What is Rhodium-Plated Sterling Silver?


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What is Rhodium-Plated Sterling Silver?

Rhodium-plated sterling silver is a unique blend of materials that offers the best of all worlds when it comes to your fine jewelry. You can get the strength of sterling silver with the incomparable shine of rhodium in one piece with this option. It’s important to understand exactly what rhodium-plated sterling silver is so you’ll know how to handle and care for this type of item.

What Is Sterling Silver?

Silver is a very soft metal. Though it takes a nice polish, it’s too malleable for most uses. Sterling silver is an alloyed form of silver that contains about 7.5% copper to give the metal greater durability. Sterling silver maintains the same look as pure silver, but it won’t dent or scratch as easily, which is important for any item that you’re meant to wear. Though sterling silver is harder than pure silver, it’s not usually strong enough for fine gemstone settings.

Unfortunately, the copper in sterling silver causes it to turn black over time. The metal can also turn your skin green if you wear it for too long. You need to take great care with sterling silver if you want it to maintain its color. This jewelry requires regular cleaning and careful storage.

What Is Rhodium Plating?

Rhodium plating, also known as rhodium dip or rhodium flashing, is the process of coating another metal, such as gold or silver, with a thin layer of rhodium. Rhodium is a rare metal from the platinum family. It’s more precious than gold and extremely difficult to find on its own. Rhodium is usually extracted as a byproduct of platinum mining. Rhodium has a silver-white hue and highly reflective sheen, making it a coveted choice for fine jewelry. It’s also inert, which makes it resistant to oxidation and corrosion. 

You may wonder why jewelry isn’t made entirely from rhodium if this is such a desirable metal. The answer is that rhodium can’t hold its own without a stronger metal at its core. While it offers a protective coating, it’s too brittle to be used on its own. Rhodium plating should always be between 0.75 and 1.0 microns thick. If the plating is thinner than this, the inner metal will show through. If the plating is thicker, however, the rhodium can crack.

Is Sterling Silver Plated With Rhodium Good?

Sterling silver and rhodium plating go together perfectly. Each metal helps compensate for some of the pitfalls of the other. Rhodium plating protects sterling silver. Your jewelry will no longer tarnish, rust, or oxidize, taking on an unpleasant black or green hue. With rhodium plating, you won’t need to polish your sterling silver as often, and your pieces will retain their beauty much longer. Rhodium is hypoallergenic so it won’t irritate your skin, even if you’re sensitive to nickel. Rhodium-plated jewelry is one of the best choices for individuals with sensitive skin.

Rhodium plating instantly gives sterling silver an enhanced sheen that makes it far more appealing than the silver would be on its own. Rhodium-plated sterling silver looks more like white gold or platinum than silver of any kind. Thus, rhodium-plated sterling silver is stronger, brighter, and easier to maintain than sterling silver alone.

What Is the Downside of Rhodium Plating?

Rhodium plating will wear off your jewelry over time, which means that those beautiful rhodium-plated pieces have a limited life span. To maintain the gorgeous appearance of rhodium-plated jewelry, you will need to have the pieces re-plated from time to time. Rhodium plating can wear off in as little as 12 months, or it may last as long as three years. 

The thickness of the rhodium plating plays a major role in its longevity. Rhodium lasts longer on silver than on gold. Extend the life of your rhodium plating by removing the jewelry and storing it safely any time it’s not in use.

Some jewelers offer a warranty on rhodium-plated jewelry that includes free re-plating within a certain period. Ask about any available warranties for your jewelry, and make sure you understand the fine print. You should also inquire about the cost of re-plating your jewelry if this isn’t covered so you can properly estimate the total price for the piece. Rhodium is an expensive metal, and continually replacing it on your jewelry may not be a viable option if you’re on a budget.

Can You Shower With Rhodium-Plated Silver?

Water and soap won’t cause immediate damage to rhodium-plated silver, but you should avoid showering in your jewelry whenever possible. While rhodium plating provides more protection to your sterling silver, it isn’t a lifelong solution. As mentioned above, rhodium plating gradually wears off. Exposing your jewelry to water, soap, shampoo, and other chemicals that you might encounter in the water will likely cause the plating to come off faster. 

As with any piece of fine jewelry, the best way to care for your rhodium-plated silver is to take it off and store it carefully any time you don’t need to have it on. Keep a jewelry box in your dressing area so you always have a safe place to store your jewelry. Keeping it away from water and steam is best for its longevity.

How Should I Care for Rhodium-Plated Silver?

As mentioned previously, you should remove rhodium-plated silver pieces any time you don’t need to wear them. Periodically clean your jewelry gently with mild soap and water. Wipe them down with a soft polishing cloth. Don’t use a toothbrush or any other kind of brush. Don’t use a silver polish, silver dip, or any other type of harsh cleaning agent. Remember that the rhodium plating should completely cover the sterling silver, so there’s no need to address the silver material itself. 

Finding Rhodium-Plated Sterling Silver

Rhodium is a rare and precious metal, so not every jeweler will have this type of product in stock. However, you can often score this type of find secondhand for an outstanding price. Come visit us at Americash Jewelry & Coin Buyer in Westmont to see what precious silver pieces we currently have in stock.

a silver tree of life pendant on a chain by FANQI is licensed with Unsplash License

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