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Rhodium Rant...Rhodium plated diamond?


#1

Greetings, This is gonna hurt…please bear with me, as I have been
silent for some time now, but can no longer remain so… In the past
week or so, I have read numerous posts regarding a princess diamond
in a platinum mount which “turned gun-metal blue” after being
rhodium- plated. Patiently, I awaited the posting of some sensible
advice to the poor person who came to Ganoksin seeking wisdom
regarding the problem. Not only was I disappointed, I was bloody
horrified at the advice that was posted. (Remove the diamond and
have it recut. Etch the rhodium off with hydroflouric acid?) There
were numerous cautions about hydroflouric acid, but none about the
cause of the problem, the commonly used but woefully misunderstood
rhodium plating. Rhodium is a cosmetic…relatively easily removed
without harsh chemicals… all you need to do so is to apply a
moderate amount of torch heat, pickling, and some careful polishing.
My guess is that the “jeweller” (as described) found it necessary to
rhodium plate the platinum due to a bad and ugly solder-job when
fitting the setting to the mount. They were apparently using a new
batch of solution for the plating process, used too much voltage for
the solution while plating, and the plated metal turned dark. He or
she was probably able to buff the accessible areas back to a normal
colour, but not the area behind the setting. This happens. I must
also assume that the princess diamond was cut too shallow, which
would allow any discolouration visible below the diamond to filter
through, altering its overall appearance. The inaccesible area behind
the diamond would be the most difficult to effectively plate
brightly, because it can harbour oils, dirt, polishing compound, as
well as a host of other contaminants…and anyone who has used
rhodium plating with any success would be aware of the fact that
rhodium must be applied to pristinely-clean surfaces, or it will
show as a dark stain. To remove rhodium plating from a mount
requires the advice of someone who has performed this relatively
simple task. If it were necessary to remove rhodium from a diamond
(my god, I can’t believe I read what I did), the fat-cat
mass-producers of cheezy 10K cast-in place diamond clusters would be
removing all of the .01 ct single-cut diamonds and sending them out
for repolishing. Use your heads on this one. My advice is thus…as it
has been before…DO NOT RELY ON THESE POSTS AS GOSPEL WHEN YOU ARE
DEALING WITH ITEMS THAT BELONG TO FAITHFUL CLIENTS. Please…find a
jewellery professional in your area who can offer you sound advice
and service that puts integrity first. Otherwise, you could wind up
being the subject of the next “Bad Jeweller” story. I offer my
sincere apology to anyone who may have been offended by this post,
but I cannot sleep knowing that amatuers are giving advice to
amatuers, with clients jewellery heading into the abyss As for the
use of rhodium in general, I have had enough of it, and wish to
approach regulatory bodies to urge that they require rhodium plated
items to be stamped as such. I have personally purchased items which
were invoiced to me as 18K white gold, which were in fact 18K yellow
gold, heavily rhodium plated. Imagine my surprise when I drilled a
hole to set a diamond, and a little bright curl of yellow peeled up.
The shocked importer got the goods back. He was unaware, and very
embarrased. If you have ever performed a repair on a ring which had
stones mounted in yellow gold which was subsequently rhodium plated,
you would know that you are performing the service for cost by the
time that you finish screwing around with it to get it to look right
again. This often involves burning off the rest of the heat-damaged
rhodium, repolishing to a fine finish, thorough ultrasonic followed
by steam-cleaning, then masking the areas that should not be plated
with a resist such as nail polish, and waiting for it to harden,
crossing your fingers that the solution that you are haven’t used
for 3 months is still good, and dunking the mount into the bath,
being careful about copper contaminants…and then stripping off
the resist, only to find that one area blackened, or didn’t plate,
or overplated because the resist chipped off when you weren’t
looking…the invention of new expletives follows such an elaborate
project…and then, to add insult to injury, the retail jeweller who
contracts your services balks at paying $20.00 to retip four
claws…thinks you are gouging. If you can, stay away from the use of
rhodium, or people who think that it is a substitute for white gold.
It is about as ethical as spray-paint, and lasts about as long.
Insist that white gold appear on your invoices, and be wary of the
term “Two tone” when making your purchases, and get several
references for the companies that you contract to for platinum work.
I have seen enough platinum mounts gobbed up with white gold solder
to seriously worry me about the future of our industry. Hiding ugly
solder with rhodium is grounds for … Alright, I have said enough.
Please, don’t be a “Bad Jeweller”, get some one-on-one advice from a
professional when necessary, but never be afraid to ask the fine
cyber junkies at Ganoksin what on earth box-cutters are… you may
recieve 10 replies, all of them completely factual. David Keeling


#2

Dear All, I must admit I agree with everything Mr. Keeling stated in
his “rant”, although I must also admit that I believe he painted all
of us on this forum as a bunch of schmucks (American slang for stupid
people). I know I, right along with others like Mr. Keeling, read
posts such as the one he refers to, and occasionally shudder at the
mis-I read, however I am working 12+ hours a day, seven
days a week, and I usually just read and absorb the
only rarely responding to questions when I feel I may have some
special experience that may be of benefit.

I especially agree that the use of rhodium, for most of the
applications that I have seen and worked on, is one of deceit.
Either the manufacturer is trying to make people think that the ring
he or she made was assembled in white and yellow gold, or he is
trying to hide the slight yellow color of most white gold alloys, and
either method is dishonest. A simple sizing or retipping on a
rhodium plated item will add hours onto a simple job, and often the
end results are far from perfect.

I got rid of my rectifier and plating solutions nearly twenty years
ago, and only will send out a piece to be plated if the customer
insists upon it. If your customers don’t like the yellow color of
white gold, then recommend platinum, but don’t make a problem
waiting for some unsuspecting “schmuck” to find in a year or two.

Jon Michael Fuja


#3

Thank you for your insights on rhodium plating. Perhaps you can
advise me on a problem I have. AGAINST MY ADVICE a customer had me
rhodium plate a Byzantine (?) chain. Needless to say, he has come
back and wants the rhodium removed after about 6 months. Is
electro-striping a solution? Can the chain be heated to get the
rhodium from between the links? Any help would be greatly
appreciated. TBear (It was a pleasure to politely tell the customer
"I told you so."


#4

I too have been reading patiently. What follows is my experience.
Not someone elses second hand experience.

In over thirty years, I have never seen a diamond become rhodium
plated. Not once. I might expecty a natural blue diamond to accept
rhodium, but I have never seen it happen and have never even thought
of the possibility until now. On more than one occaision, I have seen
diamonds with burned on dirt or rouge. This can sometimes give the
appearance of a blue/black color. Removal and cleaning is sometimes
required. In most cases, I have been able to clean up the work with
lye (caustic soda/sodium hydroxide, Drano). When cleaning with lye
care needs to be used as many stones will be damaged by the use of
it(opal,emerald, etc.). Personal safety also needs to be considered.

Truely burned diamonds become a milky color. Every “bad jeweler” has
learned of this nightmare. If the stone has a gray or black colur, it
has been subject to very high temperatures. Burned diamonds are
microscopically pitted on the surface and can be recut. They are
generally okay internally. Thermal shock by heat and quenching can
cause inclusions to expand.

This is all from my personal experience.


#5

Hello David Keeling;

You’re point is well taken about “amateurs advising amateurs”. And
I like the way you said it. And you may not agree with me that,
believe it or not, it’s actually better that way. I think that’s
because I have a different definition of “amateur”. I’ll try to make
a long story short.

Amateurs are generally quite generous with their knowledge, and some
of them are very, very knowledgeable.

Professionals are more often guarded about sharing the truly useful
they have and some of them are woefully ignorant, to
boot.

I didn’t want to offer the advice to heat the diamond. From the
description, it seemed as if somehow the diamond itself had taken on
a coating of something. Never heard of such a thing, but I thought
I’d hear about something new from one of our more knowledgeable
members. I’ve been around long enough to know that I don’t know
everything. Dipping in boric, heating, and pickling is a method I
often rely on to clean dirty mountings that otherwise would sit for
hours in the ultrasonic to no avail. But I know how much to heat and
how much not to heat. You don’t want to really bake on the dirt,
just loosen it a bit, and get the boric acid to take some of it up.
I also know that if you heat a princess cut, you can, as with any
diamond, burn the surface of the stone. In a white gold mounting,
you’d probably melt the mounting first, but in platinum, well . . .
advising amateurs is often a matter of discretion. You can’t be
there to tell them “hold it, that’s too hot, you’re going to burn
that diamond!” Personally, I would have put the torch to it. But
you’re right, when you’re looking at a situation like that, it would
be ideal to know a good jeweler to help you, but if you know much
about jewelers, you’ll know that in the wild there are a dozen
"amateurs" (I prefer to be less generous and call the “hacks”)
working the bench for every knowledgeable veteran. Our industry is
largely unregulated. Why would it be any different in the business
community than it is here on Orchid? We’ve got the best, and the
very beginner, right here, and that’s about what you’ll get in the
"real" world. I know there’s only one jeweler out of the dozen or so
in my town I’d go to for advice, and I know half the time, I could
just as easily advise him.

I respect your position, and I think you are mostly right. On the
other hand, I think the value of the enthusiasm and generosity of
amateurs is worth the risk that someone, sometime, is going to get a
wrong answer. I don’t want to discourage them from participation in
this forum. I’m sure that if they are far enough of base, some
"professional" may just reign them in . . . and for that matter, how
do we know that some of the worst advice didn’t come from some of the
"professionals"?

David L. Huffman


#6

thanks for your advise, it seems that the process of plating yellow
gold came about because of the white metal craze and it was less
expensive to plate rings etc then to have stones reset in white
metal ie white gold or platinum.

I admit that I am guilty of doing this with a necklace, which was
yellow and white gold. The yellow gold parts had to be replated 3
times. The cost of materials to replace the yellow for white gold
would have been around $20, plus labour. It would have been much
better if the jeweler had talked me into having a few pieces
replaced.


#7

Well, I guess I can jump in here, too. I have never heard of or seen
a diamond turn blue or any other color due to rhodium plating. I
used to routinely rhodium plate after setting a diamond in a white
gold head, makes it look a little whiter, brighter, whatever… I
wouldn’t necessarily agree that rhodium plating is always deceptive.
The process has its uses. If a customer has a sensitivity to nickel,
for instance, a rhodium plating can be a solution. Like every
technique, you have to use it judiciously, not
indiscriminately -BK in AK


#8

I misunderstood this post. A gemstone cannot be plated by Rhodium,
especially a diamond. Why? Because plating is done with electricity
and only items that conduct electricity can plate. Gold conducts, but
stones don’t. Probabaly 75% of stones can be dunked in the plating
solution and not be harmed by the solution itself. None will actaully
plate. Stones that will be harmed by the acids in the plating
solution are thinsg like:

Emeralds (they are oiled) Pearls

Etc.
David Geller