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Why not solid rhodium jewelry?

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Q. I am a jewelry hobbyist and am just wondering, if rhodium is used to plate jewelry and has such a nice finish why not just use solid rhodium for a ring? It seems it would be a good compromise between platinum and white gold. Is there some durability issue with rhodium?

Michael Smith
technician - Mountain View, California

welcome

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A. The cost of precious metals fluctuates, but it's probably fair to say that the average cost of rhodium over the last couple of decades averages about 10x the cost of 24 carat gold, or 20x the cost of 12 carat gold. Still interested?

I understand that it's very hard to work rhodium.

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

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Q. So, Rhodium costs almost twice as much as Platinum - of course I am interested. Where can I get solid rhodium jewelry, and if I can't, why not?

Along the same lines, why not solid Palladium jewelry? (Much more expensive than silver, but only costs about as much as 10k gold).


Sruli Federman
- Brooklyn, New York


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A. Solid palladium jewelry is what I have been making for the last 2 1/2 years, and it works beautifully. I weighs a lot less than platinum so you get more rings made per oz. It is actually a bit whiter than platinum, and is much nicer to work in than white gold. You can get palladium alloys for jewelry applications from Hoover and Strong.

Elichai Fowler
- Livingston, Montana


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Q. I am also hoping to find rings of pure rhodium as well as ruthenium. Do they exist? Could they?

Mordechai Xiaohiu
- Marietta, Georgia


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A. Rhodium costs Price 1g= $70,10g= $490 , 60g= $2,195.
Iridium costs Price: 1g $35, 5g $145, 10g $245
Platinum costs Price: 1g $55, 2.5g $105, 5g $195

Rhodium is The most expensive natural metal. It is used in plating silver jewelry. I haven't found solid jewelry made from rhodium. It's hard to start a new trend when it's this expensive. The only idea I have on obtaining a pure rhodium necklace or bracelet is to buy the metal from a elemental supplier for chemistry sets and then pay a jeweler to make me a custom piece for me. Maybe have an iridium, rhodium, platinum alloy blend. Ratio of 5/80/15 respectively. What is your ideal jewelry metal alloy combo? I guess I should also find the melting points for these metals and density. Can they be combined for an alloy?

Jaron Krane
- Boca Raton, Florida


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A. Hello All
Just to let you know I have made 2 wedding bands in 80% solid Rhodium. You have to add 20% Plat as Rhodium will break if used in its pure form. its not malleable.
What a fantastic metal. The problem is you can only get the metal in powder form, so you have to be very very careful when you place the metal into a induction smelter.

Neil Garnett
- London, U.K.


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Q. If these alloys in jewelry so expensive then why are they not made privately for richer people already? And does anyone know under what condition these elements can be found?

Sophie Louise Denton
- Norwich, England, United Kingdom


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A. Just because something is expensive doesn't make it good, Sophie, nor mean that people are highly desirous of having it. Solid rhodium apparently doesn't make for jewelry that a lot of people want.

Further, there were times when the price of rhodium was slightly lower than gold, whereas recently it was over $12,000 an ounce. Not even rich people would want to pay 20 times as much, risk the special procedures to have it cast, have a ring that some might consider less attractive than gold, and then find in a few years that the cost of rhodium tanked and it's worth no more than a gold ring :-)

One of the big problems is that rhodium doesn't have it's own supply & demand price like most other things. Rather, rhodium is only available as a byproduct of platinum mining and refining; when the demand for platinum is high, there is a lot of rhodium available and it costs about the same as gold. When the demand for platinum goes down and little is mined, the price of rhodium skyrockets because there simply isn't any available.

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


sidebar

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If you do the research, Pure Rhodium can stain skin badly and is very toxic... Research the chemical makeup...

Google: pure rhodium

Megan Von Hoisnter
- Rialto, California


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I wasn't able to easily find the page you were reading, Megan, but I think you've accidentally extracted this a little bit out of context. The great majority of "white gold" jewelry today is plated with pure rhodium. It's worn by hundreds of millions of people and it usually doesn't stain the skin and is very inert.

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


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Q. I'm interested in rhodium plated jewelry's allergenic or non-allergenic properties. I have met several people who can only wear 14k gold or better. How would they fare with rhodium plated jewelry on the average? Is it less allergenic than pure silver? More? Is it comparable to niobium?
Your answers would be of great interest. Thanks.

P Casey Willson
- Eufaula, Alabama


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A. From Wikipedia:

Rhodium metal is, as a noble metal, inert.

However, when rhodium is chemically bound, it is reactive. Rhodium compounds are not often encountered by most people and should be considered to be highly toxic and carcinogenic[citation needed]. Lethal intake (LD50) for rats is 12.6 mg/kg of rhodium chloride (RhCl3)[citation needed]. Rhodium compounds can stain human skin very strongly. The element plays no biological role in humans. However, if used plainly, without compounds, the metal is harmless.

Joseph Lunsford
- Miami, Florida


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Q. I am thinking of making custom wedding bands for my fiancee and I. the base of the ring is made in silver that has a center trough, and the inside of the trough would be a turks head of niobium, iridium, and rhodium. Not too sure about how well this will play out, and also looking for a fourth metal, hopefully as rare as can be , to add to the turks head.
My main issue is I am unfamiliar with how difficult a rhodium wire is to braid.

Adam Lenrow
- Newport News, Virginia


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A. Rhodium chloride does not appear to be especially toxic:

Rhodium Chloride:
Rat, oral: LD50 = 1302 mg/kg
Rhodium: No acute toxicity data found.

source: NIST website

J Mac
- Santa Barbara, California


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Q. After 13 years I am starting to blister from my wedding rings, they are 14k gold and my doctor said I might be allergic to nickel and/or gold now. I have had them cleaned so I know it is not from anything trapped in my rings. Can I replate them with something and if so what do I use? Someone please help I don't want to plate them with the wrong metal and find out that I am allergic to it too......

Karen O'Neal
Home owner - Salem, Oregon

January 17, 2008

A. I have worked with rhodium (both metal and compounds) for many years. Rhodium is used in many applications outside of the plating and jewelry industry. Check you catalytic converter in your car and you'll usually find platinum, palladium and some rhodium.

The metal itself shouldn't be a problem except if you inhale the dust and then the problem is dust not the rhodium metal. The compounds and solutions of rhodium that are typically found in the marketplace (i.e. chloride, nitrate, Wilkinson's catalyst, sulfate, phosphate, etc.)also should pose no significant dangers except for the pH of some of the solutions.

Eric Frueh
- South Plainfield, New Jersey


June 22, 2008

I, too, was VERY interested in solid Rhodium rings. After doing much research and talking with many jewelers, I found out why it is almost impossible to make one:
Least of all is the cost - about 10X solid gold.
Most important is the very high melting point and poor malleability.
What this means is, the melting point is so high that it would be almost impossible to spin it into a cast for a ring before it would start to solidify. It would end up as a partial ring glob. Rhodium is ~1000 deg. higher melting point than Platinum and Platinum is very hard to cast.
The other method is to melt the rhodium into a thin flat long rectangle and bend it into a curve (a ring) and solder it shut with white gold. The only problem is the poor malleability which means it would crack and break as it is being bent because it is too brittle.

That is why I gave up trying to get a solid Rhodium ring made. The guy from London may have a point that if 20% Platinum is used, it may be malleable enough to make a ring. I suspect a jeweler would charge up to $10,000 USD to make one.

Brad Viets
- Boise, Idaho



sidebar

November 13, 2008

Beware! Rhodium is highly toxic and extremely radioactive.

J.C. Beckman
Artist - Vancouver Washington


November 14, 2008

Hi, J.C. Thanks for joining in, but that just isn't true at all. There are probably a hundred million women wearing rhodium plated rings. I'll bet you're thinking of Radium =>

Regards,

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

The editor's fave "coffee table book" for years now...

The Elements



December 2, 2008

I guess after today's news, everyone has heard of rhodium jewelry. B.Hussein Obama's $30,000 rhodium and diamond ring for his woman.

Ann Jac
- Bixly, Missouri


December 2, 2008

I got very interested once I started reading all this questions and responses, First I have been a jeweler for 38 years and nobody that I know of has had problems or reactions to rhodium, and I use it almost daily for plating.

Gilbert Gomez
- Phoenix, Arizona


May 6, 2009

In the same web search that turned up this question, I also turned up a source for rhodium wedding rings direct from American Elements, a materials source.

I guess I can't link to the site here, but I wonder if anyone has any experience with ordering rings through this sort of source, or any other information.

The rhodium rings seem to be available at 99%-99.999% purity. I don't know what the cost is, because I wanted to ask around before I contacted them for more info.

Lisa McLean
- Queens, New York


July 2009

Hi, Lisa. Asking for a testimonial on the largely anonymous internet is like asking a stranger to watch your purse while you go to the restroom; it might work out okay some of the time :-)

But we've received dozens of postings where IP addresses proved they were from shills posing as satisfied customers, and in most cases there is no way of knowing :-(

For this reason and others, sorry, we don't print testimonials.

Regards,

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

July 15, 2009

Q. Hi Everyone,

I'm in a fairly well paid job and my girlfriend and I have discussed the group of platinum metals as she has a reaction to nearly everything. I've started my research and looked at Rhodium but this way looks massively expensive and not possible to look at anything here in the South West of England. What is Iridium like? Its properties look very inert and is it available out in the UK For general purchase as a ring (Engagement, Wedding bands)?

Geoff Hacker
- England


December 3, 2009

Re: Rhodium and Palladium jewelry, HSN not too long ago sold palladium jewelry, unfortunately I guess when those in the 'jewelry-know' found out about it, it sold out rather quickly.
I'd also like to purchase some rhodium and palladium pieces myself (price aside), and believe that if there is a 'large enough push' for these 'metals', that eventually they just might become available on a more readily available scale (with perhaps even a drop in the prices).

Jeanne Myers
- Brooklyn, New York


August 14, 2010

Yes Obama did get his wife a rhodium ring- this was well publicized at the time he was elected, Amy. I have a rhodium rolex watch and it is the most beautiful, stunning watch I have ever seen. When I bought it I didn't even know quite the value of rhodium but I liked the look. btw just the face is rhodium. The band is stainless steel.

lin leon
- austin, Texas

Rolex


September 2, 2010

I read that pure iridium jewelry is the latest trend. One of the hardest metals known (doesn't scratch), doesn't oxidize (tarnish) and common acids do not affect it all. Denser (heavier) than platinum but about one third the cost per troy ounce. However the cost of a platinum ring and an identical iridium ring are about the same due to the difficulty in working with iridium. A company called American Elements (www.americanelements.com) sell iridium rings.

Kim Kercso
- Vancouver, BC Canada

September 18, 2010

Hi, I have succeeded in making beautiful rings out of solid rhodium. We will shortly begin marketing gorgeous wedding bands, engagement rings, and other styles made from 90% rhodium, 10% platinum.

I have made rings out of .999 fine rhodium, but I found that alloying it with 10% platinum results in a better, more durable product.

Eitan Cohen
- Brooklyn, New York, United States

October 5, 2010

Hi guys

Have been looking for a pair of wedding bands too, and while we had nearly frozen upon Rhodium-plated white gold, we got to know that the plating wears easily and would require loads of maintenance...Now we are looking for a ring that is very durable, without being as expensive as solid Platinum + Palladium...and we don't want yellow gold :( do we have a way out!

Zumi Bhadri
- Bombay, India

November 18, 2010

One of the above posts made a very good point. From what I've also researched about rhodium, it is too brittle to use as a ring. VERY poor malleability, and would almost certainly crack if it were sized up or down. Even mounting a stone would probably crack the mounting itself, and hitting the ring on something that would otherwise bend gold, would probably crack your rhodium ring. I think the properties of the metal more than the price dictates why making a ring out of solid rhodium isn't common practice. I'm sure there are people out there who wouldn't bat an eye about the price if they really wanted one.

Michael Rodriguez
- Blythe, California USA

December 21, 2010

Rhodium is ideal for jewelry. It is highly reflective (which is why it is used to plate platinum jewelry and accent gold jewelry), it is inert, it is stronger than any of the other precious metal, and it is terribly rare and therefore desirable for value reasons. It's just taking the public a long time to come along.

john volker
- watertown, New York, usa

June 12, 2011

So how does one KNOW he has a rhodium ring (or other piece of jewelry)? Lacking any hallmarks or other obvious clues, how would one test the jewelry to determine if it's pure (or majority) rhodium? Thanks for any insight, and also for this helpful and interesting blog.

Ward Angles
- Arcata, California, USA

October 20, 2010

Hi, one choice is to buy a tungsten carbide ring, not expensive but extremely hard.... it has a very nice polish and is one of the strongest metals known on earth. 5x harder than steel & 3x than titanium.... :)

manwel spiteri
- MALTA, GOZO

November 8, 2011

If Rhodium is not malleable, I do not care how nice of the color it is, to me, is the "other Chrome" as far as I am concerned.

Ted Shngerson
Self - Brooklyn, New York, USA

December 26, 2011

! One thing that was brought to my attention about tungsten rings and may apply to rhodium: hardness. The ring is so hard that if there is any chance of catching your finger in some object, there is no way to cut the ring off the finger. One jeweler whom I was just chatting with said his chain realized the potential liability and stopped selling tungsten rings. I am not sure if this applies to Rhodium. Firemen as it turns out have nothing they can use to cut tungsten off a finger, except to take off the finger. I know a lot of young kids are using less expensive metals for their rings but they should be aware of the potential risks, especially if they work in a field like mechanics, etc.

R. Goodrich
- Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA


December 28, 2011

Thanks, R., jewelers prefer precious metal rings not just for greater profit but because precious metals better suit their sense of art and aesthetics -- but I think your jeweler is probably spreading urban legend. Abrasive disks are much harder than any metal and will cut through tungsten or rhodium with no difficulty. Here's an ad for a battery operated ring cutter that claims it will cut through the hardest alloys in less than 10 seconds =>

Titanium carbide, ceramic, and stone rings are brittle and pretty easily broken off with vise grips if necessary.

My son is a fireman for 12 years now, working on the extraction team, and finds "...except to take off the finger" amusing ... firemen don't amputate, they remove the ring, and it's about the easiest work they do. If you have a printed source for your concern, please correct me. Thanks!

Regards,

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Battery-operated ring cutter for cutting hardest alloys in seconds


May 2, 2012

A. I always wondered about bismuth, or alloys of it. It's an odd metal like the above. And I must say, rhodium has the luster of polished cast iron.

I haven't heard you guys mention yttrium or zirconium. Zirconium is stablised by yttrium in jewelry application.

www.hobart.k12.in.us/ksms/PeriodicTable/yttrium.htm

But for god's sake, do your homework before acting on this one! I certainly would advise that you forget about making a ring out of something that is rare and unnatural in earths crust. If it doesn't occur in nature much at all, then you have no tolerance to it as a human. It could cause cancer or worse. Skin is semi permeable.
And as for toxic, silver is. It just doesn't enter the body as it is nearly inert. Though, its compounds that are able to enter the body, are very poisonous, like silver nitrate. So, I'm not sure about worrying about toxic metal compounds from inert metals. Ask yourself why you want to make it, and why someone else hasn't.

Dan Percival
- Derby, UK


June 25, 2012

Q. Most of the rhodium plated items I know I've seen, I haven't liked. They look incredibly shiny and cheap to me. I have several high quality platinum pieces of jewelry and love the way those look. Why am I seeing such a difference? What about ruthenium? I've heard of that but haven't seen it. I grew up around only platinum and 18-24 ct yellow gold. Is there just a slightly visible difference that only some can see? Thanks.

Liz Perkinson
- Elk City, Oklahoma


September 4, 2012

Hi Liz. It's a matter of taste, and tastes change. Yes, rhodium is incredibly shiny (the most reflective metal), and some people like how it makes diamonds look bigger and brighter. Some people don't like it. It's all good.

Regards,

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

September 4, 2012

Q. Ok so now that the price is down, is there still a reason Rhodium can't become a useful precious metal in jewelry? It looks like the comments go 50-50 as to its suitability. Looks like toxicity has been ruled out. So as a mix even to cut the total cost? Just checked and its spot price is below gold and platinum.

Nate Bayer
- Northglenn, Colorado, USA


September 4, 2012

A. Wow! Either the world economy really is going to crash and everybody is hoarding gold, or this is the opportunity of a lifetime to buy rhodium. It was 12X as expensive as gold just a year or two ago ($12,000/oz.), and today it's 2/3 of the price of gold ($1150/oz.)?!

Actually, Theodore Gray notes in "The Elements" that the price volatility of rhodium is not due just to speculation but because rhodium is not mined for its own sake but becomes available as a trace ingredient in platinum ore. When a lot of platinum is mined and refined, there's enough rhodium to go around, but when platinum mining slows down, rhodium skyrockets because it's not feasible to mine it for itself.

Regards,

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

November 19, 2012

Q. About finishing Rhodium rings: The melting point is only a few hundred degrees higher than platinum -- not so bad on a small scale with eye protection.
About malleability: I prefer pure Platinum because it can be bent and bent and bent. Pure gold is pretty good, and pure Silver needs constant annealing. I'm confident I can make Rhodium bands without bending, and if annealing is required for resizing, then ...
Question: How does Rhodium fit in the malleability scale of Platinum through Silver? So far the reference to malleability has been vague.
I make all my jewelry by hand, and I've found that some files are not as equal as other files, and that Rhodium is hard.
Question: Where can I find fine files that can work Rhodium? I'm trying to avoid testing my files on Quartz to see who wins.
Regards,
Luke

Luke Jadamec
- Canaan, Maine


May 26, 2013

A. I have been able to cast Rhodium rings but it is extremely difficult. The most challenging part is melting the metal as the extra 300 °C puts it beyond most Induction Melters. For Jewelers, Rhodium is so hard it takes about 12 new saw blades to cut through the sprue. RH is a beautiful, extreme white hard metal but is much too brittle for prongs. Several small movements of the metal will cause the prongs to break. In refining of PGM group, the usual results are baby powder fine powders or sponge. The melting temp. (2200 °C) is beyond most torches and the pressure involved will skater the expensive powder. Melting fine powders is very difficult for most commercial Induction Melters and continued efforts usually results in a fried Induction Melter as the powder is too fine to absorb the radiation and results with the energy returning back into the machine. From experience, this can be a very expensive experiment.

Also, Rhodium is not a very friendly alloying material. It does not mix well with other metals. Again, another expensive experiment. However, I have had some success but it goes well beyond normal jewelry manufacturing methods. About the only use that I can see is for plain jewelry such as wedding bands. Rethinking my methods and have not given up my experiments.

Dan Dement
Stone Oak Jewelers - San Antonio, Texas


September 3, 2013

thumbsup2It's a great question, I have sought for Rhodium wedding and engagement rings to no avail and ended up settling for platinum despite not being price sensitive -- just did not seem to be accessible. As I was living in Singapore at the time I had to get the platinum in from Hong Kong and very few Traditional Indians work with that so was a challenge in itself.

What I have learnt through my work and mining engineering background is that Rhodium is very illiquid as a commodity, hence the price spikes in history, it's a byproduct of other rare earth mineral mining and not the driver. The biggest users are of course for car catalytic converters, but its still a minor for them; you try forward hedging Rhodium and see the difficulties mostly for security -- it's a buy now and lease transaction. You can see why commercial jewelers would not want to sit on inventory, or take fixed price orders on future supply, but I can't understand why there is not more of a niche market for the price insensitive. Hats off to the mails I read where people succeeded in getting what they wanted.

Alistair Jones
- Basel, Basel Stadt, Switzerland


September 30, 2013

Q. Out of all metals that have been talked about, which one is the worst toxic for skin?

Liz Otero
- Lutz, Florida, USA


January 16, 2014

Q. First off I would like to thank all those that have added their professional opinion and expertise. I am looking to see if someone can point me in the right direction to make my a highly customized ring.

I have just started my search in finding someone who is skilled in metallurgy in the great state of Maine. Because Rhodium seems to be very specific to a small group of followers it doesn't seem like anybody mainstream would seem to be able to work with this metal. As Metallurgy is such an interesting subject, one that I would love to know a little more about. I would like to know if anyone could direct me in the right direction. I'm hoping to find "mom and pop" shops since Maine is a small community of specialized workers.

After reading most of this tread I definitely feel like I understand the process better, now I would like to talk to someone about the exact process and figure out a way to achieve my end goal, getting my wife a ring made in Rhodium.

Thank you all for your time. :)

Solomon Nethers
- Augusta, Maine USA


First of two simultaneous responses -- January 20, 2014

A. Hello Solomon,
As you may know rhodium is very expensive in its pure form. Secondly rhodium is very hard to fabricate because of it's extreme hardness. It is not very malleable. There are rings made of platinum, which today would also be very expensive. Would you consider a white gold ring plated with rhodium? This combination seems to be the norm in fine jewelry. Most reputable jewelers can point you in the right direction as far as design and the rhodium plating.

Mark Baker
Process Engineer - Malone, New York, USA


Second of two simultaneous responses -- January 20, 2014

A. Soloman, this is maybe a silly question, but have you tried to see if you could get the rhodium melted down and the mixture of platinum at a good steel works furnace as they are made into bars in the first place

Jimmy Dodger
- Glasgow, Scotland


January 21, 2014

A. Solomon,
I checked the current price for platinum = $1442.00 per troy oz. Rhodium is at $1050.00 per troy. Source = Johnson Matthey platinum group daily metal pricing.

Mark Baker
Process Engineer - Malone, New York USA

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