Rhodium and White Gold: A Match Made in Heaven

White gold is an elegant, classic precious metal option for jewelry. With its silvery white hue and high shine, white gold pairs beautifully with every gemstone and looks particularly gorgeous with diamonds. But did you know that white gold’s bright white color isn’t from the white gold itself? The majority of white gold jewelry sold today is covered with a thin layer of rhodium plating, which gives white gold jewelry its distinctively beautiful color and shine. 

As a fine jeweler that carries quite a wide selection of white gold jewelry, we get a lot of questions about white gold and rhodium plating. Many people wonder why white gold is plated, what rhodium plating is, what kind of upkeep rhodium-plated white gold requires, and so on. Below, we’ll answer all these frequently asked questions as we go over everything you need to know about white gold and rhodium. 

Why Use Rhodium on White Gold?  

People often wonder: if white gold is white, why does it need rhodium plating? Well, the truth is that white gold isn’t pure white. Like most other types of gold used in fine jewelry, white gold is an alloy of gold and other metals. Typically, white gold is made of pure gold that has been mixed with nickel, silver, or palladium. When pure gold, which is yellow in color, is mixed with these white metals, it looks much more white. However, white gold alloys still tend to look a bit yellow or off-white, since they are mostly made of pure gold. So to get a bright white color, many jewelers coat white gold with rhodium. 

What is Rhodium? 

Rhodium is a beautifully reflective, bright white metal that’s often used to enhance white gold. In addition to being very pretty, rhodium has some practical advantages. Rhodium is quite hard, making it scratch resistant. Then, you don’t need to worry about tarnishing with rhodium, as it doesn’t tarnish. Additionally, rhodium is hypoallergenic, making it a good silver jewelry option for those with sterling silver or nickel allergies.  

Rhodium is a very rare precious metal, which makes it expensive. Rhodium is actually the most expensive of all precious metals, costing more than pure gold and even platinum. The high cost of rhodium is part of the reason why you won’t find much pure rhodium jewelry. Plating a white gold piece in rhodium isn’t particularly expensive since it requires only a small amount of rhodium, but making an entire piece of jewelry out of rhodium very much is. 

Does Rhodium Plating Require Upkeep? 

Rhodium plating does require some upkeep since it will start to slowly wear off with regular wear. When rhodium plating starts to wear off of white gold jewelry, people often think that their white gold jewelry is turning yellow. But, in fact, what’s happening is the off-white, yellowish color of your white gold is starting to show since your bright white rhodium plating is wearing thin. 

While rhodium plated jewelry does require some upkeep, it’s very simple upkeep. To restore your white gold jewelry to a bright white color, you can simply have it re-coated in rhodium by your jeweler. 

How Long Does Rhodium Plating Last? 

How long rhodium plating lasts depends on how often the rhodium plated piece is worn and which metal it was used on. Rhodium plating fades with wear, so it will wear off more quickly on frequently worn pieces, such as engagement rings and wedding rings. Then, rhodium plating tends to last longer on white gold pieces in general. Rhodium and white gold are close in color, so white gold doesn’t show easily through a bit of wear and tear on rhodium plating. However, yellow gold or rose gold pieces that are plated in rhodium will show wear more quickly, since these metals show through thinning rhodium easily. 

How long rhodium plating lasts is very much dependent on the specific piece and how often that piece is worn. But, to give you a general idea of how long rhodium plating lasts, know that most people with rhodium plated white gold engagement rings or wedding bands have them re-plated about every 1-2 years. If you own a piece that’s plated in rhodium, also know that you’ll probably be able to tell when it needs to be refinished. If your piece is starting to look dull and a bit yellow, you may want to have it refinished to restore its luster and bright white color. 

How Long Does the Rhodium Plating Process Take? 

Having a rhodium plated piece refinished doesn’t take long. At Frank Jewelers, when you can drop a piece off for rhodium re-plating, you can pick it up again on the same day. 

How Much Does Rhodium Plating Cost? 

At Frank Jewelers, our normal price for rhodium refinishing is $45 per piece.

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