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Rhodium plating – What it is and why it is done

Rhodium plating is a surface treatment dine on white gold jewellery in order to improve the colour of the metal. The important point is that rhodium plating is a very thin film and the actual colour of the white gold beneath is different.

rhodium plating

The white gold alloys used in jewellery industry are alloys of fine gold with whitening metals. Since the fine gold has a saturated yellow colour the resulting alloys are always a bit off-white. To improve the appearance of the piece, jewellers are plating (coating) its surface with Rhodium. Rhodium is a nobble metal from the platinum metal group known for its bright white colour. It is also tarnish-free and hypoallergenic. Here are some facts about rhodium plating which might be of interest to the white gold jewellery owner:

  • 99% of the white gold jewellery (irrespective of its purity) offered around the world is rhodium plated.
  • Rhodium is absolute necessity for diamond pave and micropave areas, where the colour of the diamonds has to blend with the colour of the surrounding metal
  • Since it is a only a thin layer (+/- 1 micron)the rhodium plating will wear off and the item needs to be re-plated.
  • The rhodium film does not affect the texture but only the colour of the surface. If it is polished, it will still be polished after the process. If it is scratched the scratches will remain.
  • The rhodium is the very last finishing process. Stone setting, finishing touches and cleaning procedures must be done before the plating.
  • Rhodium plating can be done on yellow or rose gold alloys, resulting in the same bright white finish; however the effects of discoloration when the film wears off are much greater.
    Generally rhodium over non-white gold alloys is a sign for low end low budget orientated jewellery.
  • As maintenance process rhodium plating is usually a simple process done after re-polishing of a jewellery piece, however multi-colour and/or multi-texture pieces can present complications.
  • Rhodium plating is lasting much longer on earrings and necklaces than on rings and bracelets.

If you dint like the idea of plating constantly your jewellery in order to look crisp, consider palladium or platinum for your rings and bracelets.