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To Rhodium or Not to Rhodium?

Hello Orchid folks! I just started a line, and have my first samples
with a showroom to try them out for sales during this NY accessories
and Gift show period.

I have some silver hoop type earrings that have been fully cast.
Meaning, the earwires are cast as part of the shape of the earring.
It doesn’t work with the design to have the wires soldered on
separately. They are currently way too soft, and bend easily. My
caster says that in production they could add more nickel in the
silver to give it more strength. And I have suggested tumbling them
in steel shot to harden the wires too. They say they did this, but
when I recieved them back they are still bendable.

HELP! My question is, would plating them in Rhodium strengthen the
earrings, is Rhodium safe to be used as an earring?, Does Rhodium
change the appearance of the silver? My finish is satin, would it
make it shiny over this finish?

I appreciate any insights, I am a frequent Orchid reader and get so
much help from reading all the postings! Thank You.

Lissa Aguila

When I was doing a line of sterling earrings , I would hold the post
with parallel pliers and twist the post . About half a turn, This
was enough to work harden the sterling and it sure checks the solder

Michael Devlin

The answer to your question is no, plating won’t give the metal any
strength. The plating thickness is only 1/100,000 of an inch thick,
so don’t expect too much, besides rhodium is very brittle so even if
you do a heavy electroplate the plating will simply crack upon

The only answer to the problem is to either find some way to solder
on a machined post or work harden the post. One way is to twist the
post a couple of times till it gets some hardness to it.


In order to Rhodium plate your earrings you would need to pre plate
them with copper then nickel (if my memory serves me well). Rhodium
plating onto silver will contaminate your rhodium and not adhere to
the surface very well. Rhodium is a whiter color than silver and is
much more tarnish resistant than silver. Rhodium plating is
generally very thin and will not strengthen your earrings in my
opinion. Rhodium is safe to use. Most allergic reactions stem from
copper or nickel content of the alloy mix.

There might be another way to attach the earring wires other than
torch soldering them in place. Possibly using a laser or riveting
them in place or hammering them in place. Without seeing the piece
its hard to say. Cast wires I think would be a problem unless you
contact some metal companies and see if they make a special sterling
alloy that might lend it self better for your application. You might
also want to see if your earrings could be stamped rather than cast.

Hope this helps-
Arthur Gordon

Hi , I have a casting and finishing shop that does a lot for
designers… I would not suggest adding "more " nickel and you
should ask your caster what “more” means… There should be no
nickel in sterling ( although it can be alloyed in) You may get
different casting problems by alloying nickle in with your silver
and also, many people are allergic to nickle, so it’s not a good idea
for earposts. Can you fusion real posts in place… If not, use
slightly thicker post wire on the model… Another way is to work
harden the earwire with special pliers that have been described on
orchid in previous posts.

If you should ever need a high quality caster with full finishing
and assembly capabilities, Please contact us off list at We do casting in gold, silver, bronze/brass,
and pewter as well as handpolishing, Vibratory finishing,soldering,
fusion, assembly, cnc/cad model making , badges, logo’s, enameling
and a lot of things that designers may need done to make their
products look perfect. Best wishes, Daniel Grandi

To answer the question about rhodium plating as a solution to soft
earwires, I offer a better solution. If you must cast the earwire as
part of the earring piece, add it in wax as a straight wire. After
casting and some clean-up, put the end of the earwire into a pin
vise, and rotate it to twist the wire until it offers some
resistance. It is now work-hardened, and should hold its shape after
you bend it to the desired form. Use emery paper to remove the
evidence of the twisting, and polish to finish. Viola!

                            David Keeling
                            David Keeling Fine Jewellery