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topic 28610

How long should a rhodium plated black finish last?


(2004)

Q. I went with my friend to purchase a unique ring at a high end jewelry store in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. The ring was for an engagement for his girl but he didn't want the same old thing, so he saw a ring that was described as being white gold, plated in Rhodium and a special process was used to turn the metal a dark black, which set off inlayed opals very nicely. He bought it and gave it to his fiancee. After two months the palm side of the ring's finish started to wear to the white gold, making the ring look like it came from the prize in a Cracker Jack box bought at Bubba Jo's Pawn Shop. The shop owner told us we should have known that the finish would wear off and refused to refund the money. We were never advised that the finish would wear away so fast, certainly an operative piece of information that would have caused my friend to purchase something else. The shop owner called the process used to create the ring "unique" and "only a year old" and it was my friend's girlfriend's fault that her body chemistry wore the finish off the ring. He offered to replate it for free. (So his girlfriend would have to schlep it to the store every three months for re-plating!?) So can anyone tell me what kind of factual arguments based in science can be presented to the store manager (or a court of law) so that maybe the store owner will refund my friend's money? We are all feeling really duped.

Jacquie Nantier
rhodium plating - Manssas, Virginia


(2004)

A. Women's engagement rings wear completely through over the course of a long marriage, so platings, which are hundreds of times thinner have a limited life. But there is an implication when you sell an heirloom like an engagement ring that it is an item of heirloom quality; something that lasts for 2 months doesn't sound heirloom quality and I think any judge or neutral party will agree.

If you look at an old school ring, you'll see that it is relieved, and the recessed areas are blackened while the raised wear surfaces are gold or white gold or silver. Such rings last for decades and longer. But you'll never see the reverse, where the recessed areas are shiny metal and the raised wear surfaces are black, because the black would wear off and the bright recesses would get dirty. Not being a jeweler and not having seen the ring, it's a stretch for me to make this claim, but I think the design is the problem; I think any blackened areas should be recessed rather than exposed. I doubt that there is any coloring that can be applied to make the finish on this ring robust, although it is perhaps possible to apply a finish of sufficient quality that it will last more than 2 months.

This stupid 'body chemistry' argument is one day going to cost a jeweler a multi-million dollar personal injury suit! If the ring is not inert to the woman's body chemistry, but is reacting with it, how are we to know that those reaction products aren't absorbed into her blood and aren't toxic and cumulative? If the jeweler himself claims that that is what is happening, and is going to insist that the ring cannot be returned, is he assuring her that this process is safe for her, or is he saying he doesn't give a damn whether it is or not? Either way, I'd want to be on her side of the table, not his.

I'm only answering to keep your inquiry from going unanswered; so if anyone has better insights, fire away.

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


(2004)

Q. Thanks for the response, I had thought about the issue with skin absorbing the chemicals but didn't know to what extent absorbing a rhodium finish would cause a person physical injury or damage, and you can't successfully sue without having suffered some sort of injury, but it sure is a good argument. The ring did not have any lower or raised surfaces, the metal was fashioned to wrap around the finger twice with the opals inlayed in front and the palm side wrapped metal was sort of thick or slightly dome-like, not flat, and smooth. Yes, definitely not heirloom quality, and I think once a demand letter is sent to the shop owner, he might get a clue and offer to settle up. Thanks again.

Jacquie Nantier
- Manassas, Virginia


(2004)

A. I was not proposing that your friend's fiance should claim a personal injury and file a suit as a strategy to getting a refund, Jacquie. If my reply homogenized the hypothetical in with the case in point, sorry. I was only venting that I think it is stupid and short-sighted for jewelers to keep using this "unusual body chemistry" argument, and that it may come back to bite them.

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


(2004)

Q. Thanks, I don't think my friend wants to go through the hassle of taking the shop owner to court over a personal injury issue like absorbing of the finish into skin, I think it would require all kinds of expert testimony and certainly not worth the time and hassle of litigation. From an intellectual standpoint it certainly is something to think about and a good point to make. I think what we were both looking for in making our question to this forum was a perspective that was not emotional and very logical which you were. Forums like this are great sources for info that cut research time in half. What is likely to happen is that my friend will make a defective product dispute with the credit card he used to buy the ring and they will require some documentation. I was reading somewhere I think it might have been this forum, but I'm not sure, where for jewelry a Rhodium finish should have a certain thickness to provide for longer wear and I wonder if there is something published to that effect, and then some way to measure the thickness on the parts of the ring that have not worn off (the front) because info like that would bolster his claim to the credit card company that he was sold defective merchandise.

Jacquie Nantier
- Manassas, Virginia


(2006)

A. I think that is really bad business for the store owner. I would go to 7 on your side and see if they can help you. I have a rhodium ring and it has lasted a long time. I don't wear it every day. The ring should have lasted longer than that. I would tell all my friend the name of the store and tell them to be careful about shopping at that store.

Julia Frances Wilson
- Springfield, Virginia


September 14, 2010

A. The "unusual body chemistry" argument might actually have some bearing with the copper that is alloyed with gold if the skin's acids have an effect on copper itself (not actually sure if it does). However, Rhodium isn't attacked by most acids, and would probably NOT be affected by the body's chemistry. I would say that plating on rings should be treated as if it will not last long, no matter how thick it is. Assume that when you buy ANYTHING with a decorative finish on it, that said finish will not last. Just because the paint on your car lasts a good long time, doesn't mean that metal electroplating has the same properties as your car paint. As far as the jeweler informing you that the plating wouldn't last, that's a rather gray area. In my book, it is to be assumed that nothing will last forever, and would be up to me to ask the jeweler, electronics dealer, etc. how long I could expect my purchase to last.

Michael Rodriguez
- Blythe, California USA


A. Hi Michael; I agree that finishes don't last forever, but I really can't agree that people should expect an engagement ring to only last two months.

Regards,

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


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

Q. Me and my fiance are wanting to replate her rhodium plated ring gloss black, it is sterling silver under the rhodium. What would be the best plating process and where can I get it done? She doesn't want a new ring, just hers in black to match mine.

Brett Barber
- Pell City, Alabama, United States

May 7, 2013

A. Hi Brett. What is your black ring made of and plated with? I don't think the plating will last very long unless it is only in recessed areas.

Regards,

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


May 10, 2013

Q. It is sterling silver, with a rhodium overlay. It looks like white gold.

Brett Barber
- Pell City, Alabama, United States


May 10, 2013

A. Hi. I meant YOUR ring, the one that is already black, not her ring that you want to match yours.

Regards,

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


May 13, 2013

Q. I'm sorry, I misunderstood your question. My ring is tungsten.

Brett Barber
- Pell City, Alabama, United States


May 14, 2013

A. Thanks. So you're trying to plate black rhodium onto a silver ring to make it look like a tungsten ring. Black rhodium plating is doable, but its durability won't come close to matching your ring. It's very hard to say how long it will last since it depends on thickness, quality, the design of the ring, and wear patterns, but I doubt that it will go more than a year between replating. Sorry, that this may not be a satisfactory answer for you.

Regards,

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


February 27, 2015

A. You didn't say how much your friend paid for the ring, which sounds lovely in it's original state.

Most States have Small Claims Courts where one doesn't need a lawyer, just the paperwork, write out your story to help prepare you, and the judge will hear both sides and issue a legally binding ruling. You will be the clear winner, this jeweler knew nothing of the product he was selling and the line about her odd body chemistry will get a hearty laugh an any state, red, blue, or purple. Get you money back without a lot of fuss and legal fees and keep him from ripping off other people. I'm sure your fiancé will be thrilled with a new ring, maybe choose it together as a token of your love.

Large companies, do sell black rhodium coated jewelry and it is becoming more popular. Check around on the web, I'm sure you'll find many for sale. Obviously people have figured out how to do it to make it work. This might be beneficial information if you go to small claims court. Unfortunately fine jewelry is a "shady" business and some people think the more they pay the better product they are getting, not always true. I know you want something unique, but for this kind of elemental chemistry you might need to check with a few high-end national brands, the kind that advertise on TV and see what you can find. You can also purchase a 3 year guarantee which might prevent a substantial loss. It can be done, this guy just didn't know how to do it and you should NOT have to pay for this.

Go to you County Court House and ask how to set up a date. When he is served, he might get nicer and more reasonable and you can afford actually going to court, but I don't think you should be afraid of Small Claims Court. That's why State's have them, for small cases that one will not have to end up giving your winnings to a lawyer. Just my opinion, I would not consult a lawyer, just find out the laws in your state. After all this, the marriage deserves a pretty ring, and I wish you both the best with the ring and beyond.

Douglas Holsclaw
jewelry and antiques collector of many years - San Francisco, California



March 21, 2018

Q. As you were saying how the durability of the black rhodium won't come close to Tungsten, why don't they make women's rings in tungsten? That would solve all of my issues with my ring, which is black rhodium plated and chipped the very first day I got it (and I was very gentle with it)! We sent it back to be replated and they said that it may have been a faulty coating, which I am hoping it was because I can't have it chipping THAT fast! But I love the black color! I don't care if it's gold or not!

Karina Taylor
- Joplin, Missouri


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