Rhodium plating is much more common than most people would think. If you’re wearing white gold jewelry the color you see is actually the rhodium plating on the ring. White gold is not white, but a very light yellow, and is always coated with a fine layer of rhodium. Some jewelers and retailers state that on the product label, some don’t. But if your white gold is pure white, it’s rhodium plated. Now let’s see how long that platin lasts, if it tarnishes, and if it’s worth re-applying, should it come off.
How long does rhodium plating last ?
The rhodium plating in jewelry can last anywhere from 6 to 18 months, assuming you wear your jewelry every day. The daily wear and tear produces tiny scratches that wear into the rhodium, revealing the metal underneath. This eventually happens with all rhodium plated jewelry, regardless of the base metal.
If the plating is thicker, it won’t easily wear off. But if it’s the usual thickness (0.75 to 1.0 microns) it will disappear within two years or less. If you only rarely wear your rhodium-plated jewelry it will take much, much longer to wear off.
What does it look like when rhodium plating wears off ?
When rhodium wears off it does not do so evenly everywhere on the jewelry. It will wear off wherever it is scratched the most, so any edges, sharp corners, or sides that rub onto other jewelry. In the case of engagement rings worn with the wedding band, whichever part of the ring touches the band will be scratched off. The underside of the ring will also lose its rhodium plating as you pick up things, grab a bag, stop the elevator, carry groceries, etc.
Overall the jewelry will look significantly duller when the rhodium coating starts to wear off. This is because rhodium is much shinier than other metals and without it the ring will show its base metal which is always duller. The jewelry will have a fine patina of wear on it, which has its charm but is indeed duller than a shiny new piece.
Does this mean a two year rhodium coating will look bad ? Not necessarily. Even when it starts to wear off on some edges, most of the plating will be present and will look white and shiny, unless you inspect it for blemishes.
Is rhodium plating worth it ?
Rhodium plating is not worth it most of the time, since it gives a shiny white finish similar to platinum or palladium ring but needs touch-ups. Rhodium plating is usually applied to white gold, but it can also be applied to silver or other metals to improve their outer appearance.
It does wear off eventually and has to be stripped and reapplied, which is a noticeable cost. It may be a better idea to have your ring set in platinum or palladium from the start. A ring that is white from the get-go, such as platinum, will not be as fussy. All it needs is the occasional polish and you’re good to go.
That being said, most people don’t know rhodium wears off and so when they are offered the option of rhodium-plated white gold they take it without asking how long the plating might last. Even with a rhodium plating white gold is still have the price of platinum.
As a personal example we have both our wedding bands and my e-ring in white gold with rhodium plating. At the time of writing this my engagement ring is 2 years old, and our wedding bands are 1 year old, so not that much in the grand scheme of things. But my e-ring has patches of very light yellow showing through the rhodium on some edges, and the bands do have a bit of yellow as well.
It’s not noticeable in direct sunlight on any sort of bright light, but if you look very closely in diffused lighting it’s noticeable. Had we had the option and had we known the plating wears off, platinum would’ve been a better choice in the long run.
Does rhodium plating tarnish ?
No, rhodium plating does not tarnish but it can wear off and the ring will look different in that place. It’s just the base metal showing, not tarnish. Rhodium itself is 100% tarnish resistant and hypoallergenic, so as long as the plating is there, you ring won’t tarnish.
What can and does happen is the ring accumulates grime and dirt as you wear it, shower with it, sleep with it, cook with it, etc. In these cases the ring can look a bit dirty and may easily be mistaken for tarnish. A gentle scrub with a very soft toothbrush and warm soapy water will get it clean again.
Does rhodium plating make your finger green ?
No, the rhodium plating on your ring will not make your finger green. But if the rhodium has worn off and the base metal contains copper or nickel, your finger may turn green. It depends on what the base metal under the rhodium coating is, and how sensitive you are. For example rose gold has a good amount of copper in it, but not everyone develops a green stain on their skin while wearing it.
Rhodium plating is nickel-free and hypoallergenic, so as long as it is intact it will protect your skin from anything within the base metal.
Can you remove rhodium plating ?
Yes, rhodium plating can be removed by finely polishing the jewelry. It cannot be removed with a reverse electroplating. This means that some nooks and crannies in your jewelry will not be easy to access, and thus retain their rhodium coating. Those are usually hard to see spots, so they won’t impact the overall look of your jewelry if you don’t want the shiny, white look.
Removing rhodium takes time and a lot of attention, so expect jewelers to keep your jewelry for a few days to make sure they get as much of it off.
How much does it cost to remove rhodium plating ?
Rhodium plating and re-plating can cost anywhere between $50-200, depending on where you like, your jeweler’s skill, the quality of the rhodium solution, how urgent your ring is. Re-applying usually costs more than the fresh, first coat because the ring must be sanded and polished to remove the entire first layer, and then plated again.
Also keep in mind that rhodium is rare and expensive, so that is another reason for the high price point.
Can you re-apply a rhodium plating ?
Yes, rhodium can be re-applied and the process itself can take up to two hours. But your jeweler needs to first strip what’s left of the rhodium plating to get an even surface o the ring. This is done by sandpapering with a fine grit, and then polishing to get a smooth surface. Then the jewelry is dipped in the rhodium solution, an electrical current runs through the ring, and it will be electroplated with rhodium.
Removing the leftover layer of rhodium takes quite a bit of time and attention to detail so it’s very tedious and delicate work. And your jeweler may have other jobs to do before they get to your ring. So do not expect your ring to be done by tomorrow, most of the time it will be done in a few days, possibly a week, depending on how busy they are.
Please keep in mind that if your ring has a lot of detail on it, such as scroll work or milgrain, those small details may be lost during the polishing and plating as you’re essentially getting an extra layer on your ring. Your jeweler’s skill is crucial here.
And, if your ring is very simple (as in a plain shank) you could even request a thicker plating. The usual rhodium plating thickness is 0.75-1.0 microns, and you could as for double that. This also means more money, but it means it will be there for longer.
I’m the main author for shinyfacts.com. I started this site after we did tons of research before our wedding and noticed that there is information about rings, jewelry, and so on that is really hard to find on the internet.