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"Fake" Rhodium plating

I was at the JIS show in Miami Beach this past weekend and overheard
a disturbing conversation between two wholesalers: one was telling
the other that he had heard that some silver jewelry manufacturers
were plating silver with a material other than rhodium to achieve a
"Rhodium plated" look and were in fact selling the jewelry as rhodium
plated. The person had heard that the metal they were using was tin,
but he was not certain about this.

Are any of you aware of manufacturers actually doing this? If so,
are there any easy and affordable ways to tell if an item is plated
with Rhodium versus another material. (I know you can tell if an item
is plated with nickel by using a magnet–plain sterling silver is not
magnetic, but nickel plated items will exhibit a slight attraction).

All responses are appreciated!


Hello Doug: Stuller carries a Earth frendly plating solution line of
products and one of them is called “white free” I don’t know what it
is plating to the piece but it’s not Rhodium or gold or nickel. Maybe
this is what they are talking about.

Michael R. Mathews Sr. Victoria,Texas USA

I would guess that the ‘fake rhodium plasting’ is chromium plating

Chromium plating was developed around 1920 and in the days before
rhodium plating (pre c 1933) it was used on silver . It was described
as ‘looking like polished platinum’ However, some complained that it
looked too blue. I have heard that chromium plating is now being used
again on some cheaper silver objects (would love more

There are other options - all sorts of white metals have been used
in the past to plate silver.

By the beginning of the twentieth century platinum was sometimes
plated on silver (and on white gold at least by the early 1920s).

Tin plating is not impossible - tin plating was used on silver
earlier in the nineteenth century, but it was said to stain clothing.
I think it unlikely to be used today. There is even reference in the
1870’s to bismuth plating on silver.

Nickel is not impossible - it was frequently used as an internediate
layer on rhodium and other plating and can provide a good bright
coating. However the concern about nickel allergies in recent times
and the ensuing legislation makes it unlikely that it is being used
in the way you suggest on any kind of a commercial scale.

How to tell? Luckily, tin is soft and scratches easily. However
rhodium and chromium are both very hard and very bright. I think that
it could be tricky to distinguish them simply and quickly - I’ll
mull this over and see if I can get some ideas.

Plating chromium or whatever onto silver or even white gold is
probably not illegal, but to tell customers that it has been rhodium
plated is certainly dishonest. But what about saying nothing? Still a
grey area (see numerous posts about non-disclosure fo rhodium plating
of white gold on Orchid in the past). I’ll check and see if the UK
Hallmarking guys will hallmark chromium plated silver.

By the way a year or so ago there was quiet a lot of 'internet chat’
about silver jewellery in shops being found to be attracted to a
magnet - any new

Regards to all

… and one day I really will make the Orchid dinner

Jack Ogden
International Jewellry & Precious Metal Network

I recently purchased a bunch of rhodium plated silver jewelry from
at least a dozen different companies at two trade shows in Atlanta
and Miami; many of the items (though interestingly not all!) do show
a magnetic attraction!

My store is located in a very large, fairly upscale mall, and think
I’m a fairly good judge of what’s “hot” in the silver jewelry
business. For me at least, the whole gemstone beaded necklace look is
over and dead in the water. What’s hot right now is rhodium-plated
sterling set with CZs (the jewelry looks exactly like white gold and
diamonds) and larger high polish geometric designs.

Much (most) of the rhodium and CZ jewelry is being made in China and
to a lesser extent in Thailand. I’ve spoken with several people who
claim and/or believe that a significant amount of the Italian made
jewelry of this type is actually being made in China, then shipped to
Italy, re-labeled and bagged and then sold as “Made in Italy”. They
claim that due to labor issues, coupled with the strength of the
Euro, this type of jewelry (I’m not talking about machine made
Italian chain, i.e., figaro, etc.) simply cannot be made in Italy and
sold for the prices some of it is being sold for.

Regardless, there must be literally hundreds of millions of dollars
of this rhodium plated jewelry being sold worldwide at the moment,
and I think it would be extremely interesting if someone more
educated and technically advanced than myself were able to find out
exactly what the real story is! Is this not something that industry
watchdogs and trade journals should be investigating on their own


Hi Doug;

Sorry, but I think that stuff is plain awful. I run a trade shop
and we decline to do any repair work or sizing on the stuff. You
simply can’t repair it, and I see plenty of it falling apart. I hope
it goes the way of the razor-blade thin triple herringbone chain.
Furthermore, it’s my opinion that if you are carrying that stuff, you
are joining in the race-to-the-bottom with the likes of Wal Mart, et.
al. They’ll buy it cheaper, sell it cheaper, and eat the returns.
Just my 2 cents.

David L. Huffman

I have always understood (including advice from a techy at one of my
suppliers), that one cannot directly plate rhodium over silver
without ruining the very expensive rhodium bath. I was always told
to plate with nickel first, then rhodium when plating over silver.
Nickel does exhibit slight magnetism, which could account for this.

Hello David and All: I have a real problem with white or rhodium
plated items coming in for repair also, I feel your pain. I wish I
could decline repair work or sizing on this stuff to, but since we
sell it, I can’t. The truth is that more and more white gold items
are plated. Maybe because of the ease of use of the off colored white
alloys or because many items are cast outside the USA and made for
sale in counties that have banned Nickle white gold. Maybe it’s even
cast in the USA but intended to be sold in other countries. I’m not
sure but I know that it doesn’t hurt that the item looks like
platinum when it’s brand new. You and I know it is a “bait and
switch” item and we don’t like it one bit. Even stuller is selling
white gold findings that are rhodium plated and require re-plating
after simply setting a stone in them. This sh–it is not going away
and will become so prevalent that you and all of us will have no
choise but to repair it or not work on anything white gold. You may
as well get set up for a plating operation. I know it makes me very
upset as I have ranted agnosium about it on this forum. Many of the
larger mass produced lines we carry like Greg Ruth, Leslie Green,
etc. are plated. I wish there was a earth frendly rhodium plating
solution but as far as I can find it is all cyanide based. I even
wrote an email to our alledged advasaries the JVC “Jewelers Vigilance
commitee” about my concern and didn’t get as much as a email back.
You would think that defrauding the public as to the color of the
gold of the item they are purchasing without disclosure would be a
hot topic to someone but it’s not, YET. Michael R. Mathews Sr.
Victoria,Texas USA JACMBJ

HI All Imitation Rhodium plating has been around since the mid 60’s.
It is a tin based plating bath and is that is plated over a base of
copper and nickel. It was developed to replace rhodium in costume
jewelry when the cost of rhodium became extremely expensive for
costume jewelry. If done properly Imitation Rhodium looks great. I
have actually used it as a decorative plate over Palladium, but the
key is to monitor your plating baths.

Paul DeFruscio


I’ve started some research on this, contacting relevant bodies etc
and hope to analyse some of the silver jewellery soon. Whether there
is a connection between chromium or other ‘fake’ rhodium platings and
the reported magnetic attraction of some silver jewellery awaits to
be seen.

It would be useful to receive any solid - in particular
the country or company origins of any ‘magnetic’ silver jewellery and
any clearer about the use of chrome plating on silver (at
the moment it is mostly hearsay).


Jack Ogden

Regarding one person’s comment about the inferior quality of rhodium

It’s my perception that 90% of the people on this board are a)
artisans/crafterpersons who handcraft very high quality jewelry or
b) fine jewelry retailers, or c) some combination of the two.

I, however, own a mall-based silver jewelry kiosk. In my opinion I
do what I do very well. However, it is would be pure folly for me to
sell only what I like; I have to cater to both the desires AND
economic realities of the public at large. Finally and perhaps most
importantly, when faced with an $8,000 monthly lease on a 144 square
foot space, you quickly learn to stock whatever sells!

I agree that the majority of rhodium plated sterling silver CZ
jewelry that comes out of Thailand and China is not of a quality
acceptable to most of the people on this board. However, I don’t
think that anyone who purchases a CZ rhodium piece from me for $40
thinks they are buying a future family heirloom that they’re going to
pass down to their children or grandchildren! They’re simply buying
something that is currently fashionable and looks good on them–next
year they’ll be in to something all together different, and so goes
the world of fashion. Quite frankly they are buying jewelry that
looks amazingly similiar to jewelry they (and many of us) could never
afford. It’s definitely style over substance, but it’s fun!

Regarding the comment that rhodium plated silver jewelry is actually
first plated with nickel and then plate with rhodium:

This explanation makes perfect sense! However, if this is indeed
what is occuring, how is this jewelry able to be sold in Europe,
where I believe by law all jewelry has to be nickel-free?!


BTW–we have a very liberal exchange policy; we want happy customers
who return often, and as such don’t hesitate to exchange items if a
stone falls out, the plating has worn off, etc.


It is typical to nickel flash before rhodium plating however, we do
make product where we rhodium plate directly over silver without a
problem=2E I’m not sure about the claim of it ruining rhodium
baths=2E And yes Nickel is a ferromagnetic material so it can become
magnetized when exposed to a magnetic field

Tino Volpe
Metallurgist, Technical Manager
Tiffany & Co
300 Maple Ridge Drive
Cumberland, RI 02864-8707

I wish there was a earth frendly rhodium plating solution but as
far as I can find it is all cyanide based. YET. 

Dear Michael,

Rio Grande sells only acid base rhodium plating solutions. FYI

Rio Grande Technical Support 1-800-545-6566

    Regarding one person's comment about the inferior quality of
rhodium jewelry . . .   I . . . own a mall-based silver jewelry
kiosk.  . . . when faced with an $8,000 monthly lease on a 144
square foot space, you quickly learn to stock whatever sells! 

Hello Doug and others;

I’m sorry if I came off as a snob. I reacted that way due to the
frustration I’m having at having to explain to customers on a
regular basis that the jewelry they have is really more along the
lines of “costume” jewelry than fine jewelry, even if it is made of
real silver and sometimes “genuine” Fact is, this has
come about as the final result of decades of selling jewelry that is
mass produced and placing the emphasis on the value of the materials
without regard for the workmanship or originality. It would be
difficult to get a price for base metal and plastic jewelry that
would pay the kind of rent you are saddled with, and I suppose
selling the good stuff in a kiosk would probably be unadvisable for a
number of reasons. And I’m sorry, I think that $8000/mo. is a heck
of a price to pay for a retail venue. On the other hand, I hope
you’ve researched the costs of other non-mall retail venues and the
possible sales volume. I’m not implying that you should change,
especially if you’re having fun, but here’s a few numbers from a
recent experiment I did in retail.

18 of us craftspeople rented an empty building on the Commons in
downtown Ithaca, NY, for 2 months. The rent was steep at $1800 a
month, but it was front and center and spacious (about 2,400 sq. feet,
I think). In that two months, we sold $53,000+ in things like
hand-made soap, hand-made clothing, photographs, chutney(!), pottery,
glass, and jewelry, including my line of un-plated sterling jewelry
with colored enamels and nice genuine gemstones ($35-$200 range).

At any rate, I’m sorry if I rubbed you the wrong way, it sounds like
you are doing business with integrity. I’m sure I’ll get used to
just sending those customers back to where they bought the stuff. As
for Stuller and companies like them plating white gold articles, I
don’t know why they bother except they probably think the less
informed retailers expect that hard, white look. I just end up
buffing it off after setting stones or sizing anyway. Best of luck.

David L. Huffman

I don’t know if anyone has given this much thought but I have
noticed for years that gold chains are all plated from the
manufacturers. I would imagine that they do this so their line is
consistant in color when laying side by side in a display case or
when their sales reps are selling to the retailer . It also enables
them to give a 14kt chain the look of an 18kt piece or simply a
brighter finish than the more reddish 14k piece. They are still
stamped properly though.

Is this deceptive, marketing, or both? The rhodium plating on white
gold, the numerous types of plating on silver, or the plating on
yellow materials to obtain the exact color a mfgr is shooting for is
done all the time. The bottom line is 14k is 58.5% gold by weight,
and sterling is 92.5% silver by weight. I would think the plating to
acheive a certain look does not alter this % by weight with any
statistical significance. This is a wide spread practice we need to
live with. I don’t think there is anything illegal about it.

Of them all, I find the chromish plating on silver to be the most
annoying because it leaves irreparable damage to a piece when repair
work needs to be performed. Which brings us to a throw away mentality
we are all encountering…but that’s another topic…


Hello All: I feel sheepish. My rhodium plating solution is acid based
not cyanide based. My gold plating solutions are cyanide based. Sorry
for the misMichael R. Mathews Sr.

Jim, It is typical to nickel flash before rhodium plating however, we
do make product where we rhodium plate directly over silver without a
problem I’m not sure about the claim of it ruining rhodium baths And
yes Nickel is a ferromagnetic material so it can become magnetized
when exposed to a magnetic field

Tino Volpe