Rhodium Plating - What Is It?
Do you ever wonder how some sterling silver pieces stay shiny and untarnished? Or how some white gold jewelry looks nearly brand new even after years of wear? It's likely that they have been rhodium plated. But what exactly is rhodium and rhodium plating?
Rhodium is a silvery-white, non-corrosive metal with a highly reflective, dazzlingly shiny sheen. It is the rarest of all non-radioactive metals and is obtained as a byproduct of copper and nickel refining. Just to give an idea of how little rhodium is procured each year, about 30 tons of rhodium is extracted each year. Compare that to total aluminum production in 2019 of 64.4 million tons! Because rhodium is so rare, it is one of the most expensive metals in the world. At the time of this writing, rhodium was priced at $15,850 per ounce! Compare that to the price of gold, which was $1,816 per ounce at the time of this writing.
Rhodium is often used to plate sterling silver and white gold jewelry to give it an ultra shiny silver, nearly white appearance. The process of plating sterling silver is not new and dates back to the 1930s. The plating, however, does eventually wear off, and the plated items usually need to be replated every few years, depending upon wear.
Because the plating does eventually wear off, items can be plated at different thicknesses. A piece of jewelry is typically plated at 0.75 to 1.0 microns. One micron is one millionth of a meter! If a piece of jewelry is plated too thickly, however, the item can become brittle and break.
Rhodium plating is a popular process and can make your dull piece of jewelry look brand new. However, because the metal is so rare, plating can be somewhat expensive. Here at Kim's Jewelers we pride ourselves in providing jewelry services at affordable prices. Stop by and bring back the shine to your favorite pieces!
Please note: The tarnished hoop earrings are NOT rhodium plated and we do not sell tarnished items. The pendant and other earrings are rhodium plated.