Rhodium is one of the most expensive precious metals in the world. It gives a luxurious and brilliant white shine to your jewelry. However, how long doe rhodium-plated sterling silver last?
Rhodium is a rare metal that belongs to the platinum family. Often, rhodium plating is common in the jewelry industry to enhance the durability and luster of various metals, giving them a shiny and smooth finished look.
More so, you can find it on diamond rings as they enhance the brilliance of the diamond. Rhodium-plated sterling silver jewelry needs proper care and maintenance for it to last for an extended period. So, how long does rhodium-plated sterling silver last?
What is rhodium?
Rhodium is a rare and precious metal considered to be approximately 10-25 times more expensive than gold. It belongs to the platinum family and is highly reflective, silver-colored, and resistant to corrosion and tarnishing. This precious metal is rare in nature as it occurs as a by-product of mining other products, like platinum.
Furthermore, rhodium is highly durable and harder than gold. It is quite brittle and does not bend easily to form other shapes or designs. Pure rhodium cannot make jewelry.
As a result, many jewelry manufacturers use it to plate other metals when making jewelry to enhance their tensile strength and reliability. If you guys want to read more, please read it on Wikipedia here.
What is rhodium-plated sterling silver ornaments?
Sterling silver refers to a metal alloy which consists of 92.5% of pure silver and 7.5% of other metals, like copper. Jewelry engraved with the words ‘925’ implies they contain sterling silver. Pure silver is too soft and malleable to manufacture jewelry by itself. As such, jewelers combine it with other metals to make it stronger.
Some jewel makers prefer using rhodium plating to prevent the products from tarnishing or scratching. By using the electroplating process, they protect the underlying metal by giving the item a durable, smooth, and shiny appearance.
Manufacturers submerge sterling silver jewelry in a heated bath of some rhodium-plating solution and run an electric current through the bath by utilizing the recipient as the cathode.
Rhodium from the heated bath permanently bonds to the surface of the sterling silver jewelry, giving it its scratch-resistant and corrosion-resistant appearance.
Therefore, the term ‘rhodium-plated sterling silver’ refers to those ornaments made from sterling silver and plated with a small outer coating of rhodium.
Rhodium-plated sterling silver ornaments do not tarnish while those without rhodium-plating tend to tarnish quickly. More so, if the item is not regularly exposed to excessive heat, wear, and friction, it remains sparkling and smooth indefinitely.
What is the lifespan of rhodium-plated sterling silver?
Even though rhodium-plated sterling silver jewels lasts for a pretty long time, it is essential to note that it will not last forever. Several factors dictate the longevity of these types of ornaments, including the thickness of the plating, the amount of wear the jewelry receives, plating quality, and the individual body chemistry, among many others.
Electroplating an item built for everyday wear, like a ring, may only last for about six to twenty-four months since it is subject to excessive friction and wear. Pieces of jewelry, such as necklaces, earrings, or brooches, retain their plating for approximately ten or more years since it comes in less contact with the skin and other elements.
The thickness of rhodium plating
The original thickness of rhodium plating on your piece of jewelry affects its lifespan. Many manufacturers recommend the ideal thickness as 0.75 to 1.0 microns. Despite being extremely thin, this thickness is best for rings and other ornaments regularly exposed to rough wear.
Jewelry items like necklaces and earrings should have a thickness of about 0.10 to 0.50 microns since they are more sheltered and not exposed to frequent wear.
Rhodium is a highly brittle metal. If your rhodium plating is too dense, the item is likely to break.
Similarly, if the rhodium-plating is extremely thin, you may find your product becoming discolored over time. Jewelers must make sure that they plate their jewelry with the most suitable thickness.
When is rhodium plating not advisable?
Rhodium plating is an excellent solution to preventing your jewelry from becoming tarnished or wearing out.
However, there are some circumstances when it is not the best for your ornaments. Keep in mind that only a small outer layer of rhodium plates the jewelry. As such, it is due to wear out after constant wear and use.
People with vintage pieces of jewelry may want to stay away from rhodium plating. These items require an oxidized finish to retain the elegance and superiority in the market. Rhodium plating gives its products a shiny appearance.
How to clean rhodium-plated sterling silver
Cleaning your piece of rhodium-plated sterling silver ornaments guarantee it to last longer than expected. However, you have to avoid the rhodium plating off your ring and avoid exposing such jewelry to harsh chemicals. Perfumes and certain cosmetic products may affect such jewelry, causing it to tarnish.
Wipe off any residue on the item if they come into contact with it. Similarly, remove your jewelry hen swimming in heavily chlorinated swimming pools.
Some cleaning tips for rhodium-plated sterling silver jewels include:
- Mix mild detergent and some warm water.
- Soak the jewelry in the solution for about ten minutes and then gently rub it with your fingers to remove the dirt. Avoid using a hard toothbrush or scratching it.
- Rinse off the jewelry to remove the soapy water using clean distilled water. It is best to rinse twice to remove any detergent residue completely.
- By using a soft towel, pat the jewelry gently until it is dry. Leave it overnight to dry completely. Some people opt to wrap the jewelry inside tissue paper and store it in an airtight jewelry container.
While rhodium plating works great to offset cubic zirconium and diamonds, it also does an excellent job in creating the durability and strength of sterling silver.
It offers a brilliant white shine on its products free from tarnish and corrosion. By understanding how long rhodium-plated sterling silver lasts, you can equip yourself better in cleaning and preventing it from discoloring and wearing out. However, sterling silver easily reverts to its original condition, which is quite attractive in itself