How They Tie Together
Did you know that white gold jewelry doesn’t get its shiny white color from the gold itself? That color actually comes from a thin coat of rhodium plating! White gold needs to be rhodium plated to achieve the beautiful white finish that we see on any new piece of white gold jewelry. Rhodium plating is like coloring your hair, only for jewelry. When you have grey hair, you get it colored. When color is recently added, your hair looks amazing! The same goes for your white gold jewelry. When you rhodium plate it, it will look like new again. How long the plating will last is based on daily activities and what elements it is exposed to. Let’s get to understanding these two things a little better.
What is White Gold?
The first thing you need to know is that the element gold is only yellow. There is no isotope of gold that is white. So, then how do you get white gold? Engagement rings, wedding bands, and jewelry are made with gold and other metal alloys. Often the metals nickel and palladium are the bleaching agents for gold, giving you a whitish look. However, in recent years, nickel is being used less frequently for white gold because of the possibility of an allergic reaction.
What is Rhodium?
Rhodium is a rare, naturally occurring member of the platinum group of metals. It’s extremely hard, silvery in color, highly reflective, inert against corrosion, and doesn’t react with most chemicals. These properties make it especially good for plating as it adds more sheen to the jewelry and protects against scratching. Rhodium holds the distinction of being the world’s most expensive precious metal.
Rhodium Plating: What is it?
Jewelry plating—including rhodium plating—is essentially covering one metal surface with a very thin layer of another. This is done using electrolysis. In this process, the item to be plated is submerged in a liquid solution containing the plating metal. When an electric current is added to the mix, the tiny suspended particles of plating metal bond to the surface of the immersed piece of jewelry.
Jewelry with rhodium looks whiter and brighter. The white gold pieces you see in jewelry store cases all have rhodium plating. It’s the final step in the manufacturing process for white gold jewelry. Likewise, sterling silver jewelry is frequently plated with it. Not only does this add shine and sparkle to the piece, but it helps resist tarnishing.
How Long Does the Plating last?
The durability of rhodium plating depends on many factors. How often you wear the ring, household chemicals, toiletries, or even the pH level of your skin can greatly affect the quality of your rhodium plating. The plating typically lasts the longest on white gold jewelry. Part of this is due to the fact that even after the rhodium fades, it may be less noticeable on white gold as opposed to normal yellow gold. You can also have other colors of gold plated as well, for example, rose gold and yellow gold. Yes, you can get your yellow gold jewelry rhodium plated for a bright shiny white finish.
However, if the piece experiences significant wear, the rhodium plating may last only a short time even if the rhodium plating quality is good, and almost no time if the plating is poor. The good news is that rhodium re-plating is fairly inexpensive and is usually covered during the clean and polish step, so you can choose to get it done as often as you’d like.
Generally, rhodium plating will wear off rings the fastest because they get more wear and tear being worn on the hand. Most people will have their white gold rings re-rhodium plated about once a year. If you want your yellow or rose gold rings plated, they may last anywhere from a few months to a year. Be sure to take it to a trusted jeweler for a proper rhodium re-plating if and when you start to notice erosion.
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