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11 things you should know about rhodium plated jewelry

WildWoman fans have of course noticed that many of our jewelry pieces are labeled as “rhodium plated” or “maintenance free”. That’s all good but what does it actually mean?

Rhodium plating is the process of adding a layer of rhodium to the surface of a jewelry item to increase the item’s shine and make it more durable, scratch and tarnish resistant. What else is worth knowing? Here are 11 useful tidbits of knowledge.

Rhodium plating, even if you’ve never heard of it before, is a commonly used method in the world of jewelry. Silver, white gold, and stones (but not all stones) can all be rhodium plated. Even diamond rings can be rhodium plated as this makes the jewel shine even brighter. Wait, what, why, who, how? Here’s the scoop.

Rhodium is a precious metal

Rhodium is a rare and precious metal that can be as much as 10 to 25 time more expensive than gold! Rhodium is a highly reflective silver-hued cousin of platinum that doesn’t fade or corrode. Exceedingly durable, it is harder than gold and silver.

However, rhodium is also very capricious and brittle and can by no means be shaped or formed into a piece of jewelry - rhodium jewelry would break as easily as fragile glass. Be that as it may, rhodium works perfectly as a protective layer on jewelry made from other materials.

Rhodium plating extends the lifespan of jewelry

A rhodium layer makes jewelry more durable, less sensitive to scratches, brighter, and shinier. Rhodium is foremost used to cover silver-hued jewelry (silver, white gold, palladium) as its own color is similar. In principle, gold can also be rhodium plated; however, this will change the hue of the gold, giving it a bright, whitish shine. White gold jewelry, by the way, is actually made from a mixture of sorts of gold and silver tone metals (often silver itself) that is later rhodium plated to obtain a silver tone. White gold without a layer of rhodium has a yellowish hue.

Yellow gold, white gold and rhodium plated white gold. Which is which?

Rhodium plating is a complicated process

Rhodium plating is the process of electrochemical surface finishing, galvanization. Rhodium plating a piece of jewelry, it is first cleaned of all kinds of residue as any remaining dirt will cause the rhodium plating process to fail. A thin layer of rhodium is applied on the jewelry item by a positive electric charge. In doing this, one must be super careful as an overly high electric charge will make rhodium turn black.

The process from start to finish takes no more than an hour to an hour and a half.

An ideal rhodium layer on a jewelry item has the thickness of 0.75 - 1 micron

Seems nearly non-existent, yet it’s quite enough to protect even the kind of jewelry you wear day and night, at parties, and while working out. To protect jewelry that is put through the ringer somewhat less (such as earrings and pendants and other items you wear less often), a layer of rhodium as thin as 0.10 to 0.50 microns will suffice.

Excesses are never good, are they, and the same applies to rhodium layers as well. An overly thick layer may begin to break. All because of how brittle rhodium really is. On the other hand, a layer of rhodium that is too thin will wear off quickly.

Wildwoman’s jewelry is covered with a layer of rhodium, the thickness of which, depending on the particular item, is 0.35 - 0.75 microns. Perfect!

Rhodium plated jewelry is safe for the wearer

A layer of rhodium is hypoallergenic and does not cause skin irritation. By the way, if you have a piece of jewelry that for some reason doesn’t agree with your skin, rhodium plating may be the solution.

You should still be aware of a few risks. First, if you purchased a piece of jewelry in which the metal underneath the rhodium layer contains nickel (white cold, for example, may contain nickel), the item may cause allergies when the top coat starts to wear off. The solution is as simple to have the item rhodium plated anew.

Second, buying jewelry from outside of the European Union, it may happen that a layer of nickel has been added in between the silver and the rhodium layer as nickel is very light in color. Therefore, if you are allergic to nickel, be careful purchasing rhodium plated jewelry outside of the EU. Sometimes, things can be taken as far as falsely claiming the layer of nickel to actually be a layer of rhodium as the two materials look alike. Within the EU, it is not permitted to use nickel.

The durability of the rhodium layer depends on a number of things

It’s worth knowing that a rhodium layer does not last forever, it wears thin, and in a few years’ time your piece of jewelry may need to be rhodium plated anew.

How quickly will this layer wear off? It depends. On the pH level of your skin, for example, on whether the piece of jewelry (a ring, for instance) is exposed to household chemicals and to which chemicals exactly. Even air pollution where you are may have an effect.

Normally, a ring used on a daily basis will require a new layer of rhodium in a year or a year and a half. Naturally, if you wear a rhodium plated piece of jewelry less regularly, it will last longer.

Silver, rhodium plated or not? It’s entirely up to you

Silver responds to rhodium plating very well. It is perfect for those proud owners of silver jewelry that love light metals that exhibit a cold hue and fancy shine. Those that prefer the lively, slightly darker tone of silver and a somewhat matter finish might want to look towards jewelry that has not been rhodium plated. As silver and rhodium are similar in their hue, a slight wearing off of the protective layer will go conveniently unnoticed. You can also polish your jewelry item at home when the rhodium layer begins to wear off and by doing so can put off a trip to have the item rhodium plated anew.

Many precious stones can be rhodium plated, yet not all

Pearls, corals, and porous stones do not tolerate rhodium plating. The heat generated during the electrochemical process and the acid used can damage the surface of pearls, corals, and softer/porous stones, making the surface uneven in both structure and color. Strong stones such as diamonds, sapphires, and rubies, however, respond well to rhodium plating.

Gold as well can be rhodium plated but turns white in the process

If you are tempted to have your yellow gold jewelry rhodium plated, you can have it done; however, keep in mind that it will become similar to white gold in its hue and when the rhodium starts to wear off, the yellow tone will begin to become noticeable again. Mind you that if you want to keep your gold jewelry looking beautiful, you'll probably need to have it rhodium plated a little more often.

There are things you can do to make sure the rhodium layer on your jewelry lasts longer

Everything that is used, succumbs to wear and tear; however, there are things you can do to make sure you won’t have to get your jewelry rhodium plated anew anytime very soon:

  • Protect your jewelry from abrasion and household chemicals. For example, take off your rings or wear protective gloves when you wash your hands and do the dishes.
  • Taking a swim in the chlorinated water of a swimming pool, take off your jewelry first.
  • Perfumes and cosmetics can also damage jewelry - try to avoid exposure to these substances as much as possible. Clean your jewelry after exposure.

Wildwoman will lend a helping hand in getting your jewelry rhodium plated

Many pieces of jewelry in WildWoman's selection have already been rhodium plated. However, if an item of your choice is not available as rhodium plated (and could tolerate it), or if an older piece of jewelry requires a new layer of rhodium, it’s WildWoman to the rescue! Rhodium plating of small to medium size jewelry costs € 35, while the price is a bit higher for larger items. The process will take a few working days and, if required, shipping is available for an extra fee.

 

Let’s get our rhodium plating ooooooon!

Or go ahead, and take a look at our selection of rhodium plated jewelry:

 

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