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Rhodium plating on sterling


#1

A customer has brought me two old sterling bracelets to be
embellished.

They are inexpensive commercially made bracelets by “La Mode,” but
of great sentimental value to her. Both are stamped “sterling,” but
have been heavily plated with rhodium, and I am concerned about
doing any soldering on them, She wants me to add some bezel set
stones to the bracelets which will involve soldering and pickling.

As she is a favorite customer I would like to oblige her,but as I
have never worked with anything plated with Rhodium I thought I
had better get some advice before I committed to the job. Thanks for
your help.

Alma


#2

Ooooh Alma! You say, “Both (bracelets) are stamped “sterling,” but
have been heavily plated with rhodium, and I am concerned about doing
any soldering on them, She wants me to add some bezel set stones to
the bracelets which will involve soldering and pickling.”

Soldering will be nasty! Unless you can replate, tell your customer
up front that the rhodium plating will be lost and to expect the
silver to patina with time. YOU need to plan on more time with this
job to deal with the plating. I’ve sized a couple rings that were
rhodium plated and they were a bear to polish afterward - every
little depression held remains of that shiney metal. I won’t do it
again!! Very time-consuming.

Is it possible to find a way to do cold connections for the bezels??
If the client is determined to add the embellishments and wants to
preserve the plating, look for a way to rivit the additions. I’ll bet
there will be some other suggestions from this group, but I think it
would be easier to fabricate an entire new bracelet than to deal with
soldering on rhodium-plated sterling.

Just my hackles rising here,
Judy in Kansas


#3

Alma: Be carefull. Most sterling items that are Rhodium plated are
Nickle plated first and that will bubble up as you heat it and make
a mess.

Michael R. Mathews Sr.


#4

Alma,

Much as you would like to accomodate this customer, the best thing
you can do is decline the job. If you try to do the proposed work,
you will remove the rhodium plating, but probably not completely.
Unless you then want to send it someplace, (don’t ask me where), to
be stripped and replated, the only other choice you have is to
completely remove the rest of the plating and refinish it as you
would any other sterling bracelet. Been there, done that, only in my
case it was a ring. Nevermore! :frowning:

Jerry in Kodiak


#5

Hi Alma, DON’T do it. If you solder to the heavy rhodium plated
bracelet you will have a bubbled ugly finish that will turn pink in
the pickle. Either figure out to do a cold connection, rivets of
some sort or turn the job down. I always strive to make a repair or
redesign look better when it leaves the shop then when it comes in.
All the best for a great Christmas season.

Janine in Redding, CA.


#6

Thank you all for the advice about the difficulties of soldering
sterling plated with rhodium. I’ll explain the problems to my
customer and then decline the job. I am glad I checked with Orchid
before agreeing to do anything with the bracelets. Thanks a million
for taking time to reply to my questions

Alma


#7

Richard:

I want to thank you for your response on rhodium plating
platinum/white gold. This group is a wonderful forum for opinions
across the board, and I have truly appreciated the input from artist
and salesperson alike. At Donald Haack we pride ourselves on
educating the customer, and it was never an issue of disclosure. I
was approaching the question from a customer service standpoint, in
that I was curious if anyone considered the plating process a viable
option for platinum customers. Your post echoes my experience with
customers responses to white gold and the small amount of occasional
maintence. Those who are true fans of platinum usually have the same
type response when it comes to occasionally bringing their pieces in
to be polished, its a small price to pay for having the metal of
their choice. Thanks to all who have responded!

Kimberlee A. Hughes
Donald Haack Diamonds
www.donaldhaack.com


#8

I know I’m very late on this, But sterling that has been rhodiumed
usually has a nickel plate as prep for the rhodium. This will bubble
at soldering temperatures, and the only way to deal with it (short of
a master’s degree in chemistry and an industrial plating setup) is to
sand it off. If you try polishing, the silver will wear away before
the nickel. So, unless the piece has little texture, i would avoid
it. If the customer insists, it should be at their risk, and advise
them that the metal will look dark where the nickel is exposed,
possibly mottled. I would tumble and not polish, since you’ll remove
more of the rhodium plating. Nickel underplating is used in low end
and some"designer" jewelry. It’s cheaper than gold plating (silver
cannot be rhodium plated without a gold or nickel {+sometimes copper}
undercoat. It also adds strength to a fine or thin silver piece. So,
if it’s an antique reproduction in silver, with czs for stones,
don’t do it. I tell customers that the money they saved in the
purchase price of a silver knockoff of a gold piece they will spend
(and sometimes more) in maintaining it.