Jewelry Care: Rhodium Plating

Jun 23, 2016
It’s All in the Details: Care For Your Jewelry Long-Term With Rhodium Plating

The decision to rhodium plate jewelry was born as a solution (no pun intended) to make precious jewelry as white and shinny as possible. To understand why you would need to make a piece of jewelry more white you must have a basic understanding of the most used material in fine jewelry manufacturing, gold.

The reality is that gold comes out of the earth yellow in color somewhere between 23k and 24k. As gold is very soft or malleable in its natural state it must be mixed with alloys to become strong enough to withstand the rigors of day to day wear as jewelry. The basic formula is 75% gold to 25% alloy for 18k gold and 58% gold to 42% alloy for 14k gold. To change the metal color from yellow to white it would require a larger percentage of white metal (in this case alloy) added to the yellow (gold). Because the amount of alloy is always less than the amount of gold it never becomes a true bright white.

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Enter rhodium plating. Rhodium is a member of the platinum family and is one of the most precious and valuable metals. It is also resistant to corrosion and therefore a perfect metal to be worn against the skin. The jewelry industry uses rhodium primarily as a plating solution, adding a microscopic layers of the substance over platinum, gold, or silver to enhance the metal’s color to a bright white and prevent future tarnish.

Because the layer of rhodium is so thin the surface preparation is critical and will reflect any blemishes or discrepancies. Skilled jewelry craftsman must spend hours in the polishing process to ensure the item is perfect before going to a cleaning bath. The cleaning bath removes any foreign material left over from polishing to make sure the surface will accept the rhodium plating.

When properly executed the finish is enduring and a perfect reflection of the artist work.


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