What is it and why has it become so expensive?
A member of the platinum family, Rhodium is a precious metal that is plated onto white gold to keep it bright & shiny! Rhodium is used in the finishing process of almost all white gold pieces. While white gold uses a variety of alloys to make it "white" that original yellow tint will still show through, which is why Rhodium is needed.
Why has the cost of Rhodium Plating gone up?
Aside from jewelry production, Rhodium is used in a variety of other industries...one of the largest being the Automotive Industry. As the demand for Rhodium increased in January, so did the cost (according to Bloomberg.com, this is largely due to a spike in physical demand from Asia). Rhodium is currently the most expensive it's been since 2008, making it 5x more costly than gold itself.
What does this mean for the jewelry industry?
Plain and simple, it means it is going to be more costly to Rhodium Plate white gold. As a customer, that yearly polish & rhodium charge may go up a considerable amount. While we expect the price to go back down at some point, there is no real way for us to know when that will be. In the mean time, here are some tips for how to keep your white gold "white" as long as possible...
How to keep your jewelry "white" as long as possible
How quickly your jewelry starts to appear yellow is largely dependent on the acidity of your skin. If you have naturally acidic skin, your plating will wear off more quickly than someone with less acidic skin. This can even be contingent on diet and time of year, our skin changes due to a variety of elements.
We frequently tell customers to make sure you're taking your jewelry off when using any chemicals, but if you're trying to keep your Rhodium intact that is especially important. Examples of chemicals can include (but are not exclusive to) hot tubs, cleaning products, pools, soaps, and lotions. The more times your white gold comes in contact with chemicals, the quicker your plating becomes contaminated and will fade away.
More fun facts
- This process cannot be used for any sort of "base" metal - this includes metals like steel, brass, or copper. If a base metal is attempted to be Rhodium Plated, it will contaminate the entire batch of Rhodium and make it unusable. In the case of Sterling Silver, you would still need to use a separate batch to contain any possible contamination. Many times, the silver will need to be plated in Nickel before applying the Rhodium finish to make it "stick"
- To give you an idea of pricing, one pint of Rhodium solution costs an average of $750. How often it is used, any contamination, etc. can determine how long that pint will last.
- To keep the Rhodium from plating parts of the jewelry we don't want it to plate (for example, the yellow portion of a two-toned ring) our jewelers will mark off those areas with another substance (as funny as it sounds, we use nail polish pretty frequently for this) so that when we plate the piece, the Rhodium will only adhere to the desired metal.