Rhodium is a highly expensive precious metal that belongs to the Platinum group. However, unlike Platinum and Palladium that are used for making jewelry, Rhodium is not suitable for the same purpose. It is a hard metal that is not easily malleable. This makes it difficult to give the required shape, and mold designs from it. Its availability is also a problem. However, it has a close link to jewelry made from other metals like white gold, silver and platinum. So, how does Rhodium breathe new life into your wedding band? Let us discuss in detail.
Using Rhodium in jewelry
Metals that are used for making jewelry should be hard and durable. The hardness ensures that the surface does not get scratched easily, and even if it happens, it can be buffed to regain the prior smoothness. Durability ensures long life of the item. The metal should retain its luster and shine for long period. White gold, an alloy of 24 carat gold and silver that are used for making wedding bands, is a soft metal that gets scratched easily, and its shine also tarnishes soon. However, due to reasons of affordability, white gold is widely used for ring making. Rhodium is needed for jewelry plating purposes. Wedding bands are plated with Rhodium to make them scratch resistant. According to experts at Meteorite Wedding Bands, this type of plating gives wedding bands a white shine and also retains the polish and shiny appearance for long duration.
Rhodium plating on Platinum
Although Platinum is a hard metal that can resists scratches, it is also sometimes plated with Rhodium. Despite Platinum having a white and shiny appearance, those who want to make it shinier, use Rhodium plating on it. Unlike white gold and silver, for which use of Rhodium plating is almost mandatory, plating Platinum with Rhodium is an optional choice.
Why use Rhodium
The special characteristics of Rhodium make it the best choice for plating soft metals that are used for making jewelry. Plating means applying a very thin coating of the metal on jewelry like rings and other items. Its high resistance to scratches, corrosion and tarnishing together with high ability to reflect light and durability makes it the best choice to provide added strength to weaker metals.
The process of Rhodium plating
Rhodium plating is done through a process known as electro plating. In this process, the Rhodium strip is connected to a positively charged electrode known as the anode while the wedding band is placed on the cathode or negatively charged electrode. Both pieces are immersed in a bath containing an electrolyte, which is a solution that allows flow of electric current trough it. When electric current is passed through the anode, the atoms of Rhodium are dissolved in the electrolyte. The dissolved Rhodium ions are reduced at the cathode, and deposited on the jewelry.
Plating is temporary
Rhodium plating is a temporary process that enhances the physical properties of other metals for some time. In order to retain the benefits of plating, the process has to be repeated at intervals as the coating tends to give away with time. How long the coating can last will depend on two factors — the thickness of coating and the nature of use of the coated item. The coating on a wedding ring might last for a year or two as it is exposed to the toughest conditions as a result of constant wear. On the other hand, a pair of Rhodium plated earrings can last for many more years. Thinner coatings last shorter periods of time. Rhodium plating of jewelry is a service that most jewelers offer. Whenever you need re-coating to be done, they can help you out.
Rhodium is highly expensive and the cost of coating would depend on the thickness that is desired. Since wedding and engagement rings are exposed to the maximum wear and tear, coating or plating thickness of 0.75 microns to 1.50 microns have to be considered. For items like earrings that are not worn daily, plating thickness of 0.10 to 0.50 microns would suffice. However, plating of thickness higher than 2.0 microns can become very brittle. For those, who might not understand the unit of micron, it needs to be explained that the thickness of human hair is 100 microns. Therefore, it can be well understood how strong Rhodium is in imparting the required strength to other metals even when used in minute quantities.
Pay the right price
Rhodium coating is not cheap. Always stay alert to avoid the lure of cheap white gold and silver jewelry that might have been plated with the thinnest possible layer of Rhodium. This can turn out to be quite dangerous if you are using an alloy jewelry made from copper and nickel. The plating vanishes in no time and the skin is exposed to nickel that can be very harmful for your health as it causes allergies. If the whiteness and shine is the prime requirement in jewelry, then rings made from stainless steel tungsten and titanium are better options. These come without Rhodium plating, and you are free from the worries as explained earlier.
Conclusion — Precautions to be taken during re-plating
Accepting the fact that Rhodium re-plating is a necessity no matter how well it might be done, there are some precautions to be taken before re-plating. It is quite obvious that the piece of jewelry especially wedding band is likely to have been scratched when it is sent for re-plating. The scratches have to be removed by buffing before re-plating, or else it will be visible even after re-plating has been done. Some gemstones that react with sulfuric acid like topaz, peridot and enhanced rubies can get damaged in the process of re-plating by Rhodium.
About the author – Tim Hathaway is a journalist and a fashion enthusiast who is obsessed about jewelry. He is engaged in serious research to satiate his passion about the subject. He helps in spreading awareness about various aspects of jewelry use. He is an advisor to companies like Meteorite Wedding Bands. When not writing, he spends time at his sea side home with his family.