Jewelry made of white gold could easily be the most beautiful type of jewelry you ever buy. Its timelessness and natural luster make it the perfect fit for everyday wear jewelry. As a big fan of white gold, I, however, often find myself struggling to wear my pieces after some time because they tend to lose that effervescent feel and look. I’m certainly not alone in this!
The good news, however, is that the dullness and those yellow tinges on the surface of your white gold jewelry is normal, expected even.
The dulling is a natural process which results in the wearing off of the rhodium layer of the white gold. With the loss of the rhodium layer, the inner milky yellow surface of gold starts appearing, hence the ‘old’ look.
Should this make you panic? Well, no. The loss of the rhodium layer is expected, and you can always restore the piece’s natural shine, luster and brightness by thanks to rhodium plating, also called rhodium dipping.
Besides enhancing the natural shine of your gold jewelry, rhodium plating will give the diamond embellishment a greater shine, leaving you with a more reflective, clear, and a super brilliant feel.
So, if you have been wondering if rhodium plating poses a risk to the appearance of your gemstones or diamonds, you should know that it doesn’t.
During rhodium plating, a current is passed through the metal, and this results in the binding of rhodium to the elements of the jewelry piece, hence plating.
Gemstones and diamonds are poor conductors of electricity, and they are safe from plating. You don’t have to worry about them losing their sparkle.
About Rhodium Plating
As mentioned above, Rhodium plating restores the shine and beauty of white gold jewelry pieces. What you might not know, however, is that rhodium is a rare earth metal.
Rhodium is silvery-white belonging to the platinum group of elements on the periodic table.
Like the other metals in the group, it reflective and it doesn’t react with the air (oxygen) even when exposed to extreme environmental conditions and extreme heat.
Thanks to this high level of non-reactiveness, rhodium is nothing like gold, silver or any other precious metals, and it makes the perfect metal for plating gold, as well as silver jewelry.
Even after plating, its non-reactiveness (inertness) means that plating will not alter its brightness or shine.
Therefore, silver plating/ dipping is the standard jewelry industry process through which white gold jewelry obtain a beautiful, bleached finish.
Note that the plating process is more of an electroplating procedure through which a microscopic rhodium layer is applied or plated over original 18k or 14K white gold jewelry.
But before we look at the frequency with which rhodium plating is done, let’s first look at the reason for rhodium plating.
Why is Rhodium Plating Necessary?
White gold is a beautiful, precious metal that makes beautiful and even extravagant jewelry. If you saw it, you’d want to wear a piece as is. However, that is not the case. Ever wondered why?
Your white gold ring or necklace needs rhodium plating for that original shine, as well as the restoration of the beautiful shine after some time.
The reason for this is that the jewelers make white gold jewelry using by making gold alloys by blending a certain percentage of gold with metals like nickel and palladium – these alloys are yellowish and not white as you’d think.
This yellow tinge of the alloy doesn’t look too good, and if you are looking for white gold jewelry, then plating with rhodium is essential. Rhodium gives white gold jewelry that silvery white shine.
Besides masking the yellowish tinge of the gold alloy, rhodium plating is needed later on because the process is not permanent.
The rhodium layer that’s initially added to the white gold fades away after some time. Fading of the rhodium plating leads to a great deal of dullness on the rings back, and you might even notice some dull yellow spots.
When you notice these, it’s time for rhodium reapplication, by a professional.
When then should you expect dullness or have your ring re-plated?
How Often Does White Gold Require Rhodium Plating?
Well, there is no specific timelines when it comes to when your white gold jewelry will cry for a new rhodium plating application.
- Overall, the frequency of rhodium plating on white gold jewelry pieces depends on the usage of the jewelry. Chlorine exposure, for example, will affect how long the rhodium plating lasts and, in most cases, exposure to such harsh chemicals means faster fading.
- The frequency will also depend on whether your jewelry gets exposed to rough environments, and if you are too hard on it.
- The type of jewelry also affects the frequency of Rhodium plating. White gold rhodium plated earrings, necklaces and bracelets tend to wear off at a slower rate than wedding bands and engagement rings. The rings and bands are in contact with your body more, and they also suffer hard handling from contact with the surfaces your hands get in contact with regularly, hence a faster rate of wear.
- Your body chemistry is a factor too, with excessive sweating resulting in the faster wearing off of the rhodium layer.
Therefore, if you wear your white gold rhodium plated jewelry regularly, you’ll have to take it to the jewelers for rhodium plating much more frequently.
But if you don’t wear those pieces often, they might not need plating for years!
Note, however, that even with a white gold rhodium plated ring that is in contact with different surfaces most of the time, rhodium plating should last more than a year.
Ordinarily, you’d start to see fading of the plating around the ring’s base in a year or less, but plating is often done after every 2 or even 3 years.
Note: you shouldn’t plate your white gold ring each year even if the little dullness irks you. Constant plating wears down the ring, albeit prematurely.
What happens is that with every rhodium plating, the old rhodium layer has to be stripped off, the old scratches buffed out and the ring is then cleaned in preparation for the new rhodium layer. Doing this all the time will ultimately affect the structure and the strength of the gold piece.
White gold jewelry is bough pre-dipped/ plated. How often you have the plating reapplied is a matter of preference and necessity since the process is more of a maintenance and upkeep thing.