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topic 12798

Rhodium plating over yellow gold


 

Q. My jeweler has suggested that he coat a 14K yellow gold ring with rhodium to give me the white gold appearance that I want. Are there any foreseeable problems with this? It is a custom-made ring and he is trying to avoid the cost of making a new one in white gold.

Jaynie Herger
- Vernon, BC, Canada


Rhodium Plating System

 

A. Hi, Jaynie. It is perhaps not impossible for this project to be successful, but it is highly unlikely to work. The plating is very thin and rings are very high wear items, so the life will probably be unacceptably short. More detail can be found in the responses to letter 1237.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever


2006

A. In response to why white gold turns yellowish the answer is quite simple: there is no such thing as white gold.
Gold is gold in color to make it white alloys are added.
Hence the yellow tint. Rhodium plating solves the problem but will wear off in time and need to be replated

Carmine Girone
retired jeweler - Pelzer, South Carolina


January , 2009

Thanks for the effort to simplify things, Carmine, but I think you have simplified it a bit too much :-)

Yes, pure 24 karat gold is always yellow. And when white metals and bleaching metals are added, the resultant 12 karat or 14 karat alloy is "whitish". The over-simplification is that some such alloys are rather yellowish whereas other such alloys are white enough to be left unplated.

One need only look at rings from 40 and more years ago to see that most were sufficiently white that rhodium plating was not necessary. They were certainly not as white and brilliant as rhodium plating, but much whiter than most of today's "white gold". This is not a subjective matter either; rather there are ASTM and jewelry association whiteness scales for white gold, and a clear realization that some alloys are white enough to remain unplated and some are not.

We have a "Rhodium Plating & White Gold" FAQ which the readers may wish to view to quickly understand these issues. Thanks again.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever


January 3, 2009

Q. Jaynie, I'm interested in hearing whether you decided to try this and, if so, how it turned out. I'm about to buy a yellow gold diamond ring not knowing if my girlfriend prefers white and am thinking about the plating option if it turns out she does.

Ted, I have read through letter 1237 as you suggested. Do you think success is unlikely because yellow gold's color will unavoidably show through the rhodium or because the abundance of poor quality plating will not be good enough to cover the gold's color? In other words, would the project be a likely success if one was to go to a top-notch plating expert?

Rod Griffs
- New York, New York


January 7, 2009

A. Hi, Rod. The thicker the better and the higher quality the better. The yellow substrate does not 'show through' when it's plated; rather it will show through as the plating starts to wear away. But rings suffer a great deal of wear, and even the thickest rhodium is measured in millionths of an inch thick. You'll certainly get much longer life from the best plating at a wet laboratory equipped, instrument controlled plating shop, than from a jeweller working in a teacup -- but even then the life will be measured in months, not years. Engagement rings often wear all the way through over the course of a long marriage. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever


August 5, 2009

Q. Hello, my fiance is wanting to use my grandmothers ring to propose... My grandma's ring is Yellow Gold. Scott (my fiance) knows I'm not a "yellow gold" type of gal, so he's wanting to take the diamonds out and place them in silver. This is obviously NOT okay with me, as it is my grandma's ring, but I would be okay with this "rhodium" plating that was described, or white gold plating it! HELP! Anyone have suggestions, and then not only that... but somewhere that actually can DO this service well.

Ali M.
research - Carmel, Indiana


October 5, 2009

thumbsdownDo not get rhodium over a ring. My husband and I got a ring that was yellow gold and wanted it to match my wedding ring which was white gold. We got it plated with Rhodium not even a month later it started to fade and look really tacky! We paid so much for our rings, and his looks fake! I'm in the process right now trying to get a different ring for him (one that is WHITE gold to start with) or I hope they will make a whole new ring.

Sabrina Palm
- Lawton, Oklahoma


February 6, 2013 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Several years ago my now-husband gave me a white gold ring, and it has lots of sentimental value for both of us. However I'm just not a big fan of white metals, and yellow gold looks much better with my skin tone. Would it be possible to have it dipped in 14 kt yellow gold? It has been rhodium plated in the past, if that makes a difference in the chemical bonding or whatever it is that occurs in plating.

Jennifer Cox
- Buellton


February 17, 2013

A. Hi Jennifer. The issue is simply that the plating is generally millionths of an inch thick these days and can't be expected to last at all on a ring.

But if you want to talk to a custom plating shop like Metal Arts Specialties or our supporting advertiser Red Sky Plating rather than a jewelry store, it should be possible to get really heavy gold plating. Pocket watches from a hundred years ago were plated heavy enough to last a century and more, and they didn't know anything we don't know, so it sounds possible to gold plate a ring so it can last several years. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever


February 5, 2013

Q. Hello,

I went to my local jewelry store to get my cross plated; it is 10k in decent shape nothing out of the ordinary I just wanted it white.

The first day I saw it, it looked great just a few deep areas where I still saw yellow, but I could live with it. Not using it, leaving it on my dresser away from everything a few days later I noticed spots. On the left and right arms of the cross I noticed 4 circular spots of the under color coming through.

I took it back they said that it must be something like chlorine that was on the cross maybe through it's life or another chemical which is making their plating not take?
They said if they were to do the process over again it would have the exact same issues.
These spots were not there prior on the very light yellow 10k gold.

I know nothing about jewelry I just felt this looked like poor workmanship only reason I am asking this question here. I appreciate any feedback I thank you.

Joey

Joey F
- Melbourne Florida, United States


February 17, 2013

A. Hi Joey. From this distance, hearing one side of it, it does sound like poor workmanship. But it is problematic to try to turn yellow gold white with rhodium plating because it is only millionths of an inch thick, and if there is any significant wear, it can't last long. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever


June 13, 2013

thumbsdownI have a 14k yellow gold ring that has been rhodium plated 2x in last four months, and again it is yellowing. So in my opinion unless what you're plating is already white gold or silver it's a waste of money. Very Disappointed.

Can I have the rhodium totally removed??

Thanks,
Sharon

Sharon A. Lutz
- Farmingdale, New York


June 2013

A. Hi Sharon. My understanding is that rhodium is so inert and so chemically similar to gold that it can't be chemically removed. But it can be polished away by the jeweler. More info on stripping rhodium plating can be found on letter 10337. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever



June 21, 2019

Hi, I would like to chime in here if I may. I have a question of my own to follow. I'm not a jeweler myself but I do buy and sell gold from estate auctions and eBay. I've done this for over 10 years.

A. Firstly, regarding this comment: "Pocket watches from a hundred years ago were plated heavy enough to last a century and more".

I don't know about a whole century but many were guaranteed to last 10, 15 or 25 years. This gold was not electro-plated, however. It is rolled gold.

This is a technique whereby thin plates of real gold (usually 9, 10, 14 or 18 carat) are "sandwiched" over a base metal using heat and pressure. This material was then used to create jewellery, watch cases and so on. It was a popular affordable alternative to solid gold around the turn of last century. Rolled gold is still used today, but not nearly as much.

Plated gold needs to be of a high carat, and is often 24k to facilitate the electro-plating process. Rolled gold can use ANY carat of gold including lower 8k (.333) 9k (.375) and 10k (.417) varieties.

Rolled gold is typically much thicker at 75-250 microns, while plating may only be 5-20 microns thick. Of course if one just continues to plate and re-plate gold I can imagine any thickness could be achieved in the end. However I'm not sure how well it would bond.

I hope this helps.


Q. Now for my question. I was wondering if manufacturers of real (solid) gold jewellery use rhodium plating over real yellow gold. Is this something that manufacturers (likely of mass produced store jewellery) do commonly in order to offer yellow and "white" gold versions of the same product. For example gold chains, bracelets etc.?

The reason I ask is that I've got a few rhodium plated pieces here that acid test as 10k gold. You can clearly see the yellow colour underneath after taking a "rub" from the band. Taking a clean rub of the yellow material (trying to eliminate as much rhodium as possible from the test) and acid testing it does pass the 10k test.

The pieces are hallmarked properly and when examined with a loupe do not exhibit the typical cheap construction of fake items. The material feels right (not too hard or soft) and looks right when taking a rub.

I would normally expect these to be cheap fake pieces, made from jeweler's brass underneath, and they'd be thrown in a drawer with the other plated junk I find. However the metal underneath is acid testing as 10k gold, instead of dissolving as it would for other pieces in the "junk drawer".

Perhaps my testing acids have gone "off" though I do replace these once per year.

Any help would be appreciated, thanks in advance.
Dominik

Dominik Oesterlin
Hallmarked Fine Used Jewellery - BELROSE, NSW, AUSTRALIA


June 2019

A. Hi Dominik. Thanks for the education on rolled gold.

I can't say whether manufacturers, as opposed to jewelry stores, do this, and I can't say how common it is. But I can say that it is done and that many reputable people consider it unethical (based on an article on grading of white gold that I read by the president of the World Gold Council years ago).

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever



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