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Rhodium on sterling silver

Do you rhodium plate silver, and if so, what are your long term results?

I like working with silver but seldom get requests for it. I have one customer who reorders a particular sterling pendant, 6 at a time, then puts them in his showcase. Even though they are deox silver they tarnish a bit over time. I’d like to try to remedy that if I can.

In the old days we never would directly rhodium sterling because the rhodium was not impervious to oxides. We had to flash copper plate, then nickel plate to get a good barrier coat that would prevent future oxidation bleeding through.

I’m just not sure if rhodium alone is a good long term solution with the newer low oxidation sterling silver alloys?

Any thoughts?
Thanks
Mark

Well I know everybody says that you have to plate palladium on first and then rhodium but I have silver sample pieces in my case that I only rhodium plated two years ago and they look fine. For things that I want to stay silver colored and not look like rhodium I spray with clear powder coat and bake in an oven at 325 degrees. Powder coat is a finely ground hard plastic that is used in the automotive industry.

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Great information. Thanks

Speaking as someone who has worked in busy trade shops…
I bloody well HATE rhodium plated jewelry. Especially silver that has been
rhodium plated.
It is a total nightmare to to take a torch to. When sizing rings, as you
cut and bend the shank the plating cracks and splits .When you take a torch
to it it blisters and peels off. That would be fine if the whole thing lost
it’s plating. But nooooo. It blisters only in spots. The whole ring then
has to be hand sanded through three layers of plating.and refinished. That
adds twenty minutes to labor costs and makes sizing un profitable and very
unpleasant. Chains blister too when soldered on. No way to sand those links
gracefully.
Eventually the plating wears off and the customer is left with a ring that
has both nickel and cooper showing through.
Sorry abut the rant. But just sayin’…
It’s silver. It tarnishes. Even Argentium.
Embrace it and learn to live with it.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
-Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com

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Jo speaks truth. One has only to size one rhodium plated ring to learn that cruel lesson! The chrome like finish looks like cheap costume jewelry - at least to me.

Judy in Kansas who watched a game win last night.

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Agreed. Always avoid plating silver. It has its own natural beauty and plating will not only look unnatural but can create future problems.

This is an unusual and unique situation. The margins are very low and refinishing of this mixed finish piece is very time consuming and costly. So we need something to prevent tarnishing of a silver pendant. It must be silver yet must not tarnish. :slight_smile:

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I’ve been reading about chains on Rio’s website and noticed that they sometimes say they plate sterling silver chains with fine silver to keep them bright.

Would that work? Plating the sterling with fine silver?

(I may be way off base here, but I thought I’d post the idea anyway.)

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I’ve plated sterling with fine ailver and also depletion gilded large
pieces of holloware as well as smaller pieces of jewelry. It still
eventually tarnishes. Though much more slowly.
I do it to hide fire scale, not as a tarnish prevention procedure.
Now that I mostly use Continuum silver I don’t have issues with fire
scale so much.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
-Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com

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Yes the commercially plated pieces are a nightmare to size or repair. I mostly turn them down. But I have noticed that this is not the case with the very light plating I can do in my shop. One of the reasons I like powder coating is that I can drop the piece in a stripper that is made for it and have all the plating eaten off of it in an hour. Then I can solder with out problems and re-coat. The down side is that it will get on the stones if you don’t protect them with silicone tape.

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I had the same “pealing” effect but I noticed that it happened only when there was a nickel plate underneath. I had no issues with white gold which was rhodium plated.

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Sterling jewelry is often plated with fine silver. This will keep it white (silver) until it is sold. Once the piece is worn, the plating will start wearing off. This is especially true of chains because they have constant abrasion. Also, even pure silver tarnishes over time.

Rhodium plated sterling will remain silver and shiny since rhodium is in the platinum family (doesn’t tarnish) and is very hard (doesn’t scratch like silver).

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Can you please provide name of clear powder coat product.

I order it online from Eastwood automotive.

Have you considered working with Argentium instead of 925?

I have followed with fascination the concern about solder changing the purity of jewelry. And quite honestly I have shaken my head a few times. But here we are talking about rhodium plating sterling to keep it looking shiny. I know this topic comes up on occasion and I have replied before. How is it that we have not simply created rhodium plated jewelry? And in an industry so concerned with purity of metals how can we call the plated jewelry sterling? Sterling, once polished and finished, develops a look through wear and age that is impossible to get otherwise. And as stated previously plated sterling is a nightmare to repair. Granted I work at a craft level and I am not displaying in cases in a shop with a street entry. I do arts shows and the occasional gallery. Is the distinction simply where we market our work or am I missing something of which I should be aware.

Don Meixner

I always thought the plating on silver was chrome because it’s so hard. There’s a lot of it that I won’t work on. I have to use a sanding disc to get that stuff off of where it’s bubbled up like a bad paint job, if there’s detail all I can do is hopefully brighten it up some. I just hate to work on something that before I start work on it I know the finished product is going to be half ass after spending 3 or 4 times the amount of time on it that I would have if it didn’t have that stuff on it. Even heavy curb or figaro chains are stupid hard to work on because of that plating. Once it starts coming off of chains they’re just through as far as I’m concerned, an 8" buff with bobbing compound wont even brighten it once it goes south. I have no way to even sand that plating out of the inside of the links even if I had the willingness to spend that kind of time on it. It just gives jewelry a life span to do that to it, and that’s a shame for a several hundred gram chain. I just consider it a poor manufacturing process used only to prevent tarnish and turning it into trash jewelry.

Sterling has to be nickel plated before being Rhodium plated. As you can see by the responses jewelers absolutely hate it!
Besides, it looks so fake compared to the glow of sterling.