Many buyers ask why .925 sterling silver is rhodium plated.
The improved appearance of rhodium plating was initially noticed because of its extra beauty to the naked eye, but as the points below will show, it not only enhances the beauty of silver, it helps ensure the longest-lasting, most durable finish for your jewelry. The result: stunning jewelry that stays stunning much longer than un-plated jewelry.
Rhodium is considered best in class of all the platinum metals family for resistance to corrosion and tarnish, and is the most tarnish resistant member of the platinum metals group. Rhodium will also remain bright and shiny under most environmental conditions. Not surprisingly, of all the metals in this group, rhodium is by far the most expensive to utilize. Rhodium is nearly 4x as expensive as platinum, and 9x as expensive as gold.
As a protective coating, rhodium finishes virtually eliminate any chance of surface discoloring even when exposed to extreme environmental conditions under normal temperatures. The surface hardness of plated rhodium is also the highest of the precious metals, and is thus highly resistant to incidental scratching and abrasion. Rhodium plated finishes are best in class for wearability among the precious metals. In reality, silver is shinier than rhodium, but silver is also a softer and more malleable metal, and can be scratched and dented more easily. So jewelers may choose to rhodium plate some jewelry items to make them more durable.
Additionally, rhodium is hypoallergenic. White gold and even sterling silver normally employ nickel to provide the whiteness of white gold, however, approximately 20% of women will have some form of allergy to nickel. Thus, by rhodium plating, a possible allergen is removed from contacting your skin. The one exception to that is on stud earrings. Because the nut of the earring drags along the post, the post will not remain plated for long. In those instances where nickel may be a problem, we recommend using plain sterling or platinum earrings.
Rhodium plating can dramatically increase the long term durability, brightness and luster of the finish. Because it is a plating, it will wear off over time. How soon depends on how much wear and tear the jewelry item takes. When the rhodium plating begins to disappear from a silver or platinum jewelry item, it will be much less noticeable because the underlying metal will look gray, not yellowish. However, virtually any jeweler can quickly re-plate your jewelry, usually for around $45, to bring back the original shine and luster that rhodium can provide.
Rhodium plating should not be done without training, appropriate safety equipment, good ventilation, and concern about the workers’ health and safety. Some manufacturers have become concerned about how this process can harm the environment if improperly used or disposed of, and have begun to use alternatives such as Argen. Others use processes which keep using the same bath for 5 to 10 years and more, with simple continuous filtration systems and good cleaning procedures. It is not very expensive, and certainly cheaper than starting a new bath every time the bath gets contaminated. We applaud those who manufacture or use rhodium plating systems safely, and will support those who chose to use alternatives which keep all our systems clean and safe.
Keep in mind that a rhodium plate will not eliminate dents and scratches, it will only make the jewelry more shiny and bright (some would even say more expensive looking!). Remember to ask your jeweler if he or she is planning to clean and polish your jewelry before its re-plated, if not then ask for it. The smoother the jewelry item is when starting, the more shinny it will look after the rhodium plating process.
Rhodium Plated Sterling Silver
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March 6, 2012
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