Rhodium and Sterling Silver
What is rhodium?
Rhodium is the whitest and most precious metal used for jewelry. It is rarer than gold or platinum and whiter than silver. The metal is found so infrequently by itself that it’s usually extracted as a byproduct from platinum mines. Rhodium comes from the same group of metals like platinum (known as the platinum group), which includes Platinum, Rhodium, Iridium, Ruthenium, Osmium, and Palladium. Rhodium’s extreme shine, reflectiveness, and strength make it desirable in industries that produce automobiles, lighting, and mirrors, as well as jewelry.
Rhodium is plated on sterling silver using an electroplating process. The cleaned silver jewelry is placed in a bath with a rhodium solution. A positive electric current is then used to permanently fuse the rhodium onto the silver.
Take a look at the two bracelets pictured above, sourced from the Blue Nile. One is sterling silver and the other is rhodium-plated sterling silver.
Rhodium Plated Sterling Silver
What is rhodium plated?
Rhodium-plated means jewelry made from a base metal of gold, silver, or another alloy that is coated in a thin layer of rhodium for extra strength and luster. Jewelry plated in rhodium is shinier and more durable than other metals. Rhodium plating does not scratch, dent, or corrode and retains its luster.
What is Rhodium plated sterling silver?
In simple terms, Rhodium plated sterling silver is the sterling silver metal that is coated in a thin layer of Rhodium to form a jewel.
Jewelers use this method because Rhodium is a non-reactive metal, and therefore it reduces the tarnishing that occurs with sterling silver.
Why Rhodium is good for jewelry?
We have stated above that rhodium metal is quite costly, but it’s also very brittle to make a jewel. This is all the reason why most people use it for plated jewels, and that’s the common type.
Whether the material beneath is gold, silver, or brass, and it has imperfections, the Rhodium will hide that making it look all new and good.
The good thing is that the rhodium plating is shiny and will make the jewel you have even brighter and as good as new.
It’s hypoallergenic, so no cases of skin allergies when you are using it.
Besides, these metals are famous for being durable, so the jewels are sustainable. It’s further scratch-resistant, and this is a plus for when you have sterling silver beneath. So it’s a good jewel idea if you want it to last longer.
You no longer have to handle tarnishing cases like you do when you are using sterling silver. Therefore even if you have the silver as the metal underneath, you won’t experience tarnishing.
You will enjoy the high luster and the whiteness of the jewel. Some people like the whiteness since it mimics the white gold metal for your jewels. When you use the Rhodium plated silver, then it will make your silver look modern stylish, and new.
Although if you like silver-like polish, then you shouldn’t choose the rhodium options.
Is a silver jewel covered with Rhodium more expensive?
The chemical process used to cover solid silver is called electrolysis, it allows the plating of precious metal: the rhodium atoms are chemically fixed on those of silver thanks to the passage of a current in the jewel.
This process allows depositing on the surface a very regular and very resistant layer for small thicknesses from 1 to 5 microns. The quality of the rhodium plating and its resistance to rubbing obviously depends on the thickness deposited, but from 1 to 5 microns one arrives at a very good compromise between resistance and price by limiting the additional cost on the jewel. At the end of 2020, a kilo of Rhodium was worth about €600,000 compared to €46,000 per kilo of gold and €700 per kilo of silver. We can see that its price is more than 10 times that of gold and not far from 100 times that of silver. For a ring, count between 5 and 15 € more according to the thickness.
Is rhodium plating worth it?
Whether or not rhodium plating is worthwhile depends on the look you want and how large an investment you want to make. Rhodium plating is a more affordable alternative to gold or platinum, but it does require upkeep.
The Pros And Cons Of Rhodium Plating
Pros of rhodium plating
Cons of rhodium plating
Some maintenance required
Sterling Silver Vs Rhodium Plated
The differences between Rhodium plated and sterling silver
You should know the difference between the two already. The Rhodium plated can have sterling silver beneath it or any other metal. It features a layer of Rhodium used to plate on a different metal. On the other hand, sterling silver is just metal and a whole jewel by itself.
- The cost
Generally, Rhodium is much costly than most other metals. This also applies to the Rhodium-plated jewels.
Compared to sterling silver, Rhodium-plated jewels are costly. Of course, this is not an option to go for when you want to choose if you are on a budget. If you are going to use rhodium metal over sterling silver, you can expect it to cost more.
If you have seen these two types of metal, you will agree that sterling silver has the perfect shine and gloss. Sadly, sterling silver will start to tarnish soon, which then causes it to lose its shine. Rhodium-plated ones don’t tarnish, so they will maintain the look over time.
Remember, Rhodium has a mirror-like finish, and it will maintain the newness until you need to reapply it.
No one’s better than the other. Both are perfect to use for different jewels, including necklaces, anklets, bracelets, and earrings.
It will give you a perfect look for different occasions you may need to attend. It gives you elegance and a chic style.
You can have silver under the rhodium layer, but you can also have gold and any other metal you would love to. Similarly, you can choose an alloy of silver and other different metals of choice.
There’s one thing so amazing about the rhodium plate, and it’s that it’s scratch resistant. However, it will soon begin to flake off since it’s just a plating. Sterling silver is, in fact, more durable, and this is regardless if it’s your day-to-day wear piece.
The metal is light, but it will serve you longer, especially if you know how to care for and maintain it.
Sterling silver is one of the options that you can use for generations if you especially keep it from tarnishing. Unfortunately, with time the sterling silver will start to tarnish regardless of what you do.
Rhodium plating jewels don’t tarnish, which gives them an edge over other metals.
You will like sterling silver because you can easily manipulate it. If, for example, you would like to change the size, you can easily do it. These pieces are fun and classy to use with the different clothing styles.
You can use it for various events. You can also make it personal by adding a statement if you would like to.
If you are using Rhodium plated one, it will also give you versatility. You can personalize it if you like. You can wear it alongside different clothing, but then it’s hard to resize them to fit you. So although you can customize it, sterling silver is still better in this category.
Sterling silver is more accessible than Rhodium plated silver, and this is because rhodium metal in itself is rare. You can get the plated one if you want you can, but it’s just not as accessible as the sterling silver version.
Most jewelers use sterling silver just because it’s more accessible than the other options.
The one thing that causes allergies is nickel. It doesn’t matter the metal you are talking about if it has an alloy of nickel within, then remember that it will cause dermatitis or skin reaction.
How Long Does Rhodium Plating Last?
On average, rhodium plating lasts one year. Prepare to have your jewelry replated annually. But how long rhodium plated jewelry lasts depends on the frequency of friction it receives. Otherwise, the metal is extremely durable. If you wear your rhodium plated jewelry daily, then it may need replacing after 6 months. But if you save your rhodium jewelry for special occasions, then you may be able to wait several years before replating. The best way to tell if your rhodium jewelry needs replating is to eyeball it. If you can see the base metal through the rhodium, then it’s time to replate. When to replace rhodium plating also depends on the type of jewelry. A rhodium-plated ring will wear faster than a rhodium-plated necklace unless you wear the necklace more often than a ring.
How To Clean Rhodium Plated Sterling Silver?
We recommend that you not try to regularly clean your rhodium plated jewelry since rubbing makes it wear faster. We promise it will not tarnish. But if you do decide to clean it, avoid soap, water, and definitely harsh chemicals. Also, use the material to wipe it down that will not create too much friction. If your rhodium jewelry has lost its luster, then it’s probably worn off and is time to replace it. Try to wait as long as possible before replating because frequent maintenance may wear down the base metal.
Caring for your rhodium plated jewelry
- Avoid water, soap, and harsh chemicals. A little water won’t hurt, but you’ll probably have to dry it off, which adds friction.
- Avoid taking rhodium plated jewelry on and off. Many people have a habit of twisting their necklaces or sliding rings up and down their fingers. Be careful not to fidget with your rhodium jewelry so that it lasts as long as possible.
- Try to reserve rhodium plated jewelry for special occasions to preserve it. Definitely don’t wear it in the yard or at the gym.
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