Is rhodium-plated better than gold-plated
Especially in the jewelry displays of jewelers and department stores, silver jewelry shines as beautifully as chrome in the sun. In many goldsmiths, however, the pieces of jewelry forged in silver often have a grayish matt to silk matt finish. The difference: Manufacturers of large collections in particular have started rhodium-plating their silver jewelry. There are advantages to this, but there are also some pitfalls.
First of all, whether it is almost white and high-gloss or slightly matt and in a puristic shade of gray - what is more beautiful is entirely in the eye of the beholder. It is clear that rhodium-plated silver has many advantages - besides the fact that it looks shiny and perhaps a little more aesthetic in the jeweler's shop window. The most important one is tarnish protection. Untreated silver corrodes, so it reacts with oxygen or, even worse, with plasticizers and adhesives in the beloved jewelry box. Often worn pieces also like to discolour - in addition to the air, natural acids in the skin are the main cause of the problem. All problems that you don't have with rhodium-plated pieces - at least almost not, but more on that later. The wafer-thin layer with the platinum metal rhodium, which is usually galvanically applied to the silver, provides perfect protection against the natural influences just mentioned. In addition, rhodium is hard and prevents some flaws in the beloved ring. By the way, the unpleasant black abrasion of silver pendants, especially on white items of clothing, does not appear. Rhodium plating seems to be the all-purpose weapon for silver jewelry.
As with everything where there is a lot of light, there is always shadow. First of all, the rhodium layer on the piece of jewelry doesn't last forever. Depending on how often a piece of jewelery is worn and how close it is to the skin, the rhodium-plated layer can last up to five years - but sometimes it is only two. It can go even faster if the pendant and chain (especially with smooth chains such as omega or snake chains) regularly rub against each other when they are worn. The color difference to the silver is clearly visible in the chafed areas. Of course you can rhodium the good piece, but that can be expensive under certain circumstances. The worn areas have to be polished, different colored parts of the piece of jewelery or incorporated stones have to be covered in a complex way. You should also keep in mind that every repair that requires soldering or laser work (ring change, for example) means that the entire piece of jewelry must be completely rhodium-plated, as the processing heat damages the old rhodium layer.
Sometimes appearances are deceptive
Many customers are often very disappointed when they come to the goldsmith's or jeweler to have their supposedly rhodium-plated silver jewelry reworked or repaired and there they find out that there is little precious under the beautiful glow. Especially with items from abroad or from street vendors' vendor's trays, it can happen that cheap brass alloys instead of silver are hidden under the polished layer. A tip: Look for the stamp (usually 925 or 835) on every rhodium-plated piece of jewelery - then there is less chance that something has been screwed on to you. Rhodium plating is often touted as a reliable protection against alloys containing nickel. However, it is highly controversial among experts that rhodium actually offers this protection.
Not for purists
A final point, which is often a reason, especially for creative goldsmiths, to forego rhodium plating, is the restriction of the technical possibilities. Apart from the fact that the purists among the jewelry makers are reluctant to "hide" silver, it is not possible with rhodium-plated jewelry, for example, to cause deliberate blackening with precious oxide or Goshiba, for example of ornaments or characters.Archive contribution January 30, 2012
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