White gold, platinum, or sterling silver—if lustrous white jewelry is your look, then these will be the metals on your wish list. And, if you’ve been shopping for white gold jewelry, you’ve probably come across the term “rhodium plating” or “rhodium plate.”
So what is rhodium plating, and when is it used?
Here at Blush & Bar, we have an incredible collection of affordable gold vermeil and sterling silver jewelry—so why not take a look?
Joyce Layered Stack Ring
Charisse Vintage Ring
Midi Knuckle 2-Ring Set
What is rhodium plating, and why is it used?
Rhodium plating is often used on jewelry made of silver-hued metals like white gold, platinum, and silver. The plating makes the jewelry much whiter and far more reflective. Rhodium plating also increases the durability of jewelry by adding an extra layer that will help it resist scratches and tarnishing.
Rhodium is a precious metal similar to platinum (and often only found with it). The problem is that rhodium is too brittle to be used on its own in jewelry. That’s why it’s usually used to plate jewelry made of another precious metal, like white gold. Before being plated with rhodium, white gold often has a dull grey appearance.
Even though rhodium plating is only around 0.75 to 1.0 microns thick, it improves gold jewelry’s strength. This is because rhodium is much harder than gold. Rhodium doesn’t tarnish and has a beautiful reflective sheen.
Rhodium plating is performed using a process called electroplating. How does electroplating work, you ask? Pretty much exactly how it sounds!
The jewelry is cleaned then added to a rhodium solution. An electrical charge is added to the solution, which causes the rhodium to coat the base metal. After an hour or so, the base metal is wholly plated with rhodium.
Rhodium is very durable, but it doesn’t last forever. Because the layer of rhodium plating (or rhodium electroplating) is so thin, it can degrade over time with general wear and tear. Usually, rhodium plating lasts about 12 to 18 months.
How long your rhodium plating lasts depends on how thick the plating is as well as how much wear and tear it’s exposed to. If you do a lot of work with your hands and it’s only a thin layer of rhodium, it’ll wear away much faster!
How can you increase the lifespan of your rhodium plating?
Rhodium plating will never last forever. But, there are a few ways you can help it last longer.
Avoid rubbing the rhodium plating off. This might mean taking your ring off whenever it might be exposed to rubbing, like washing your hands or doing some hands-on work.
Take off your rhodium plated jewelry when dealing with chemicals, or simply wear gloves (you probably should be anyway!). Some harsh chemicals could increase the wear and tear of your rhodium. Also, make sure to take it off whenever you’re around chlorine (including pools).
How much does rhodium cost?
Because the rhodium plating wears away and exposes the metal beneath (which can be a problem, especially with yellow gold), the cost can increase over time.
Replating costs around $100, depending on the size of your jewelry and the quality of rhodium used. This is because rhodium is relatively expensive, and the process of plating can only be done by specialists.
All jewelry has ongoing maintenance costs if you want it to last forever, and this is especially true for white gold. There’s no doubt that rhodium plating looks gorgeous, but does the look justify the price?
If you aren’t convinced, an alternative is to choose a metal like platinum that offers a gleaming white look without needing rhodium. Another option is to go with a jeweler that offers a lifetime warranty that covers rhodium replating services.
Either way, if white is your look—there are plenty of options out there!