodium is an expensive metal, so jewelers may not always use it for coating fairly cheap base metals, such as nickel.
Still, rhodium plating can be used for making nickel-based alloys hypoallergenic while enhancing their visual features and making them look way more expensive than they actually are.
This application allows individuals to enjoy their precious-looking pieces that are used as an affordable alternative to expensive metal jewelry.
How Long Does Rhodium Plating Last?
On average, you should expect rhodium-plated jewelry to last for 12-24 months.
However, it all depends on how often you wear the jewelry, in which conditions you wear the pieces, and how you maintain them.
When rhodium-plated jewelry is worn daily, the plating is expected to last for up to 6 months. If you tend to shower, swim, or exercise with your jewelry on, then you might have to get it replated more often.
Luckily, there are a few basic maintenance tips that you can consider to make rhodium plating last much longer:
- Take off rhodium-plated jewelry before taking a shower, swimming, or exercising to limit exposure to moisture;
- Rhodium plating can be worn down by friction, so try to minimize that;
- Avoid contact with chemicals, such as chlorine, bleach, perfumes, lotions, shower products, and skincare products with harsh active ingredients;
- Use a soft polishing cloth to gently wipe your jewelry on a regular basis;
- Only use mild soap and warm water if your jewelry really needs to be cleaned;
- Store rhodium-plated jewelry separately to reduce scratching.
IceCartel’s Rhodium Plated Jewelry
IceCartel’s white gold jewelry stands out as an exquisite and durable statement piece. Their carefully crafted jewelry is made of solid 14K white gold, providing exceptional durability and unmatched shine.
Here are some IceCartel’s timeless pieces from their white gold collection that you can use both daily and for special occasions:
IceCartel’s exclusive Cuban chain features 14mm-wide links crafted from 14K solid white gold or white gold plated sterling silver. VVS D-color moissanite gives the chain an even more sparkly and luxurious look. Built to last, the white gold chain is ideal for daily wear and occasions you want to stand out.
This elegant Cuban link bracelet is made of 14K white gold and is also available in gold-plated sterling silver. With D-color VVS moissanite crystals, this piece has been designed for daily wear as well as important events. IceCartel’s elegant bracelet is perfect for anyone who opts for more minimalistic jewelry that still grabs attention.
This baguette moissanite ring is available in 14K white gold, yellow, gold, rose gold, and two tone options. It’s a great option for anyone who’s looking for a conflict-free and ethical alternative to a natural diamond ring. IceCartel’s jewelry collection enables you to customize a statement piece that will last, shine, and impress.
Summing up, rhodium plating can protect your precious jewelry and even make cheaper pieces look just as good as their high-end alternatives.
With rhodium plating, jewelers can add durability, luster, and affordability to any accessory. Whether it’s platinum, gold, silver, or cheap metal alloy, rhodium-plated jewelry remains a timeless choice.
While rhodium-plated pieces need to be replated from time to time, you can extend their longevity by taking good care of them. Rhodium plating maintenance involves reducing exposure to water and chemicals while using a soft polishing cloth to wipe your jewelry regularly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s answer a few FAQs regarding rhodium plating.
Does Rhodium plating turn green?
No, rhodium itself doesn’t tarnish or turn green. If your rhodium-plated jewelry has changed its color, it’s most likely the base metal, not the rhodium coating.
This is especially common when the best metal alloy includes copper or nickel, which reacts with oxygen to form copper or nickel oxides, giving the metal a green color.
How much does Rhodium plating cost?
On average, the cost for rhodium plating is anywhere between $50 and $150. It depends on the size of the jewelry as well as the jewelry store you’re visiting.
How to know if my jewelry has Rhodium plating?
Most jewelers indicate whether a piece is rhodium plated by stamping it, so you should look for the letters “RH” or “RHP”.
Rhodium gives metals a distinct color, which is silvery-white, but not quite like sterling silver.
Along with its distinct appearance, rhodium-plated jewelry is hypoallergenic, so if you experience any allergic reactions or skin irritation, then the answer is pretty obvious.
If you still have trouble determining if your jewelry is rhodium-plated, you can also consult a professional jeweler.