Jewellery Catalogue

What is Rhodium Plating?

Rhodium is a hard corrosion-resistant silvery-white element of the platinum metal group, occurring free with other platinum metals in alluvial deposits and in nickel ores. It is used as an alloying agent to harden platinum and palladium. Symbol: Rh; atomic no.: 45; atomic wt.: 102.90; valency: 1-6; relative density: 12.4; melting pt.: 1966°C; boiling pt.: 3727°C (approx.).

Typical Commercial Rhodium Plating Machine in Small WorkshopIt is usual to rhodium plate all white gold jewellery in the UK and some platinum. Rhodium is very bright, hard, and highly reflective and when applied by an electrochemical process to white gold it forms a hard white highly reflective surface to the metal.
This is the polished white surface which you associate with platinum jewellery. When the rhodium plating wears through the colour of the actual alloy can be seen. This varies from a yellowish grey to a plain grey. On some cheaper jewellery, particularly 9ct, one piece castings are made from a yellow alloy. The highlights or head of a ring is later made white by 'stopping off' the yellow parts with something akin to nail varnish and rhodium plating the rest. The mask is then removed to leave the two colour item.

How long will Rhodium Plating last?
This is the 'how long is a piece of string' question. The answer depends on how thick the plating is, and how much wear the item is subjected to. An average is perhaps several years, but it can be as little as a month and we have seen rings last beyond twenty years.
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