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Is rhodium plating a common practice?


#1

We have a retail jewelry store that sells quite a bit of both 14k
and 18k white gold. I expect it to be rhodium plated.

We just had a customer in here very irate because the 18k white gold
ring that she purchased from us 1-1/2 years ago was turning yellow
on the bottom part of the shank.

We explained that all white gold (especially 18k) has a yellow cast
and is therefore plated. Since all gold comes out of the ground
yellow, it’s the choice of alloys that will determine the color of
the 14k/18k. 18k has less alloy, thus, will tend to appear more
yellow than 14k. I showed her how yellow yellow gold actually looks.
Etc, etc, etc.

To top it off, her “family’s jeweler” told her that “real” 18k white
gold is never plated. Sounds like sour grapes that the customer
shopped somewhere else.

Are we correct in believing that rhodium plating is a common
practice in the manufacture of white gold and even platinum jewelry?
Is there any literature available to help substantiate our position?

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Lauri Lipsey
The Jewelry Studio
Encino, CA


#2

Two points: One should never criticize another jeweler. we rarely
know the full story and most often the is second hand.
We all get tarred with the same brush. If you factually prove your
case, you may loose that customer. You want that person to be
pleased with the outcome not prove factually that you indeed are
correct. Just one person’s opinion, but the correct response is "How
can I make it right ?


#3

Rhodium plating of white gold jewelry (but not platinum) is a common
trade practice. It sounds, however, like you are buying what you
sell from various manufacturers and it is not uncommon for some of
them to simply plate yellow gold and call it white gold
(unfortunately for the trade as it is both unethical and illegal to
do this). I don’t know of any literature to substantiate that
plating is a common trade practice. There are many people out there
who feel plating should not be done at all. However your biggest
problem is that you aren’t informing the customers upon their
purchase of the pieces that the piece is plated and may need to be
replated at some point in the future. If you had properly educated
the customer to begin with this would not be coming back to bite you
in the foot now.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140
617-491-6000
@spirersomes
www.spirersomes.com


#4

Dear Lauri,

I will be interested in the responses you get from your question
myself, because from my own experiences, I avoid rhodium whenever
possible.

I bought a small manufacturing company more than twenty years ago,
and at that time, all white gold products we made were plated.
Gradually, over the years, and for a multitude of reasons, we do
absolutely no plating of our white gold. Just one of the reasons is
the very one you mention, that customers become very upset when the
color of their jewelry changes over time, and unless you
electro-strip the old rhodium off, the replating job looks bad.
Sizing a ring is a problem, which may be the reason your customer’s
ring turned yellow on the bottom.

I got rid of the dangerous chemicals many years ago, and would never
go back to that mess. I believe that once or twice, over the past
ten years, that we have had an occasion where a customer has
requested a piece be plated, and we just sent the item to a local
trade shop to have it done for them. I have had many more customers,
when ordering a white gold piece, request that no rhodium be used.

Just my own views on the subject, but wondering how others feel, Jon


#5

Hi Everyone, in response to rhodium plating, I NEVER plate over
white or yellow gold. I don’t like the way it looks and it’s not
good for repairing. My 14k and 18k look white gold don’t have a
yellowish cast. This may be because I generally have a really mirror
finish.

Just my 2 cents worth, Tara


#6
  Are we correct in believing that rhodium plating is a common
practice in the manufacture of white gold and even platinum
jewelry? 

Hi Lauri, Yes you are. I first learned about this practice when I
was buying chains in the downtown LA jewelry district at a highly
reputable seller of Italian-made chains and findings. I was looking
for a particular style of chain in white gold and the salesman told
me that he had it but doubted I would be interested in buying it.
Surprised, I asked why, and he showed me a hank of white gold chains
that all looked a dirty yellowish color. He explained that the
manufacturer had somehow neglected to rhodium-plate them and now no
one wanted them.

He then told me that all of the white gold chain they sold was
rhodium-plated and that this was a common practice for
mass-manufactured white gold goods. Since the plating is so
relatively thin, the karatage of the gold is not affected. In other
words, rhodium-plated, 18K white gold should still assay as 18K.

Here’s what I don’t understand though: How is it that a
custom-made, non-plated, l8K white gold ring looks plenty white, but
a mass-manufactured l8K white gold ring doesn’t unless it’s
rhodium-plated? Maybe different alloys are used? Maybe the custom
ring won’t look so white in a few months? What’s the story here? And
why isn’t it a common practice to disclose rhodium-plating?

As for supportive literature, I would suggest contacting the World
Gold Council and see what they have to say. Their website
(http://www.gold.org/finalgold/html/index.html) isn’t working for
Macs yet so I can’t do a search. Besides, I’m not sure they’d put
this info online anyway and you may need to call them.

I also found a commercial plating site (through a Google search)
that lists links that may be helpful
(http://www.artisanplating.com/links/index.html). Afraid I don’t
have time to explore it myself right now.

Beth


#7

One of the major jewelry chains has sent a message to their repair
depart ments, that all white gold sizing or other repairs need to be
rhodium pla ted when finished. This is for the same reason that you
had a problem wit h your customer. I have found that it is the same
with all the retail sto res that I do business with. Bill


#8

Although much 14 and 18 karat white gold is Rhodium plated, there
are alloys now on the market that are so white they don’t need
plating. Most of them have high nickel contents although I
understand there are now some nickel free alloys which are very
white - some using palladium and some magnesium as an alloying
metal. AJM recently had an article on these which was mentioned
here at orchid. Tom Kruskal


#9

Tara, Yes, well polished white gold alloys look very white. But
after a month of wear the surfaces are, indeed, yellowish, when
compared to silver or platinum or any other white metal. It’s not
JUST the color of the alloy, it also has to do with REFLECTIVITY.
Silver is much more reflective than any gold alloy and will always
appear whiter (ask anybody who has useda laser welder). It also
maintains a higher reflectivity as the surface becomes scratched and
brushed, compared to gold. Any white gold alloy WILL appear
yellowish on a worn surface ( compared to Pt or Ag) and that’s what
counts with the end customer. We always give them the option of
plating or not, and my 14 white alloy is a carefully formulated
special alloy which is very white compared to most 14K white gold
alloys and casts much better too (call Michael Elliott at North
American Metals in Van Nuys CA at 1-800-773-1626 and ask for the #302
alloy, tell him Wayne Emery sent you). But, as it wears, it doesnot
maintain that very white surface it had when polished…due to lower
reflectivity, which is inherent in the alloy. Can’t happen, won’t
happen, polished is not the same as worn.

Wayne Emery
Jewelry Design Studio
CAD modeling for the Trade 1-253-627-5737 wemery11@attbi.com


#10

Hello everyone My info on this subject is from when I was working in
a jewellery shop and as I work in silver, was very interested in the
silver chains that we were selling that did not seem to tarnish.

Asking the boss she told me that she would not sell silver chain or
charms that were not rhodium plated as they don’t tarnish. Since
then I have found that they do tarnish, very slowly, and not so
noticeable. Also the color is more like steel than silver. I does
wear off in time as a person wears it. In silver you can easily see
a difference in color between plated and not plated parts.

Personally I dislike rhodium plating on silver. I would rather find
another way to stop tarnish that looks more natural.

Karen Seidel-Bahr
the Rocklady
May your Gems always “Sparkle”


#11

Laura, I sincerely hope this works out for you but, with a
suspicious customer like this, the odds are against it. You are
absolutely correct about white gold having a yellow tinge to it and
14K being whiter than 18K etc. As white as they may be, there will
always be a certain amount of yellowing appear after time and wear.
Rhodium is the normal and preferred method of staving off the
yellowing but, as hard as rhodium is, it also will wear after a
period of time and there will be places that will begin to show
yellowing. Even platinum is often rhodium plated to harden and
preserve the high polish of the finish. We have been designing and
manufacturing custom jewelry for some 23 years now and find white
gold all-in-all unsatisfactory if the customer really wants “white”.
It is simply whiter than yellow,but… The expense of going up to
platinum is a consideration, certainly. However, the end result is
usually a long term pleased customer. As an aside, we have noticed a
marked increase in the number customers that have gained a "little"
knowledge of jewelry from the internet. This tends to make for
occasional very touchy situations in explaining and educating
customers regarding some of the more techinal aspects of jewelry
making. Try explaining how to solder on a new solitaire head for a
platinum ring with diamonds set all over the band. You simply cannot
use platinum solder on a job like this without smoking the diamonds -
and most “other” solders will show a bit of yellowing - unless you
rhodium plate afterwards… Conundrums! You will have to handle your
problem very carefully/patiently and hope the customer will
understand the facts. However, I seem to remember someone once saying
something about a little knowledge being dangerous. Best wishes in a
solution and satisfied customer.


#12

Yes, Rhodium plating is a fairly common practice. Much of the white
gold on the market is rhodiumed… Usually due to the alloys that
were used to make the white gold. Some alloys work better than others
and are whiter, thereby rhodium plating is not neccessary …
However, Many manufacturers and stores are not always aware of newer
alloys. When we produce white gold finished casting for our casting
customers, they are never rhodiumed and the castings keep their
white color. This is due to the alloys that we use for our 14k and
18k white gold. The 14k is white… the 18k is slightly less white,
but not noticable enough to require Rhodium plating. Daniel Grandi

We do casting,finishing and a whole lot more for stores, designers
and people in the trade. We also advertise on Orchid which more
people should if they are offering a service to the trade. Please
contact us off list at our company email: sales@racecarjewelry.com


#13
    Recently read an article by Cecilia Gardner of the  Jewelers
Vigilance Committee in Instore magazine on disclosure of rhodium
plating. FYI Although she(they) recommends disclosing rhodium
plating to your customers," there are no particular laws or
guidlines with which you must comply" 
Let me get this straight. A piece can be made entirely from white

gold, marked gold, then rhodium plated in such a fashion that EVERY
SINGLE SURFACE VIEWED BY A CUSTOMER is NOT gold, and THEN, according
to many of you experienced jewelers, regular wear will cause
UNSIGHTLY FLAKING AND WEAR such that the piece now must be either
replated or unplated somehow to be acceptable again to the customer.
AND DISCLOSURE IS NOT REQUIRED!? This PALES in comparison to most
gem treatments I’m aware of. Oh the SHAME of it.

Carl
1 Lucky Texan


#14

I felt that I HAD to add my 2 cents worth to this. I have been
selling jewelry since 1983. I am a G.G. and have been a buyer for a
chain of Department Stores. I think I am fairly experienced in our
field. I have NEVER, repeat, NEVER seen “unsightly flaking and
wear” on a piece of white gold (or platinum) jewelry which was
rhodium plated. I have seen both good and not-so-good rhodium plating
done, and I have seen the slightly yellowish cast of SOME white gold
alloys begin to show after rhodium has worn off the bottom of a ring
shank. If we’re gonna point fingers and RANK the sins that are
committed by jewelers, this lack of disclosure of a ROUTINE cosmetic
treatment is a very minor sin, if it is even a sin at all. (And while
I am a ‘true believer’ in ‘full disclosure,’ rhodium plating doesn’t
require it,IMHO. David Barzilay, Lord of the Rings


#15

The most common use for rhodium plating is of the white gold center
setting in bridal jewelry in gold (10 or 14k). White gold solitaires
would be totally plated and it would take many years for this
plating to wear off. Rhodium plating is frequently used as an
enhancement feature in jewelry where melee are incorporated into the
design. You most frequently find this application in promotionally
priced merchandise. Rhodium does not flake off, it wears away over
time. The best way to replate an item is to remove what exists of
old plating by polishing (buffing) it off and reapplying.


#16

Carl, Honest jewelers will disclose rhodium plating regardless of the
laws about it. If this issue bothers you a great deal than you
should join and be vocally active in the organizations like the JVC
that have some influence over how the laws are written. Please
remember that someone has to push to have the laws written. In the
meanwhile you can do your part by making sure you educate your
customers about it and disclose everything you can in an open and
forthright manner.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140
617-491-6000
@spirersomes
www.spirersomes.com


#17

All, It is interesting to note that those who benefit most from
rhodium plating are the ones who defend the practice. From the point
of view of the bench person who has to deal with plated goods, there
is no question about its being a pain in the rear. And, while it
(rhodium plate) does not usually peel off of gold jewelry it
certainly often does so with other metals. Furthermore, when heated,
as in retipping prongs or sizing, it often turns greyish black.

Justifying a questionable practice solely on the basis of its
enhancing customer appeal is a tenuous piece of logic. It IS a form
of deception just as 24 K plating of yellow gold is. The only time
that alteration of a Karat piece is justified, in my opinion, is
when you have a design that has impossible to polish recesses. In a
case of this type I use bombing while leaving the remainder of the
piece in its true Karat finish. When I have a repair that may require
re-plating I simply turn it down. Lately a number of pieces have
come into my shop with rhodium plated channels. They also have
another questionable practice wherein the melee have been set in the
usual burred recess on one side while using a bead on the other
side. Unfortunately this practice tends to result in lost stones,
especially when cleaned in the ultrasonic. I urge you to stay away
from this kind of involvement, unless, of course, you are
masochistic. Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.


#18

WELL!

I must now embarrass myself (some would say further) by admitting I
’misspoke’ myself and meant for the next to last line to say
something like ‘Almost any gem treatment I’m aware of PALES in
comparison to the issue of rhodium plating not being disclosed.’
Sorry for the confusion. I must try to engage my brain better before
hitting the ‘send’ button.

Of course, even phrases like ‘gold filled’ and ‘Alpaca’ I believe are
confusing to many potential jewelry buyers. I can remember first
hearing the term gold filled thinking it meant -like- solid gold. Not
gold ‘clad’ or ‘sandwiched’. There are alot of misleading terms in
metalsmithing. German Silver, OK gold. But that rhodium plating
thing really got me steamed after all the concern over heated
sapphires, irradiated topazes, etc.

Carl
1 Lucky Texan


#19

Howdy David,

I bow to your greater experience and I wish I had said 'patchy’
instead of flaky.

I just feel it is a little assymetrical to OBSESS about gemstone
treatments and not use the same critical eye towards metalsmithing.
Suppose you substituted ‘gemstone treatment’ for ‘rhodium plating’ in
the above and were describing a stone instead of a ring. Folks would
be HOWLING for disclosure. Perhaps I am alone in this, but if a
sapphire started becoming patchy looking and required re-treatment
someone might get sued. Yes, there are plenty of ‘sins’ to rank
aren’t there; like red emerald (still beryl) OR using a term like
German Silver (no silver).

Carl
1 Lucky Texan


#20
And while I am a 'true believer' in 'full disclosure,' rhodium
plating doesn't require it,IMHO

I completely agree, David. I think a better use of this bandwidth
would be for those who have experience with white gold alloys that
don’t require rhodium to post them here. Sometimes platinum just
won’t fit the bill for whatever reason, but it would be nice to avoid
rhodium if possible.

Rick Martin