What Is Rhodium Plating?
Rhodium is a precious metal, a member of the platinum family. Rhodium electroplating is used, especially on jewelry, to provide a surface that will resist scratches and tarnish, and give a white, reflective appearance.
Rhodium plating is most often found on white gold. The term white gold is something of a misnomer. Gold is actually yellow, what jewelers call white gold today is an alloy (mixture) of gold and a white metal - usually nickel, silver, or palladium (another member of the platinum family). Metals known as white are actually more of a gray color, so white gold has a yellowish cast. The higher the karat weight, the more gold there is in the alloy, the more yellow the cast appears. Since the wearer of white gold is looking for a bright white look, a very thin layer of rhodium electroplating is used to make that jewelry shine. White gold plated with rhodium will also keep its good looks longer - rhodium will not tarnish or discolor, and since it is a harder substance, it is much less likely to get scratched.
It is important to be aware that rhodium plating does not last forever. The plating on something that takes a lot of wear, like a wedding ring, can wear away in as little as two years, while a necklace or pin that is worn less frequently or comes in less contact with your skin or the elements can keep its plating for ten or more years. You can tell when the plating is wearing away by the look of the piece; the area without the plating will show the yellowish color of the original white gold. Discoloration can also occur on the unplated areas, and in some rare instances, your skin will have a slight reddening reaction to the exposed alloy.
In that case, a quick trip to the jeweler's is all it takes to bring your piece back to life. Most jewelry items can be easily replated, although replating a two-toned piece will be more expensive because the work needs to be done by hand.Prices will also vary according to the thickness of the rhodium plate that you choose to use, the thicker the plating, the more metal is used, therefore the more expensive the process is. Choose thicker layers for items you wear every day, like a wedding or engagement ring. The extra one-time expense will be well worth it in the long run, because you won't have to have the item replated as frequently.