Rhodium: The Rarest Precious Metal on Earth

Rhodium-blog-shineon-usaf-ring

When you think of high-end jewelry, silver and gold are most likely the first precious metals that come to mind. If you’re fairly well versed in metals, you might even think of platinum or white gold, but chances are you’re not aware of just how popular rhodium is as a plating material for high-end jewelry. No sweat – after this blog post, you can pretty much consider yourself a rhodium expert.

More Rare than Gold

Rhodium is a precious metal in the platinum family. It’s a brilliant silvery-white color, known for its hardness and resistance to tarnish and corrosion. It is most often used as an electroplating material for jewelry to serve as a barrier to scratches while adding a highly reflective finish.

Almost never found in solid mineral form, rhodium is found in trace amounts within platinum and nickel ores, making it extremely rare. Its rarity, along with its desirable properties, has at times driven the price of rhodium to eight times higher than the price of gold. However, recent changes in the supply of car manufacturers, which use rhodium for catalytic converters, have increased the use of recycled rhodium and boosted above ground supplies of the precious metal. It is still the rareest metal in the world, with a yearly production of new rhodium totaling about 30 tons. By comparison, the annual world production of gold in 2014 was 2,990 tons.

Rhodium vs. White Gold

White gold is typically plated with an outer layer of rhodium to give it it’s bright, silvery finish. What jewelers refer to as white gold is actually a mixture of yellow gold with a silver alloy, such as silver, palladium, or nickel. Without the rhodium plating, white gold still has a yellow tint that is more noticeable as the concentration of pure gold in the alloy is increased.

Proper Care and Lifespan: Best Practices

Caring for rhodium plated jewelry is easy! Warm water and a gentle dish soap are all you need to keep your rhodium looking shiny and new. Rinse away soap and gently dry with a clean, soft polishing cloth to maintain the reflective gleam. Never use brushes or bristled tools. Also, avoid using any kind of chemical cleaner, especially chemical dip cleaners or pre-moistened chemical polish cloths for silver or gold jewelry.

Rhodium plating can last a lifetime, depending on how frequently the piece is worn, how the jewelry is cared for, as well as the body chemistry of the wearer. It is also important to note that while rhodium is more durable than gold or silver, it is not permanent and may begin to wear down with frequent wear and tear, especially if the wearer is not careful about how they treat the jewelry. However, having your jewelry replated in rhodium is a relatively inexpensive and easy way to refresh the look and shine of a piece that’s started to show it’s age. Most jewelers can provide replating services for under $100.

Why not make your jewelry collection extra brilliant by adding a few rhodium plated pieces to the mix? Be sure to check out a few of the rhodium styles we have to offer.

Queries, comments, or concerns? We’re happy to answer your burning questions about rhodium plating or anything jewelry related by email at helpme@shineon.com.

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