Whether you are looking to buy expensive fine jewelry or trendy fashion or costume jewelry, rhodium plated jewelry is one of the most common metal finishes you will come across.
Primarily, the rhodium-plated jewelry is stunning, whether worn on its own or when embellished with gemstones and other kinds of stones, which is why it’s one of the most common platings used for jewelry.
Now, with the popularity of the rhodium-plated and rhodium jewelry, you may be wondering if the metal is safe for you and if you should wear it just because everyone else seems to like it.
To help you answer these and many questions, this article takes you through everything you need to know about rhodium jewelry, its features, and whether it’s safe or not. So, keep reading.
What is rhodium jewelry or rhodium plated jewelry?
Rhodium refers to a precious metal that belongs to the platinum group of metals. It is also one of the most expensive precious metals because, unlike silver or gold, rhodium is pretty rare and one mine as a platinum mining by-product.
What you may not know is that rhodium was discovered back in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston, who managed to isolate rhodium from platinum, naming the new metal rhodium, from the Latin word for the rose, Rhodon. Today, up to 80% of all the rhodium in the world is mined from South Africa.
Interestingly enough, despite its rarity and the fact that rhodium is both beautiful and elegant, jewelry isn’t made of pure rhodium because solid rhodium is not only too expensive, it’s also too brittle. As a result, the best use of the solid rhodium is in rhodium plating, often on silver and white gold.
Rhodium Jewelry Plating Process
Believed to have been discovered a while back in the 1930s, rhodium plating dates back to when the silverware makers started using rhodium plating to improve the quality and the overall finish of cutlery, as well as eating implements to reduce the constant need for polishing.
From here, jewelers soon began using gold plating on both sterling silver and white gold jewelry, making the jewelry more durable and attractive.
So, after World War II, when significant advances were made in the technology world, rhodium plating techniques were enhanced, and the rhodium plating was used on cheap costume jewelry, leaving you with the popular trendy fashion jewelry that we all know and love on the market today.
So, how does rhodium plating take place?
First, the item to be rhodium plated is cleaned thoroughly to get rid of dirt. Cleaning is important because the dirt stops the rhodium plating from adhering or bonding to the metal. To clean the jewelry, you could either use distilled water, electro-cleaning, or steam cleaning.
Once cleaned, the jewelry is then dipped into the rhodium solution, then an electric charge is used to fuse the rhodium with the jewelry’s base metal, for example, sterling silver, white gold, or yellow gold.
What’s important to note is the fact that the electric current must be just right.
If incorrectly plated, for example, with a high current, the rhodium plating could turn black. The good news is that the blackness of the rhodium plating isn’t all bad, and some people actually prefer the black rhodium plating for the jewelry – which, unlike the gold rhodium plating from the wrong plating, comes from mixing of the rhodium with black ink.
The other important process in the plating process is getting the thickness of the plating right. For most jewelers, the preferred thickness of the rhodium plating is between 0.75 microns and 1.0 microns. The thickness of the rhodium plating is quite thin, but this thickness is more than sufficient for the rings and the necklaces, as well as all other types of rhodium-plated jewelry.
Note that there are cases where for you to replate embellished jewelry with rhodium, the jeweler would have to remove the pears, topaz, and opals. On the other hand, gemstones like diamonds, sapphires, and rubies are more than very robust to withstand rhodium plating, and they will not be damaged in the process.
Is rhodium jewelry safe to wear?
So, is the plating safe on your skin?
Yes, it is. The rhodium plating is hypoallergenic, and the best part is that you won’t have to struggle with skin sensitivity reactions from wearing rhodium-plated jewelry.
The safety of the jewelry comes from the fact that the rhodium used for the jewelry’s plating is free of allergens like nickel. So, if you have jewelry that causes allergies, getting it rhodium plated might be an excellent idea and a solution to your problem.
It’s also important to note that rhodium will not cause any rashes on its own, and since white gold jewelry, for example, contains nickel in the alloys, rhodium plating will help in taking care of the problem.
But this doesn’t end the problems, at least not in the long term, because the rhodium plating will eventually wear off, exposing you to nickel allergies when your skin comes in contact with the original or the base metal.
The pros and cons of rhodium jewelry
- The rhodium used in jewelry increases the durability of the jewelry. One of the main reasons why rhodium and rhodium-plated jewelry tends to last long has to do with the fact that the jewelry is stronger and significantly more resistant to scratches.
- Rhodium plating on sterling silver jewelry prevents tarnishing. So, if you are worried about spending a lot of money on jewelry for it to be tarnished, you may want to look at the rhodium-plated jewelry.
- Rhodium and rhodium plating could be used on most of the precious metals as base metals, for example, sterling silver, white gold, or yellow gold.
- It increases the brilliance of the base metal, especially on white gold.
- Jewelry looks more attractive after rhodium plating.
- The rhodium-plated jewelry is hypoallergenic.
- The jewelry will have to be re-plated after some time.
- The plating will tarnish after some time.
Can you wear rhodium plated jewelry in the shower?
While used as metal plating for most metallic jewelry, including silver, gold, silver-filled, and jewelry made of other metal-based, it wouldn’t be a good idea to wear your rhodium plated jewelry to the bathroom because of the brittleness of the rhodium plating and the fact that the plating will eventually wear off.
As a result, it would be a smart idea to remove your jewelry before stepping into the shower.
Can you wear rhodium plated jewelry all day?
The rhodium plating’s durability will depend on your body chemistry, how well and often you wear the jewelry, whether you are exposing the jewelry to harsh chemicals or not, and exposure to cosmetics and perfumes.
What all these mean is that in as much as the rhodium plating jewelry looks amazing and lasts long, wearing it daily could only be an option for you if you keep it away from harsh conditions/ environments.
Rhodium-plated jewelry is beautiful, ideal for persons with skin allergies, and it’s also safe to wear.
So, if you weren’t sure about whether to buy the jewelry or not, you now know that the rhodium-plated jewelry might not be the worst idea ever.