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Why is rhodium plated onto gold jewelry instead of onto less expensive metals

April 30, 2010

I've recently started shopping for an engagement ring. As I'm sure is the case with most engagement ring buyers, this is my first experience with buying jewelry. We've found a setting that we like, and it's available in 18k white gold, 18k yellow gold, or platinum. We want a white metal, so that leaves us with white gold or platinum. The jeweler explained to me that the only real advantage of platinum is "exclusivity". Exclusivity is not a priority for us, so price seemed to make white gold the obvious choice. That's when I started doing some research. I quickly found that white gold is typically plated with rhodium. I asked my jeweler, and she indicated that the ring of interest is indeed rhodium coated.

I understand that white gold is not a very bright metal, and rhodium is what gives the ring its shiny appearance. I also understand that many are not satisfied with the appearance of white gold once they wear through the plating, so they get them re-plated. What I don't understand is this: If a rhodium plating is the look everyone wants, why bother with white gold? I know that solid rhodium would be very expensive and brittle, so a solid rhodium ring may be impractical. But why not put that rhodium finish on a cheaper metal? Why spend all the money for 18k gold and then cover it up with something else? Couldn't the ring be cast out of something like aluminum and then rhodium plated? My guess is that there's a good explanation why aluminum or anything else cheap wouldn't work or why gold is the only thing that will. Can anyone explain it to me?

Matt N [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
buyer - Peoria, Illinois

April 2010

Hi, Matt. There is no technical reason that rhodium cannot be plated on less expensive metals. Back when cufflinks were popular I had beautiful "dice-cube" rhodium plated cufflinks.

The things that are probably conspiring against you are that engagement rings and similar jewelry are expected to have intrinsic value, and there are probably issues with trying to make and attach reliable prongs and such on aluminum or other rings. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 5, 2010

Hi, I'm Bhupesh Mulik working in a jewellery company as a refining officer.u suggest to cast jewellery in aluminium and plate it by rhodium,but I think there is problem in diamond setting in aluminium. aluminum gets rusted in acidic and basic environment. plating will protects its surface but durability of plating and brightness will affect badly. and we plate jewellery by rhodium because of its brightening , durability to resist corrosion or rusting, and main thing plating gives better brightening look to diamond due to reflection.

Bhupesh Mulik
jewellery - Mumbai, India

May 5, 2010

Coming from someone who has been married, more or less three times I can tell you without even feeling all the dents in my cranium that it is NOT the thought that counts, but the amount of MONEY you spend that counts! If you ever bought your wife a rhodium plated copper ring and she ever found out, I am certain you would fully understand the relative complexities of this dilemma!NUFF SAID.

rod henrickson
Rod Henrickson
gunsmith - Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

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