Rhodium Plated Jewelry? (6 Important things…)

Julie Janecka
Written by
Last update:

What is Rhodium Plating?

Rhodium plating is a surface treatment that is often used with gold. It is a kind of white gold finish that makes yellow gold appear whiter and more similar in color to platinum.

Chances are you have seen rhodium plated jewelry before. It’s one of the most popular white and yellow gold surface treatments among jewelers. And it’s also a popular finishing for engagement rings.

Rhodium plating is quite durable, making it a good choice for those who want to make sure that their jewelry will stay in good condition. It also has a pretty elegant look that sparkles.

However, there are some drawbacks to rhodium plating. It can only be applied to non-precious metals like gold and silver, and it can wear off over time, especially in severe water conditions. Before choosing to add rhodium plating to your jewelry, it’s important to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into.

Here are a few important things about rhodium plating you should know before deciding to add this finishing to your jewelry.

What is the Rhodium Plating Process?

Rhodium plating is a method of depositing a thin layer of rhodium, a whitish-silver metal, on the surface of another metal. It is used predominantly on sterling silver to give it a more luxurious and expensive white gold appearance.The rhodium layer is the actual plating that is applied by a surface electrolytic deposition process. This process is very hard to strip off but it is also very thin, at only 2.5 to 6 nanometers.

Rhodium plating is one of the most coveted and expensive white gold plating processes because of the rhodium metal’s scarcity and the high price per ounce. Because of this, it is advisable that you never accept rhodium plated jewelry at face value. There are many jewelers employing this plating process and jewelers try to capitalize on the popularity of white gold by charging you for a more expensive process when the item is not inherently better or more valuable than an item that has not been rhodium plated.

So how do you determine what rhodium plated jewelry is worth? Well, it is always best to obtain a certified appraisal for the item when you plan to sell it. But there are a couple simple ways to tell if that plating is real.

How Long Does Rhodium Plating Last?

Rhodium is a precious metal that's a sister metal to platinum. It is silvery in color in its pure form. Rhodium is more durable and stronger than platinum, but is also less expensive and more abundant than platinum, which makes it a good option for plating jewelry.

The most common method of rhodium plating is electrochemical plating, which achieves a rhodium surface over a nickel surface. This plating process can be used to coat an item's entire surface or just a portion of its surface. Manufacturing jewelry that is rhodium plated is not complicated, but there are some things you should know before plating jewelry with rhodium.

Is Rhodium Plated Jewelry Safe to Wear?

When considering buying jewelry consider whether it is made with rhodium plating or not. The reason I bring this up is due to the questions we receive. If you are currently wearing jewelry, or are planning on wearing jewelry please read the following to help you make an informed decision.

Is Rhodium Plated Jewelry Safe?

Many items of jewelry feature rhodium plating though jewelers may not refer to it as such. Rhodium is a metal that has anti-allergic properties. It is one of the few elements that causes other metals to be resistant to sunlight, rust and tarnish. This is why medical devices, instruments, and jewelry are coated with rhodium.

Gemstones plated with rhodium are often referred to as white gold which is a misleading term. Gemstones are not comprised from any form of gold, and the term white gold is actually a reference to the metal used in the process and not the color of the product. Due to this misleading use of the term white gold, many opting for white gold gemstone jewelry are actually unknowingly purchasing rhodium plated jewelry. White gold jewelry is often rhodium plated using a several microns thick layer of rhodium, which is a metal that needs to be protected and needs to be checked periodically and rubbed to ensure that its antibacterial properties are still in effect, and that it is still giving the jewelry the shine that is desired.

How Do You Care For Rhodium Plated Jewelry?

A rhodium-plated piece of jewelry can be a beautiful addition that will get a lot of looks. However, when it comes time to clean your rhodium jewelry, you may be a bit scared. No one wants to damage a precious piece, after all. So before you try to clean rhodium jewelry, you should know a few things.

You should take care of your rhodium-plated jewelry like you would any other piece of fine jewelry. This will increase the lifespan and prevent any damage. Rhodium plating on a piece of jewelry is harder than silver, but it can still wear away over time. If you fail to care for your rhodium-plated jewelry, it will start to tarnish. It will also dull out after too much contact with chlorine, sweat and other chemicals.

Although most rhodium plating can't be repaired, there are ways you can prevent damage and lengthen its lifespan.

If you find that your rhodium plated jewelry is turning a color you don't like, you can try polishing it with a soft cloth. Always start gentle and check to see if any fading or dulling occurs. If not then use a little more pressure and see how it looks. If you polish too hard the first time you may find that your rhodium plating is damaged. If this happens, the piece may need to be re-plated.

How Can You Tell if Jewelry is Rhodium Plated?

Right now, you can find many different store and online marketing platforms that advertise rhodium-plated jewelry.

Rhodium is a silvery-white rare metal element with electrical and thermal conductivity properties. It is found naturally in ores at low concentrations. Pure rhodium is too soft to be used in jewelry but after electroplating with a thin layer of the metal, rhodium is used for white gold alloys to make them look more like platinum. (Platinum is harder and more durable, but it’s also more expensive.) Also, rhodium helps retain the white color of the alloy.

You can find rhodium plating on a wide selection of jewelry, including necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings, and more. Unfortunately, many sellers are selling cheap rhodium plated jewelry without informing buyers about the details. In order to ensure that you get what you expect when you purchase rhodium-plated jewelry, here are some details you will need to know.

Learn More About Jewelry

Rhodium is a white, soft, ductile, rare, and chemically inert transition metal, which is similar to platinum. When it comes to jewelry, platinum is known for being more durable, white in color, and almost identical to white gold. However, it is more expensive than gold and therefore, a lot of jewelry sold is made out of the much cheaper rhodium.

Rhodium is a more costly material than platinum, but it’s not as expensive as pure gold. Rhodium is usually only used on jewelry to provide a white finish and therefore, the gold is set into the rhodium instead of the platinum. However, the rhodium layer needs to be removed eventually, and it’s important to know how it’s going to be removed.

Other than being a finish on gold jewelry, rhodium is actually a member of the platinum group of elements. As mentioned earlier, it is used almost identical to gold but there are a few exceptions where gold is used in place of platinum or rhodium. Jewelry that is available in these varieties include:

Check out the next page to see rest of the infographic.