That’s a great question. The answer is no, rhodium does not tarnish. It’s actually a noble metal—one of the few that don’t corrode or oxidize when exposed to air and water. And it’s also one of the most expensive metals on Earth. In fact, it’s worth about $30,000 per kilogram!
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Table of contents
- WHAT IS RHODIUM PLATED JEWELRY
- WHAT IS RHODIUM?
- WHAT IS RHODIUM PLATED?
- WHAT COLOR IS RHODIUM?
- IS RHODIUM JEWELRY SAFE TO WEAR?
- WHICH IS BETTER, RHODIUM PLATED OR STERLING SILVER?
- HOW LONG DOES RHODIUM PLATING LAST?
- HOW TO CLEAN RHODIUM-PLATED STERLING SILVER
- IS RHODIUM PLATING EXPENSIVE?
- IS RHODIUM PLATING WORTH IT?
- PROS and CONS OF RHODIUM PLATING
Rhodium is commonly used for jewelry plating because it helps prevent other metals from corroding. This process is called rhodium plating and it works by applying a thin layer of rhodium over another metal like silver or white gold.
WHAT IS RHODIUM PLATED JEWELRY
Rhodium-plated jewelry is silver that has been coated with an extra layer of rhodium, a rare and expensive metal. Rhodium-plated jewelry is also known as rhodium flashed or rhodium-dipped jewelry. The reason for this is because rhodium is valuable, but in its pure state, it cracks when it’s made into thin wires (like those used to make rings) or cannot withstand high heat (such as that used in casting). In many cases, silver jewelry is plated with rhodium because it lasts longer than gold plate and gives off a more brilliant shine than white gold or sterling silver.
WHAT IS RHODIUM?
Rhodium is a rare, silvery-white, hard, and chemically inert transition metal and a member of the platinum group. Rhodium is primarily used as a catalyst in the automotive industry; it’s used in catalytic converters to reduce harmful emissions. Catalytic converters are required by law in every automobile sold inside the United States.
In jewelry, rhodium is usually plated on sterling silver or gold to make it more durable and give it a brighter, whiter color. Rhodium is known for its brilliant shine making it an excellent candidate for jewelry!
WHAT IS RHODIUM PLATED?
Rhodium is a member of the platinum group of metals, so it’s very shiny and hard-wearing. It is used in the jewellery industry to plate other, softer precious metals that don’t have that polished white sheen. It’s also used in medicine, science labs, and electronics because it doesn’t tarnish and it creates a protective layer for other materials.
So how does it work?
- A piece of jewelry—say, a sterling silver ring with gemstones—is placed in an electrolytic bath along with some plating solution made from rhodium chloride/hydrogen chloride/water mixed together.
- Electric current is passed through the bath from a rectifier (a device that converts alternating current into direct current). This causes the rhodium to plate onto the jewelry at a rate of about eight micro-inches per hour (a micro-inch is one-millionth of an inch!). The thicker you want your layer to be, the longer you leave it.
WHAT COLOR IS RHODIUM?
The color of rhodium is silvery-white, although it can also be grayish-yellow or grayish-white in color. In general, rhodium jewelry pieces are highly reflective and have a mirror-like finish.
IS RHODIUM JEWELRY SAFE TO WEAR?
The short answer is yes, rhodium jewelry is safe to wear. Rhodium is a rare, non-toxic metal that doesn’t cause any allergic reactions or skin irritations and isn’t known to be corrosive. In fact, the reason why it’s used as a coating for white gold jewelry is that it’s so durable and hypoallergenic.
WHICH IS BETTER, RHODIUM PLATED OR STERLING SILVER?
You can easily distinguish sterling silver from rhodium plated by checking the price tag. Generally, sterling silver is more expensive than rhodium plated because of its purity. There are also two factors that determine if jewelry that is made out of either metal will last long – the frequency it’s worn and how well you take care of it. While rhodium plating tends to chip off after a while, sterling silver is more likely to tarnish. Carefully weigh your options to see which material best suits your needs!
HOW LONG DOES RHODIUM PLATING LAST?
Rhodium is a hard metal, which contributes to the durability of its plating. The length of time that rhodium plating lasts depends on factors such as the thickness of the plating, how often the item being plated is worn, and how susceptible it is to wear and tear. Rhodium plating can last anywhere from 3 months to 3 years. In most cases, if an item is worn daily or often, it will need to be replated more frequently.
HOW TO CLEAN RHODIUM-PLATED STERLING SILVER
- When you buy sterling silver jewelry, it is sometimes coated with a layer of rhodium. This coating helps prevent the silver from tarnishing and the rhodium can last for a long time, but if you want your jewelry to look its best, sometimes it will need to be cleaned.
- You shouldn’t use harsh chemicals when cleaning jewelry that is rhodium plated. The best way to clean rhodium-plated sterling silver is to wash it with warm, soapy water and then rinse it off thoroughly. Use a soft brush — like a toothbrush — to gently scrub any hard-to-reach places on your piece of jewelry. A toothbrush is also great for getting out any dirt trapped in the crevices of the design or pattern on your piece of jewelry. After you’ve washed the sterling silver with warm, soapy water and scrubbed all areas with a soft brush, rinse it off thoroughly under clean running water and pat dry with a soft cloth.
- To keep your sterling silver looking its best, make sure that you store it properly. Sterling silver should always be stored in a box or pouch lined with felt or velvet — this will help protect the piece from scratches sustained from other pieces banging into one another inside storage containers or drawers.
- As an alternative method for cleaning rhodium-plated sterling silver without scratching the surface of your piece of jewelry, try using a polishing cloth specifically designed for cleaning sterling silver items.*
IS RHODIUM PLATING EXPENSIVE?
Rhodium plating is more expensive than sterling silver, white gold, and platinum, so why would anyone pay more to have their ring rhodium plated?
The answer is simple: it’s a lot cheaper than replacing the entire ring. The cost to replace your engagement ring or wedding band with a new one made from scratch can range from $750 – $1500 per ring. Having your ring rhodium plated could cost as little as $40 – $100.
IS RHODIUM PLATING WORTH IT?
This is the question on everyone’s mind. Is it worth the money? The answer depends on what your budget is, and how important the look of your jewelry is to you. If you can afford it, then yes, definitely; there’s no downside to rhodium plating – as long as you don’t mind paying for it. Rhodium-plated jewelry looks great and will keep its shine for a very long time with proper care.
PROS and CONS OF RHODIUM PLATING
- Rhodium plated jewelry is super shiny and can make any piece look luxurious.
- Rhodium plating is known for its hard wear and tear resistance, which means it’ll last a long time.
- The price of rhodium plated jewelry tends to be higher than non-plated jewelry because of the materials used in the metal.
- More about the cost of rhodium and rhodium plating here.
- You will have to re-plate your ring or other jewelry if you want to keep that mirror shining, even though it is durable, the metal itself won’t last forever as 24k gold will.