If you wear a lot of white gold or even sterling silver jewelry, you might already be familiar with the term "Rhodium."
To understand why we use rhodium with white gold jewelry, we first must understand that pure gold is fundamentally yellow. There is no such thing as white gold in nature. To make white gold, jewelers alloy pure gold with nickel and other metals to neutralize the warmth of gold. As a finishing touch, white gold jewelry pieces are plated with Rhodium, a bright white member of the platinum family. Rhodium is it's own chemical element, but is created as a byproduct of platinum. Sterling silver pieces are also often plated with rhodium to enhance their durability and shine.
Since white gold features this thin plating, it eventually wears away over time. Scratches, harsh chemicals and your natural body chemistry all slowly wear away at the finish of your ring. Fortunately, it's considered common maintenance on white gold to have your plating refreshed or "dipped," although the term is a little misleading- the process is a little more complicated than that!
Jewelers start by cleaning the ring of any dirt or impurities and then polishing the ring to remove any scratches. Then you take the jewelry and submerse it in the liquid rhodium solution and attach an electrode to it. Then though electrolysis, the rhodium is bonded to the exterior of the metal. The process plates the item with about one micron of rhodium. It is a process that doesn't harm impervious stones like diamonds and sapphires. However, with softer stones like pearls and emeralds, the stones have to be removed before the rhodium process and then reset because the rhodium can damage softer stones if they come in contact with the solution.
Rhodium is 100% hyperallergic and helps to keep the white gold from tarnishing. It can last anywhere from 6 to 18 months without having the process redone. The time frame all depends on how the ring is worn and if any harmful chemicals have been exposed to the rings. Rhodium besides helping to slow down the oxidation of the nickel and help to keep the jewelry shiny and bright.
Besides plating white gold, it can also be used to plate sterling silver to help it from oxidizing and can also make an all yellow gold ring appear all white. Over time rhodium can wear off and the yellow base color can start to be seen thru the plating. It is a great way to transform any yellow gold pieces you have into white without remaking them. If you want the ring to be all yellow again, a jeweler can always polish off the rhodium to regain the all yellow effect.
At the time of this blog, rhodium is $12,400 an ounce compared to platinum at $1,000 an ounce and gold at $1,920 an ounce. Pieces are not made out of pure rhodium because it can be brittle and chip over time. Rhodium on a piece depends on the size of the item but can run anywhere from $50 to $100 and usually last about 12 months. It can easily be replated to make the ring look brand new.
So feel free to stop in anytime and have us polish the jewelry up and make it look brand new.