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topic 37324

Rhodium allergy?



A discussion started in 2005 & continuing through 2017.

(2005)

Q. I have had a allergy to nickel since my ears were pierced (by a Doctor, using surgical steel) 30 years ago. I can wear very little jewelry - I stick w/ sterling, 14k (& above golds, & even then it's hit & miss) & stainless steel. Within (1) hour of wearing jewelry I will either break out or be OK. If a bracelet bothers me my ears begin to weep. I recently purchased sterling jewelry in a "not inexpensive" store & was told it was finished in rhodium. Two days later I had one of the worst allergic reactions ever & one that took the longest to clear. Can I now assume I am also allergic to rhodium? I tend towards white gold & have recently inherited white gold diamond stud earring from my late mother. These are the ONLY earrings I have been able to wear in years. Now I'm hearing that white gold may be finished in rhodium. Is this true? Is there any precautions I can take before purchasing jewelry?
This has been such a thorn in my side I regret ever getting my ears pierced.
Thank-you.

Ginna Logan
CRS / office manager for roofing co. - New Milford, New Jersey


(2005)

A. Hello Ginna. Although it is, I suppose, vaguely possible that you are allergic to rhodium, it seems more likely that the jewelry in question contained nickel. It is common to plate nickel before plating rhodium, and the rhodium is porous. The allergy problem with white gold jewelry is usually that what turns the alloy white is usually nickel.

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


(2005)

A. Next time when you purchase white gold jewelry, ask for nickel-free jewelry. And to test it, carry a small magnet with you, if it sticks to the jewelry then it has nickel, if it doesn't then its nickel-free.

Hitesh Satikunvar
- Mumbai, Maharashtra, India


Click on graphic for "NickelAlert" test kit:
nonickel test kit
(2005)

A. We appreciate your taking the time to respond, Hitesh, but I don't agree that a magnet can be reliably used to assure that jewelry has no nickel in it. If it's actually made of iron, that's highly magnetic. Nickel plating is magnetic, but thin enough that there may not be a strong attraction. I don't believe that white gold is magnetic even if it contains nickel.

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


(2005)

A. I agree with Ted about the magnet, I don't think that is a very accurate way to determine if there is Ni on jewelry.

Regards,

Brian C. Gaylets
McKinney Mfg. Assa Abloy America - Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.


(2007)

Q. Hi, I am a jewelry lover and love to buy it just to wear or collect. my nickname is mini Mr. T. I bought a necklace and bracelet from a jewelry store, the guy said it was a 10k gold and rhodium mix. but the color of the set is a very dark gold color. he said it had a lifetime warranty and that it would not have any problems but about three weeks later I have a rash and bumps on my neck, I have been wearing gold for over twelve years with no problems. Could this be an effect of the rhodium or is this just a cheap necklace. what could be the cause of this problem? Thanks

Recus Ricks
jewelry collector - Tuscumbia, Alabama, U.S.A


TUTORIAL FOR NEWBIES:

Rhodium is so rare that it is not feasible to mine it for its own sake. Rather, when platinum is mined, a small percentage of what is recovered is rhodium. So, when platinum is in demand and a lot of mining is going on, rhodium costs about the same as gold. But when platinum mining is down, rhodium is nearly unavailable and it's price can be even 15X as high as gold.

(2007)

A. The cost of precious metals like gold and rhodium varies constantly, but as a rule of thumb rhodium can be anywhere from the price of gold to 15X as costly as gold. So, is there any rhodium within this alloy? For this and other reasons it's highly unlikely. It's probably cheap jewelry, and it may contain nickel that is bothering you.

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


(2007)

Q. Before my wedding (4/20/07) I got my engagement ring Rhodium dipped so that it would be shiny, etc. for pictures. It is 18K white gold. Starting probably a month after the wedding, my finger has become red and itchy underneath primarily the engagement ring, because it has a wide band.

Is it common to have Rhodium allergy? If so--is it possible to remove the plating?

Jessica Jackson
consumer - Seaford, Delaware, USA


A. Hi Jessica. I think it's more likely that you are allergic to the nickel in your white gold ring than to the rhodium plating on it.

Regards,

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


(2007)

A. My daughter is allergic to most jewelry, knowing this her fiancee had her engagement ring made with palladium.
The jeweler then did the electroplating with Rhodium for shine. I have been researching Rhodium online, and found that some rhodium a byproduct of nickel mining operations in Sudberry region of Ontario, Canada. Please do not assume someone has "cheap" jewelry. If you do not know if the Rhodium came from Canada (bad) or South America (good stuff)
Just for Your information. Thanks

Angela Callahan
- Atlanta, Georgia USA


(2007)

thumbs up signNobody called rhodium 'cheap', Angela -- it's recently 10 times the cost of gold! And don't be misled by the word 'byproduct' in your readings. Whether from Canada or South Africa, rhodium is rhodium, and is very expensive.

It is also true though, that it can be electroplated very very thin - a few millionths of an inch thick. So if something has only a thin plating of rhodium on it, that's not much rhodium. There are many causes for rashes, but certainly an allergy to nickel is common, and most USA white gold has nickel in it, whereas an allergy to rhodium is uncommon enough that most of us don't even know if it's possible.

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


January 27, 2009

Q. I received 14KT white gold stud earrings with rhodium plating from my husband for Christmas and my ears become irritated every time I wear them. Is there anything I can change on the earrings to stop this reaction? Perhaps change the posts to platinum or 18KT gold?

Dawn Abbas
- Doral, Florida USA


April 26, 2011

Q. I can identify with a couple of these responses. I ordered a wedding ring guard set. First it started to turn, then it got tighter on my finger & then my hand broke out. I had to go to the Dr. as my hand got worse & started swelling. I've talked to the company to find a solution. I've ordered many things but never had this problem. Thank you.

Mrs. Monica Nelson
HSN - Flint, Michigan, US


January 18, 2016

A. I had read about the magnet trick. I bought a necklace supposedly 14kt gold ... Broke out in a horrendous rash ... bought a magnet and that necklace clung to that thing tight! KIK

Margaret McKay
- Gainesville Florida



October 3, 2016

Q. Hi there, I am resurrecting a very old thread here, but I had a question regarding a similar issue.

I have a nickel allergy and am planning to buy a replated vintage double edge safety razor. I spoke to two different vendors about their plating options for people with nickel allergy. The two vendors had opposite statements. One said that gold plating requires nickel to be plated underneath and that rhodium does not require nickel underneath. The other said that rhodium does not require nickel underneath but gold does. However they both said that silver does not require nickel.

Are there any opinions as to how these two vendors could BOTH be correct? Could they be using different techniques? Is there a definite answer to whether nickel is required for plating gold or rhodium?

Thank you to anyone who can offer some clarity and insight!

Shivaan de Silva
- Edmonton, AB, Canada


A. Hi Shivaan. There are no famous or infamous chemical reactions that require or preclude a nickel underplate before gold, rhodium, or silver plating. Any of the three can be plated directly onto other substrates or can be plated on top of nickel. It's probably more a case of what is frequently done rather than what is "required".

Silver, as we know, is very prone to tarnishing; several different approaches to tarnish prevention are possible, one of which is rhodium plating. Rhodium is a precious metal which doesn't tarnish, and it's rather similar in color to silver, so silver often receives a very thin plating of rhodium to deter tarnish until the jewelry is sold, and maybe somewhat longer. There is little advantage to doing nickel plating of silver jewelry before this thin flash of rhodium plating, so although it could be done, it rarely is.

In the case of gold plating, there is often a layer of nickel plating below it, mostly because of the high cost of gold. It's much cheaper to get the required corrosion resistance and shininess by nickel plating and applying only a thin layer of gold than by plating the gold thick enough to be free of porosity and pinholes, and sufficiently leveled for a bright shine.

Rhodium plating can be done on white gold or on other materials like brass. If plating onto white gold, the rhodium need only be thick enough for good color correction and reflectivity, in which case a nickel underlayer is not usually done. If rhodium plating is done on yellow gold or brass though, it may be prohibitively expensive to rely on just rhodium plating to change the color to silvery; usually nickel plating would do most of the color change work so a thin coating of rhodium can be used.

But in any of these cases, it is possible to avoid nickel allergy issues by doing a "white bronze" plating in lieu of the nickel plating. Good luck, and thanks for the chance to explain my understanding of nickel underplating.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



May 22, 2017

Q. Hi! I stumbled on this thread while researching rhodium plating.
My question is, I have been wearing my white gold engagement ring and wedding ring for 4 years with no issue. I took it in to Jared for cleaning last weekend and they asked if I wanted it rhodium plated to make it look shiny longer, I said sure! Since then when I wear it my finger turns bright red and itches like mad! I have never had an issue with jewelry before. No nickel allergy. I can only assume that I am sensitive to rhodium. How long does it generally take for the rhodium to wear off the ring?

Emily Broback
- Waukesha Wisconsin USA


May 2017

A. Hi Emily. Although I suppose anything is possible, allergies to Rhodium seem unlikely because it is a very inert precious metal (the thinking being that if neither strong acids nor strong alkalis are able to dissolve it, nor are strong solvents able to react with it, what could be in body chemistry that is capable of doing so?) My guess is that they nickel plated the ring and added only a thin and porous layer of rhodium, insufficient to protect you from the nickel they applied.

In any case, waiting for it to wear off doesn't sound practical, and I think another jeweler can rhodium plate it adequately that you'll no longer be allergic to it. Note that I said "my guess".

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"


May 23, 2017

thumbs up sign  Thanks Ted! I will take it to a different jeweller and have them redo it. I had to take benadryl today in order to take it off because my finger began swelling. Not good!
Thanks again for your response!

Emily Broback [returning]
- Waukesha Wisconsin US


May 2017

A. Hi. One other quick thing that occurred to me since my posting is that maybe it just wasn't rinsed really well, and some contaminant in that porosity is causing the reaction? Try soaking your ring in vinegar and peroxide for 15 minutes, then boiling it for a couple of minutes as discussed in letter 33777 (Suspend if from string so it doesn't bang against the pot.)

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"


May 23, 2017

thumbs up sign Thanks again! I will definitely try that!

Emily Broback [returning]
- Waukesha Wisconsin US


July 9, 2017

! Have just had metal allergy testing at the allergists, because I may need a knee implant. I have had issues with jewelry and cosmetics without knowing the cause. The allergists tape little squares of metal to your back for 2 days -- no sweat, no shower, no pool. I thought I had a nickel allergy but 30 minutes later it was calm. But I am allergic to rhodium. Now I know why I cannot wear my white golf engagement ring, a very expensive ring for more than 6-8 hours.

Mary Rose-Walker
- Lancaster Ohio USA


September 2017

thumbs up sign Hi Mary. It strikes me that allergy to rhodium sounds extremely unlikely because it is such an inert precious metal, so I think you want to double-check that you exactly understood the allergist. But if you've done that, I'm certainly not claiming any allergy training, and a jeweler may be able to polish off the rhodium plating.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



September 20, 2017

Q. Hello,

I have a known nickel allergy - which I of course discovered after getting married with a white gold band. For several years rhodium playing worked well to stop the allergy. When that stopped working, I had a platinum insert put on the inside of my ring. My ring did not bother me for about 3 years. When it started acting up again, I took it in to be cleaned and thought I'd try the rhodium coating again (hoping to get another two years of protection). Withjn 3 weeks my allergy is highly active again. I even take my ring off at night to try to help. I really don't want a new ring - it means too much to me. Is there anything else I could get it coated in that might block the allergy? Thank you!
Becky

Becky Habecker
- Grafton, Ohio USA



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