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Rhodium Plating of Sterling Jewelry

Over the past few years, we have noticed more and more products described as "rhodium plated sterling silver."  Here we explain what this new trend is all about.

Rhodium is related to platinum.  It occurs naturally in ore deposits, but is quite difficult to extract. For this reason, it was not even discovered until 1803.  Most rhodium is mined in South Africa, but some rhodium is also produced in Russia and Canada.

This metal is silver-white in color, resistant to tarnish and other forms of corrosion, even acids, and very shiny.  It is so reflective, in fact, that it has been used in mirrors.  It is used in jewelry primarily as a hard protective plating for sterling silver and white gold.  It is applied as a thin coat through a process of electroplating.

While rhodium is reflective, silver is even shinier.  As a result, sterling silver coated with rhodium will not be as bright and shiny as the underlying sterling piece would have been without plating -- at least initially. However, over time silver can tarnish and get tiny scratches.  Rhodium coating can minimize such problems.  The effect is that as time goes on, rhodium plated sterling will continue to keep its fresh look longer.  It should be noted, however, the the plating can wear off eventually and that replating may be necessary.  If an original coating of .25 microns has been applied, replating may not be necessary for quite some time. 

Rhodium plating is not suitable for all sterling jewelry.  Sterling Balinese jewelry, for example, is typically antiqued; this is an important feature of the style.  Rhodium plating would interfere with the antiquing process.

The price of rhodium, like other precious metals, is quite volatile.  Over the past year, its prices has ranged from around $2000-$6800 per ounce.  That's a lot of variation!




Index Of Articles

"Silver 101"
"Sources of Silver"

"Sterling Silver Defined'"
"Silver Standards"

"Silver Marks and Hallmarks"

"Silver Testing Kits"

"The Silversmith"
"Silver Coins"

Plating & Treatments

"Silver Plated Jewelry"
"Gold Vermeil Jewelry"
"Rhodium Plated Sterling"
"Antiqued Silver"

Fake Silver Jewelry

"Alpaca Silver Jewelry"
"German Silver Jewelry"

Silver Jewelry Styles

"Bali Silver"
"Indian Silver"
"Thai Hill Tribe Silver"
"Tibetan Silver"
"Turkish Silver"

Silver Allergies

"Silver/Nickel Sensitivities"
"Hypoallergenic Jewelry"

Recent Developments

"Argentium® Sterling Silver"

"Silver PMC®"

"The Origins of Tarnish"

"Tarnish Removal"

"Firescale (Firestain)"

"Proper Silver Storage"

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