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Rhodium plating on silver jewelry

(2002)

Q. My company is purchasing sterling silver jewelry as a promotional item. We do not normally buy jewelry, so I am not very knowledgeable about it. I received samples from a trader in China. The samples are very bright, brighter than most silver in department stores. The packing slip stated silver plate finish, so inquired as to whether or not it was 925 sterling silver or just plated. They have assured me that it is 925 sterling silver, but with a silver plate finish as opposed to a rhodium finish. What is the difference (other than price)?

Michelle Rdeleted
- Fayetteville, Georgia


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(2002)

A. Michelle,

Rhodium belongs to the Platinum group of metals. All of them present outstanding chemical inertness (will not react or change easily) thus, rhodium will not tarnish whereas silver will. They are very expensive, so only a very thin plate is applied to reduce the amount of metal in the jewel. If not subject to excessive friction and wear, they will retain their look indefinitely.

Guillermo Marrufo
Monterrey, NL, Mexico


(2002)

A. You are right that the price of silver and rhodium are very different. Today silver is $4.66 per Troy oz. and Rhodium is $925.00 per Troy oz. It is not uncommon for manufacturers to silver plate sterling silver items. They do this for two reasons. First, the silver as plated from a bright bath is brighter than can be achieved by polishing; and second, the fine silver deposit will tarnish a little slower than sterling silver. Rhodium is much harder and will not tarnish at all, but aside from being expensive it is also a little bit gray compared to silver.

Neil Bell
Red Sky Plating


Albuquerque, New Mexico


(2004)

Q. I retail only one ring as a novelty item so I try to keep my price down. It has been brass; however, my supplier suggest that I do a rhodium finish on the brass. Would that fix the tarnishing problem or should I just go ahead and do a silver ring with a rhodium finish?

Michelle Sdeleted
- Nashville, Tennessee


(2006)

A. Rhodium plated silver is the best type of silver to buy on the market cause it will never tarnish, looks better than real white gold, and a tenth of the price.

Jake Tdeleted
- Brooklyn, New York


(2007)

Q. I sell a great deal of costume jewelry and would like some help as to how to explain to a customer the pros and cons of rhodium jewelry vs. sterling silver. I have found that many customers have no idea what Rhodium is and feel that sterling silver is much better, since it is "real". Any explanation and help regarding the above would be very much appreciated. Thanks.

Jean Ramsay
Buyer - Lexington, Kentucky


(2007)

A. The basic issue, Jean, is that silver tarnishes. Although some people like that natural look, many don't, so it can be hard to offer and sell tarnished jewelry at your jewelry counter.

So we look for ways to delay or prevent that tarnishing and one of several ways to do it is to plate a very thin layer of rhodium on top of the silver. Rhodium is a precious white metal that doesn't tarnish and is never significantly less expensive than gold and sometimes 10x as costly as gold. So there is nothing cheap or duplicitous about rhodium plating silver jewelry, and your customers should be able to understand the situation easily.

The difficult customers would be the ones that demand a natural silver that will readily tarnish, but they want it to be shiny and untarnished when they buy it! This demands either careful sealing or constant polishing until you sell it :-)

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


April 3, 2008

A. I have read all the comments, and haven't seen a message posted by a manufacturer. I am a manufacturer of high end silver jewelry from Thailand, exporting mainly to European countries. So I would like to share manufacturer's perspective.

As you guys said, rhodium is much more expensive than silver plating. But it's worth it if your market is high end. Because apart from the fact that silver plating can be tarnished easier, it also can be oxidized easier (look not shiny and gone black).
Rhodium, if proper plating is applied, will be more shiny and durable for a long time.
For the point that rhodium is a little bit blacker than silver plated, in my opinion, I think it looks like white gold jewelry, because white gold jewelry is also plated with rhodium. My company does high end product and the design is in line with gold jewelry, so all products are rhodium plated.

For the point that when they said silver plated, is the material is silver or just plated with silver? Looking on the back side, if it is stamped 925, it is made of silver.

Kulthida Piankijagum
Silver Jewelry - Bangkok Thailand


sidebar September 14, 2011

Q. Rhodium plated jewelry and sterling silver wash so quickly on me, am now afraid of getting them yet; the Brazillian yellow ones last well on me but the white ones still don't last at all. They become hard every day I wear them and have to rinse with water and then dry before they get flexible again.

My friends wear plated jewelry well but they don't last on me except the Yellow gold plated Brazillian Bruna and Rommanel ones that last a bit.

What could be wrong?

Oluwaseun Oladele
Hobbyist - Lagos, Nigeria

October 28, 2011

A. Natural silver, while requiring a little effort to keep it's shine is a much nicer finish than the others suggested.

Jay Stell
- Ljubljana, Slovenia

sidebar July 31, 2012

Q. I just bought a "925 sterling silver filled" ring from ebay, and I loved it, but when I got it, after wearing it after a day my finger had a green ring when I took it off. I'm kinda upset about it. Did I buy fake silver? And what makes the green ring on your finger? My other silver rings did not do this.

Crystal Chaviers
- Linton, Indiana USA


August 1, 2012

A. Hi Crystal.

"Silver filled" means it has a thick plating of silver, with silver comprising 10% of the weight of the piece, and other metals like copper comprising 90% of the weight. It is not solid 925 or Sterling silver. I am from the plating industry, not the jewelry industry, so I can't comment authoritatively on misleading advertising, but "925 sterling silver filled" certainly fooled you, didn't it?

The underlying metal is copper, and copper salts leaching through the coating is probably what is turning your finger green, although it surprises me that it could do so if the cladding is actually as thick as advertised.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

September 18, 2012

Q. Dear Ted,
Which is more popular between regular 925 and rhodium plated 925 in today's market? Thanks.
Khin Goodkin.

Khin Goodkin
- S Ozone Park, New York


September 18, 2012

A. Sorry, Khin, I'm not in the jewelry industry and would not know the relative popularity ... but rhodium plating isn't the only anti-tarnish treatment for silver either.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

December 10, 2012

Q. Hi,
I want to know that is it necessary to have a base of nickel before plating of rhodium over silver, or we can directly plate rhodium without base?

Gaurav Verma
jewellers - Indore (M.P), India


December 12, 2012

A. Hi Guarav. No, it is not necessary... if we are working from the same assumptions. A common use of rhodium on silver is not to give silver a permanent rhodium look, but as a temporary anti-tarnish treatment, so that it can be put in a showcase for display and sale without constant re-polishing.

If you are selling it as special non-tarnishing silver, however, then you probably would need the longevity and freedom from porosity of nickel (or white bronze) plating, or possibly high purity silver plating under the thin and porous rhodium plating. That's my understanding.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


June 13, 2013

Q. I have some sterling silver pieces that I gave to a jeweler to Rhodium plate. The pieces had some tarnish on them, one chain was clean though, no tarnish. When they called me to pick up the pieces all of the tarnished pieces looked yellowish and the color of stainless steel with little shine, while the clean piece came out immaculate. I'm familiar with rhodium on gold. I understand for silver they need to use another metal such as nickel as a barrier between the silver and rhodium. I was told by the jeweler that the color of the rhodium is dramatically affected by the quality of the silver and that most of my pieces were poor quality silver. I don't buy this. I believe that they didn't polish or properly clean the tarnish off prior to applying the rhodium. Please advise. Does the quality of the silver, all 925, affect the final color of the finish? My understanding is the rhodium should be bright white and shiny regardless of the metal being finished.

Thanks
Becky

Rebecca S
- Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey, USA


A. Hi Becky. There are a dozen reasons for various colors and 101 for misunderstandings. Unless we understood thoroughly what the jeweler did and said he did it's unfortunately very difficult to form any opinions.

Sometimes a heavy layer of rhodium is plated over a layer of nickel or white bronze to give that scintillating look of white gold engagement rings; Kulthida P says his company offers that kind of high end costume jewelry. Other times a very thin and virtually transparent layer of rhodium is applied just to deter tarnish, leaving the soft color of silver. Then too, most jewelry shops are not high end multi-million dollar instrument controlled electroplating factories; often they're virtually plating out of a tea cup with a $400 plating setup and contaminated solutions and that causes discoloration.

Maybe try another jeweler and carefully explain that you want your jewelry to look like his white gold engagement rings, and get the agreement that he can or can't do that before you commit. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



Ring is not stamped; is it sterling?

September 25, 2014

Q. I bought a ring they claimed was 925 silver plated with rhodium but the ring is not stamped 925 the only markings I see on the ring is CHINA GM. What does that mean? I have never seen this marking before. By the way the ring looks gorgeous and looks as shiny and new as the day I bought it. Also has a number of brilliant cz's in the sun.

Pat Caldwell
- Summerfield, Florida, USA


September 2014

A. Hi Pat. Sterling is usually stamped "925" or "sterling", but so what? Silver is only a semi-precious metal and the intrinsic value of a small silver item like a ring isn't much anyway; the important thing is how it looks to you and how durable it is. So don't worry, be happy :-)

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

     

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