The origin of whichever tone or quality of gold you select, is fine gold. Which in essence is yellow in colour. The various tones like the most commonly used white, yellow or rose are determined by the type and quantity of alloy used. Rhodium is a naturally white, rare and very hard metal in the platinum family. It’s acquired in liquid form to facilitate the electro-plating process of Rhodium Plating.
It’s good to state early on that I don’t advise rhodium plating for metals that are not white; like yellow gold. Achieving the desired consistency of the finish is complicated, but that’s the jeweller’s problem. The problem for the consumer is that you probably won’t be satisfied with the end result. Rhodium on metals that are not white is known to not last long, and the process would need to be applied so regularly that it is not cost-effective and certainly not convenient. The other downside of over-finishing will be covered later.
The most common and practical reasons for rhodium plating white gold or silver items are that it enhances the colour of the metal, while increasing the lustre and offering a protective layer. Remember that we mentioned rhodium is one of the harder precious metals? Therefore, besides the aesthetic advantage, wear and tear needs to occur through the plating before excessively affecting the actual metal the piece is made of.
Under ideal conditions, rhodium plating should last about one to two years on a ring; longer on earrings and pendants. The parts of an item that are subject to the most contact with other items, like the bottom of the shank of a ring, will wear the quickest. I advise not to be too bothered by this; focus on the part of the ring that is exhibited and therefore also contains the most detail. This is the part we want to display at its best and that needs protection the most.
Although this process offers protection to the piece, it’s important to keep in mind that excessive buffing and polish adds wear and tare to an item. Find a balance between the protection and the wear caused to achieve your items maximum longevity. When handing items in to a trusted jeweller for rhodium plating, perhaps request that it not be excessively buffed and polished too hard.
In short, rhodium plating will enhance the aesthetic value of your silver or white gold jewellery, while protecting it, but take good enough care of your pieces to make the plating last as long as possible.
I hope this was helpful and look forward to sharing more posts to help you maintain and enjoy your jewellery to its ultimate potential.