WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH RHODIUM PLATING?
OR WHY DO SOME PEOPLE NEED TO HAVE THEIR RING ‘DIPPED’?
You may have heard a friend or colleague mention at some point that they need to get their white gold ring ‘dipped’. And you may have (rightly) thought to yourself, ‘what on earth does this mean’?
Having a ring ‘dipped’ means having it plated and, particularly in the case of white gold, having it rhodium plated.
WHAT IS RHODIUM?
Rhodium is a rare metal in the platinum family of metals. It is not suitable for jewellery making but is extremely suitable for plating jewellery. It is a noble metal meaning that it resists corrosion and is hypo-allergenic. In addition to being used to plate jewellery, it is most commonly used in catalytic converters and electronic items.
WHY WOULD YOU PLATE YOUR WHITE GOLD RING WHITE?
Sometimes commercial alloys of white gold can have a yellow-ish undertone to them. This yellow undertone becomes more apparent over time. The most popular alloy of white gold that is used in North America is nickel white gold. The nickel is combined with yellow gold and used to bleach out the yellow of the yellow gold. Sometimes this bleaching is not entirely successful and over time the yellow undertone becomes noticeable. In order to mask this yellow undertone most commercial jewellery is rhodium plated to make it appear bright white.
There are different alloys of nickel white gold available. The ‘soft’ nickel white gold is the one that is prone to having a yellow undertone and requires rhodium plating. There is also a bright white alloy of nickel white gold that does not require plating. In my jewellery I prefer to use this alloy that does not require plating.
So if there is an alloy of nickel white gold that doesn’t require plating, why doesn’t everyone use it? Unfortunately I don’t know the answer to that question. There are cases, for instance when using a more fragile stone, that you’d want to use a softer white gold alloy. In most instances, however, I always use the bright white gold alloy that doesn’t require plating.
THE PROBLEM WITH PLATING
There is nothing wrong with plating per se but it is a bit of a hassle. It requires up-keep. Over time the plating will wear off especially where the ring comes into the most contact with the objects of everyday life. Usually the underside of a ring is where you will first start to notice the plating wear away. Typically you’ll need to have your ring re-plated every 1 to 2 years depending on how much wear and tear it receives.
DO YOU HAVE TO PLATE ALL WHITE GOLD JEWELLERY?
No. As I noted above the white gold alloy that I use doesn’t require plating. You may choose to plate your white gold jewellery if it was plated in the first place and it’s starting to wear off or if you’ve started to notice a yellow undertone to your white gold piece.
There is also another alloy of white gold called palladium white gold that uses palladium (also from the platinum family of metals) instead of nickel to bleach the gold white. Palladium white gold never requires plating. If you are interested in learning more about palladium white gold check out my post about it here.
Finally some people actually have an allergy to the nickel in nickel white gold. Sometimes they only discover this allergy after they’ve purchased their ring. Or sometimes this sensitivity can develop over time and people can discover that their jewellery that once gave them no problems now gives them a rash. Sometimes rhodium plating can be used as a layer of protection since it’s hypo-allergenic. Unfortunately it’s only a temporary solution and it will wear away over time.
If you have any other questions about rhodium plating please feel free to get in touch. And yes, I do offer rhodium plating services if you require them:)