Rhodium is a metal element that belongs to the same family as platinum. It is the 45th element in the periodic table and gets its name from the Greek word “Rhodon,” because under the microscope, the element looks like a rose. It s a very expensive metal, almost ten times as expensive as gold and is very shiny. It is however not used to make jewelry by itself since it is extremely brittle.
Rhodium is used for plating of jewelry made of white gold, silver or platinum. Imitation Rhodium Plating is a used to give the jewelry a shinier and stronger characteristic. Surprisingly, even though it itself is brittle, when used as plating on metal jewelry, it provides protection against tarnishing and scratches. It also adds to the quality and life of the jewelry.
Rhodium plating is done by first cleaning the rhodium plates thoroughly using cleaning agents, then the rhodium plates are immersed in an solution (electrolyte) already containing the metal. The electrolyte or solution is kept at a temperature between 30 and 50 degree Celsius. The other metal to be plated is also immersed into the solution and low density electric current is then passed through the solution to complete the process of rhodium plating.
The most common use of rhodium is probably to plate white-gold. This is because white gold that is made by mixing gold with silver, palladium or nickel still retains a yellowish tint. To give it a really “white” and brighter sheen, rhodium is plated on to it. The rhodium plating adds luster and shine to the slightly dull white gold surface and also enhances the life. The jewelry however needs to be plated with rhodium periodically to retain the shine. Rhodium plating is also used for silver jewelry because sterling silver is quite soft and is not resistant to scratches and damage. Once plated with rhodium, the jewelry becomes scratch resistance and also a brighter and more polished look.
Another advantage of rhodium is that it is hypoallergenic. Some people at times complain of being allergic to white gold, gold and silver and have to stay away from jewelry made from these metals to avoid skin allergies. A plating of rhodium solves this problem completely and even people allergic to the main metal can happily flaunt their jewelry without the nagging concern of developing allergies. If you have been worrying about your allergic reactions to jewelry, you can rest easy with rhodium plated jewelry.
Rhodium as a metal is thus very useful to the jewelry industry. Imitation rhodium plating helps jewelry items to get a shinier, more lustrous look. It also helps to strengthen the basic metal that has been used to make jewelry like silver of white gold and makes it scratch and damage resistant. Not only that, since it is hypoallergenic in nature, plating jewelry with rhodium lets people allergic to different noble metals also wear jewelry that they otherwise couldn’t.