If you’re looking for a new piece of white metal jewelry, chances are you’ve heard your jeweler mention the words “rhodium plating” (sometimes called rhodium flashing or rhodium dip). If the term puts you at a loss, don’t worry — you’re not the only one who’s had to ask more questions to understand what this means, and whether it’s right for you.
Let’s get elementary
Rhodium is a rare, silver-white hard metal in the platinum family on the periodic table. It’s highly reflective and holds the distinction of being one of the most expensive precious metals in the world.
As an inert or noble metal — meaning it’s resistant to corrosion and oxidation in moist air — rhodium also increases the durability of any jewelry it plates.
Why opt for rhodium plating?
Rhodium plating is often added onto white gold or silver jewelry — and engagement and wedding bands in particular — to increase shine, luster and durability. Rhodium plating will also make the metal more scratch resistant and, when used on silver jewelry, less prone to tarnishing.
One of the biggest upsides to rhodium plating is it’s nickel free, making it hypoallergenic. Most white jewelry consists of yellow gold mixed with a small amount of nickel to give it the “white gold” color. Nickel allergy is increasing across the population, so it makes sense to choose your metals wisely.
Are there any downsides?
While rhodium plating can vastly increase the shine and durability of your jewelry, it’s still just that: plating. This means it will wear off over time (how long depends on how much wear and tear the jewelry takes) and you will need to have the piece re-plated periodically. Typically, rhodium plating needs to be reapplied every couple years, though it depends. Some people’s body chemistry is such that the plating wears more quickly than that. So keep an eye out for wear.
Most jewelers offer periodic rhodium plating free of charge with the purchase of your jewelry or an extended warranty. If you choose a rhodium-plated piece, be sure to check your jeweler’s policy.