15 FAQs About Rhodium-Plated Jewelry

Did you know rhodium is the most precious metal used in jewelry making? A mineral exploration and development company called New Age Metal also revealed that rhodium is rarer than gold and platinum. The metal is so rare to find on its own that miners usually extract it as a byproduct from platinum mines.

Rhodium comes from the same group of metals as platinum, which includes platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, osmium, and palladium. Its extreme shine, reflectiveness, strength, and white color have made it desirable in industries that produce automobiles, mirrors, lighting, jewelry, and more. If this information is new to you and you would like to learn more, keep reading for more surprising facts about rhodium in jewelry.


What is rhodium-plated jewelry?

Rhodium plated means jewelry made from gold, silver, or other base metals that a jeweler coats in a thin layer of rhodium to improve strength and luster. Rhodium-plated jewelry is more durable and shinier than other metals. Rhodium plating does not dent, scratch, or tarnish.


What is the color of rhodium?

Rhodium has a reflective silvery-white color. Jewelry designers, including Cartier, plate many of their pieces in rhodium because of its quality and brilliance. Ink binding can infuse colors such as black, yellow, or pink into rhodium.


What is black rhodium plating?

A jeweler can add the color black to rhodium by binding black ink to the metal during the plating process. Black rhodium plating adds a mysterious, edgy appearance to jewelry. However, it is expensive to maintain. Rhodium plating requires occasional retouching, and requesting black rhodium replating adds to the cost. 


What’s the importance of plating jewelry with rhodium?

Rhodium plating adds a strong layer of protection to jewelry. Plus, it achieves a brighter, more silvery-white appearance than white gold, sterling silver, or platinum.


Can rhodium be a base metal for jewelry?

Artisans can’t craft jewelry from solid rhodium because, despite its strength, rhodium is a fragile metal. A layer of rhodium plating needs a specific amount of thickness (around 75-1.0 microns) to prevent cracking. Basically, the coating would crack if the rhodium layer is too thick, while the metal underneath would show if the layer is too thin. The perfect layer of rhodium enhances not only the appearance, but also the quality and longevity of a piece of jewelry. 


Is rhodium hypoallergenic?

Rhodium is a hypoallergenic metal because it does not contain nickel, which is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis. Furthermore, rhodium acts as a barrier against other metals alloyed with nickel, preventing serious skin reactions. Rhodium-plated jewelry is an excellent choice if you have a nickel allergy.


Is rhodium jewelry safe to wear?

Rhodium is non-toxic and safe to wear–even for babies and anyone with sensitive skin. It’s also the recommended option for those with new piercings. Since rhodium does not contain nickel, it will not irritate the ears.


Does rhodium tarnish?

Nickel in jewelry is the main perpetrator behind tarnishing. Since rhodium is nickel-free, it will not tarnish. Rhodium is also corrosion-resistant, meaning it does not rust. And, because rhodium is strong, a jeweler does not need to alloy it with other metals such as nickel and copper that, over time, tarnish and leave green marks on the skin.


Is rhodium plated better than sterling silver?

The benefits of rhodium-plated and sterling silver jewelry shine brighter together. Silver contains copper and nickel, which will tarnish and turn your skin green over time. However, when coated in rhodium, sterling silver becomes a stronger, more corrosion-resistant metal. Rhodium guards your skin against the small amount of nickel in silver and minimizes the risk of tarnishing. When rhodium-plated jewelry begins to wear, it will not appear as obvious with silver since both metals share a similar color. As such, you can wait a little longer between replatings.


What is the difference between rhodium and platinum?

Rhodium and platinum are silver-white precious metals belonging to the same metal group. Rhodium is rarer than platinum, which therefore commands higher prices. But rhodium becomes brittle and cracks when its thickness exceeds 1.0 microns. Meanwhile, platinum is more malleable and durable, making it one of the top base metals used in jewelry making.

Even though platinum is less valuable, platinum pieces are more expensive than rhodium-plated jewelry. Rhodium jewelry only has a thin coating of fine metal, making it more affordable but just as gorgeous and even more reflective than platinum.


Does rhodium-plated brass tarnish?

Brass can still tarnish and turn your skin green, but when it does, it isn’t rhodium’s fault. Unlike rhodium, brass is a cheap and highly corrosive material. If rhodium-plated brass reacts with your skin, it means the rhodium plating has worn off, which is common with brass. While brass is an affordable metal, jewelry experts do not recommend using it as a base metal under rhodium, gold, or any other plating material, especially if you want your jewelry to last.


Is white gold always rhodium plated?

Most white gold jewelry has a layer of rhodium plating. If your white gold jewelry has a lustrous silver finish, then its surface most likely contains rhodium. If your white gold jewelry has a light yellow tinge, then it’s probably true white gold since solid gold is naturally yellow. The rhodium-plating in white gold removes the yellow tinge and increases the jewelry’s value, quality, and durability.


How long does rhodium plating last?

On average, rhodium plating endures for a year. If you are looking to invest in rhodium-plated jewelry, you need to prepare for annual replatings. However, how long rhodium-plating on jewelry lasts still depends on the frequency of friction it receives, as some rhodium-plated jewelry lasts several years without replating. In particular, if you wear a rhodium-plated piece daily, then it may need replating every year. On the other hand, saving your rhodium jewelry for special occasions extends its longevity, granting you several years of maintained beauty before replating.


When does rhodium jewelry need replating?

The best way to determine whether your rhodium-plated jewelry needs rework is to examine it closely. If the base metal is visible through the rhodium, then it’s time to take your jewelry in for replating. The right time to replace rhodium plating may also depend on the type of jewelry you own. For instance, a rhodium-plated ring will wear faster than a rhodium-plated necklace, mostly because we use our hands more often, exposing the rhodium coating to constant friction and moisture on our hands.


Is rhodium plating worth it?

Deciding whether rhodium-plated jewelry is worth the money depends on the look you want and the investment you are willing to make. Keep in mind that rhodium plating is a more affordable alternative to platinum or gold, but it requires more frequent upkeep.

Biltmore Loan and Jewelry is a premier buyer of high jewelry and a reputable financial lender based in Chandler and Scottsdale, Arizona. Contact us for any questions about the value of your rhodium-plated jewelry.