Rhodium Tarnish Resistance: Fact vs Fiction

Rhodium does not tarnish, and this is one thing that sets it apart from many other metals used in jewelry. Rhodium itself is highly resistant to tarnishing, corrosion, and other types of oxidation. However, the layer of rhodium plating on jewelry can wear down over time, exposing the underlying metal and potentially causing it to tarnish.

What is Rhodium?

Rhodium is a precious white metal used for jewelry; it is part of the platinum group of metals. Other metals in the same group as rhodium include platinum, iridium, and palladium. All these metals are byproducts of platinum and palladium mining.

Like other platinum group metals, rhodium has a high melting point, heat resistance, and corrosion resistance. Their unique qualities make them useful in many industrial fields and jewelry production.

Some key reasons for rhodium’s usefulness in making jewelry are as follows:

1. Tarnish-Resistance

Rhodium does not tarnish as most other metals do. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about moisture or harmful chemicals causing your jewelry’s appearance to change.

2. Bright Color

Rhodium is among the family of white metals that includes silver, palladium, nickel, etc. However, rhodium stands out from most of these metals in brightness. The brightness of rhodium will make your jewelry stand out and even highlight any gemstones present.

3. Hardness and Strength

Silver and gold are the two most popular jewelry metals; however, they are incredibly soft and malleable. Their low hardness causes them to scratch easily, while their lack of strength makes them easily bend or lose shape. Rhodium is harder and stronger than silver and gold and doesn’t scratch easily.

4. Hypoallergenic Properties

Rhodium is hypoallergenic, meaning it won’t cause allergic reactions on the wearer’s skin. On the other hand, allergenic metals can cause nasty rashes on the wearer’s skin.

What is Rhodium Used for in Jewelry?

Pure rhodium jewelry doesn’t exist, and there are a few good reasons for this. First, the rhodium supply is unpredictable because miners can only get it as a platinum byproduct, not directly. Manufacturers cannot base their jewelry production on metal with an unsteady supply.

Rhodium’s fluctuating supply also affects its prices. As a result, selling jewelry with such volatile pricing can be an issue for jewelers.

Even without price and scarcity issues, rhodium’s physical properties are still a hindrance to jewelry production. The metal is too brittle and breaks whenever jewelers try to make jewelry out of it. 

Jewelers strictly use rhodium for plating white jewelry like silver or white gold. Its hardness, strength, and luster make it great for protecting your jewelry from damage, tarnish, and allergic reactions

How to Prevent Jewelry Tarnish With Rhodium

You can protect your jewelry from tarnish by plating it with rhodium. This electroplating process works on gold and silver; it involves a few simple steps explained below:

Step 1— Clean your jewelry piece thoroughly with distilled water. This first step will remove all dirt and contaminants that can cause the plating to wear off prematurely.

Step 2— Apply a positive electrical charge on the jewelry, ensuring the current isn’t too high to prevent the plating from blackening.

Step 3— Put the charged jewelry into liquified rhodium; the plating will fuse to the jewelry after a few minutes. 

Note: The plating thickness should be between 0.75-1 micron.

Read the instruction manual of your plating kit thoroughly, as some kits have slightly differing procedures.

How Long Can Rhodium Protect My Jewelry From Tarnish?

Rhodium plating can protect your jewelry from tarnishing for 2-3 years; your jewelry should be safe throughout this period. The plating duration depends first on the quality of the plating process. Most top jewelry brands do a better job plating jewelry than DIY procedures.

Additionally, maintenance can determine how long the plating will last. Rhodium is durable; however, you must protect your jewelry from harmful chemicals and scratching.

Read MoreDoes Real White Gold Tarnish?

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