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Rhodium plating

This is a question for professional platers. I have a small piece of
jewelry that I designed and reproduce. It is sterling and has an
added piece that is 14kt… I’ve had a terrible time with the silver
tarnishing around the gold. It looks awful and the average person
has no way of keeping it looking nice after it’s started to blacken.
Soooo I thought if I rhodium plated the silver this would no longer
be a problem. After having a few pieces plated I’ve noticed after
some time, there is a blackening taking place even on the rhodium.
Am I just replacing one metals problems for another? Does rhodium
tarnish also under some circumstances? Was it a bad plating job? I
would be curious to hear comments and suggestions. Please don’t tell
me to live with the evils of sterling, there has got to be a
solution. Thanks ~Poppy~

in order to plate silver with rhodium you must first nickel plate
plate the silver.

Best regards,
Mike Masciarelli

I use a pen plater to cover up problems like this - so I’m not sure
if I qualify as a “professional plater.” Your problem is being caused
by the copper in the sterling silver migrating through the rhodium.
It’s this copper that’s tarnishing. You need to electroplate with
nickel before plating with anything else.

Tony Konrath
Gold and Stone

Hello Poppy, Just a thought here. If the sterling part is cast, do
it with the non-oxidizing sterling alloy casting grain. It’s
available from Indian Jewelery Supply and some other metal suppliers.
Daniel Grandi (Racecar Jewelry) tells me that the alloy melts at a
slightly higher temp than regular sterling, so soldering on it should
be no problem. As far as I know, there is no non-ox sterling solder
though. <Say that phrase three times quickly - I dare you!> Hey, if
anyone out there is aware of someone who supplies the non-ox sterling
in sheet and wire, I’d love to know about it. As always, thanks for
all the generous folks who share their knowledge, Judy in Kansas

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Extension Associate
221 Call Hall Kansas State Univerisity
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-1213 FAX (785) 532-5681

Poppy, If the plater has not left the piece in long enough oxygen will
tarnish the silver.Oxygen is very aggressive.It is like an obsessive
lover it will not leave silver alone.You need to build up the plating
to provide protection.Also the piece must be spotless and buffed to a
high luster.The plating solution can also create problems.If the
person that plated your pieces is using old “spent” solution you will
not get the desired effect on your pieces.I get silver pieces in all
the time that I replate for customers.The first thing I do is buff all
the old plating off using white diamond.Polish with rouge.Next I
ultrasonic the piece and steam,taking care to use tweezers with rubber
coated tips and not to touch the piece as you can plate your
fingerprints on the piece.Remember that the finish you see on the
piece before you put it into the plating solution is what you are
going to get as the final plated finish.I use a platinized titanium
anode and good rhodium solution.You can build your own set up easily.I
bought an old rectifier from a used electronic equipment dealer.I have
three and I have never paid more than $75 for one.I have a bottle of
rhodium from Rio.My anode came from them also.I use a glass that holds
a little more than a cup.I used to use an old stainless steel knife
blade for an anode until I forked out the cash for a fancy anode.The
wiring for my rectifier came from radio shack,I use my watch to time
how long I will leave the piece in solution.You have to experiment to
see how much amperage and voltage to use.Not enough current and it
will be dark to much and it will be white and crystalline I let a
stream of bubbles come off the piece but not a full boil.For rings you
will want to leave them in longer due to the wear factor.Pendants and
earrings require less time in the old tank.After the piece has been
plated rinse in cold water and pour your rhodium solution back into
the bottle it came out of to be used again.You can tell when it is no
longer and good as it will not plate as quickly or as well.
Regards J Morley Coyote Ridge Studio

After reading the posts about Rhodium plated chains, I have a couple
of questions…is it possible to remove Rhodium plating from chains
and other items? How? Could it cause problems in casting if
Rhodium plated scrap was melted for casting?

May I add my heartfelt thanks for this list… I feel such a sense
of community and daily learning as I have Orchid along with my
morning coffee!


Totally irrelevant trivia: The first ‘commercial’ use of rhodium
plating is said to be for the reflectors of the stage lights for
Radio City, New York in 1933.

The earliest patent for rhodium plating I know of is from 1931.
(There is more of such dating stuff etc on my web site

Jack Ogden

I have had no experience with plating so I am quite nieve in this
subject. I was chatting with an aquaintance who was wearing a
beautiful tanzanite and diamond bracelet she purchased in a tourist
town in Alaska. She had seen it in yellow gold and wanted it in white
gold. She was told it was no problem come back in fifteen minuites
and you would have it in white gold. They told her that they would
plate it in rhodium. When she returned it was a beatiful white color.
They then told her that it was now white gold. They went on to say
that the plating goes so deep that if you cut a link in half the
only part that would be yellow was the very center sliver so that the
white would never wear off.

Now I am new to metalwork and as I stated I have never plated, but
this does not make sense to me. If indeed you can turn yellow gold
into white, why can’t I turn copper into yellow gold? Or for that
matter when you rhodium plate silver why does’nt it turn into white

I’m pretty sure someone will tell me she got scammed but I could be
wrong. If someone would be so kind as to further explain the plating
process I would appreciate it.

Julie Hockley
Portland, Oregon.


Rhodium is an electroplating. Some very large companies like RADO
watch will use a far more expensive method with a charged plasma
vapor machine. This is a very durable coating and the only kind that
has a good record for lasting decades. Electroplating can be done
fairly thick, but I think the whole thing was overstated.

The gold stayed yellow under the plating, and is still yellow gold.
The only white gold is made with a white alloy, which looks much
better than yellow as the rhodium wears off, and it will. A great
rhodium plating lasts years on fine jewelry that is worn on
occasion. Even daily wear should not wear out plating for many
months. Poor plating may only last weeks.

Unfortunately, rhodium plating only hides the true color of the
gold, quite different than the implication your friend got that the
gold had truly changed color.

Daniel Ballard


Your friend has had her leg pulled way past any reasonable limit,
first Rhodium is far more expensive than Gold or Platinum, Second
done that fast it could be nothing more than flash plated, even a
good controlled electro plating is only a few microns as in like a
few thousandths of an inch thick.

In other words either they just flat out lied! Or the piece is white
gold filled, but it is in NO WAY WHITE GOLD. Rhodium is as far
removed from gold, as a kite is from a rocket ship. (both get up in
the air) I think is a very sad commentary on business ethics when I
hear something like that…

Kenneth Ferrell

PS. would your friend be interested in a bridge I need to sell??
It’s real pretty sort of an orange color but in the right light it
does look Golden ;^0

Rhodium plating is just placing a layer, through electrical
conduction, of a platinum family metal onto a piece of metal.

This does not change the base metal that is being plated. So, if
the metal being plated is yellow gold, it is still yellow gold
underneath. The plating is actually so thin that you could wear it
off. It does get thicker the longer that you leave it while being

I have a customer that has a few pieces that are yellow gold, and
she loves the look of white. She likes to keep it looking bright
and new, so she has me re-plate them every few months. Even the
plating that is placed on white gold pieces eventually wears and
looks dull again, and needs to be re-plated to keep it looking
bright and white.

Sadly, your friend was decieved in the way the plating process and
how thick it goes. It is very sad that sales people mislead their
customers due to either a lack of knowledge and understanding, or
because they choose to ignore the facts to make a sale.

Richard Jones
RJ Manufacturing
Cottonwood Jewelers

PO Box 668
Cottonwood, CA 96022
TEL (530) 347-9681
FAX (530) 347-9683

What your friend got was Rhodium plated yellow gold, not white gold.
You can’t turn one metal into another by plating it.

– Leah

What they told her is definitely a lot of malarkey (well there’s a
better word to use here, but I’ll be polite). Rhodium plating does
not penetrate the metal, it only coats it. It will not be white all
the way through.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

Yep total BS Rhodium plating is only a few millionths of an inch
thick. It will wear off on the areas that get abraded in a short
time (months )

Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160

Member of the Better Business Bureau

Hi Julie:

Rhodium is not white gold and I’m amazed that they covered the
yellow gold with rhodium!

Rhodium is a metal found in the same ore from which one would
extract platinum. The ores aRe: platinum, iridium, palladium,
osmiridium, ruthenum and rhodium. The Platinum Group.

Rhodium a very hard metal, so perfect for plating. It’s also bright
and shiny and doesn’t tarnish.

I only know a little about gold since much of my jewelry is vintage
costume. I know pink gold has more copper in it (used along with
silver, zinc and nickel to strengthen gold). I believe that what is
used to strengthen the gold will determine the color. Please help me
out here if I’m way off base.

Hope this helps,
Worn to Perfection
Vintage Jewelry, Vanity Items and Estates

Hi Julie;

    They then told her that it was now white gold. They went on to
say that the plating goes so deep that if you cut a link in half
the only part that would be yellow was the very center sliver so
that the white would never wear off. 

That is a flat-out lie. It’s still yellow gold (if it every really
was) with a few microns of Rhodium on the surface, no white gold
present at all. Depending on how she wears it, it could stay white
for as much a couple years to as little as a couple days before the
yellow starts peeking through.

    I'm pretty sure someone will tell me she got scammed 

We will ALL tell you she got scammed. I’m amazed at how bold some
liars are.

David L. Huffman

Julia, isn’t it nice to have confirmed for you, that your “crap
detectors” are working perfectly? Rhodium plating, while it forms a
surface that is rather harder than the surface of most precious
metals it’s used upon, is still a very thin layer. It will last for
a while, but it will wear thought. The thickness of the layer is
less than the thickness of a thin tissue paper or thin aluminum
foil. Considerably less. And this is especially true of the quick
rhodium plate that the store could have applied in that time. It’s
thick enough to give the surface a nice white color, but that’s it.
the gold underneath that thin electroplate is still yellow gold. No
way around that, nor around the fact that your friend was blatantly
lied to. It’s very unlikely indeed that the sales person who told
her that junk didn’t fully understand that it wasn’t true.


Whilst I agree that your friend was lied to it may not have been on
purpose. I have made several pieces for a sales assistant at a local
retail jewellers (shows good taste, what?) and when discussing metal
for a current project - a large sunstone ring I mentioned white gold
and was asked “Oh you do plating do you?” because " white gold is
just yellow gold plated over". That was a firmly held belief by this
pleasant, honest woman- presumably what she had been taught! I
explained the error, nicely. We settled on 18k yellow for her
sunstone. Mind you it could have been true as far as most of the
mass-produced merchandise in the store where she works!

Andy Parker, Agate House Lapidary
Ulverston, Cumbria, England
Tel: 01229 584023

One other caveat I might add:

If your friend got the jewelry in Skagway (you didn’t specify the
town), then I would definitely be a bit suspicious; many of the newer
places there that sell jewelry are Asian, and appear to be more the
type found doing some of the “dubiously honest” (or worse) sorts of
things on e-bay, and such places. On the other hand, there are some
really good places in Skagway, too, especially the older established

Margaret (who has spent a fair amount of time in Skagway.)

Hello Ganoksin,

Would you mind sending to me details and appropriate links to
articles on the wearability, length of time lasting for rhodium
plating onto gold surfaces, thickness, defects of and such like
for Rhodium plating please.