When shopping for sterling silver jewelry, it is often says that the jewelry has been “rhodium plated,” but what does that mean? Rhodium is a silvery-white metal that costs nearly as much as gold (and is much more expensive than silver). In jewelry, it is primarily used as a plating for white gold and sterling silver, either to improve the color of the piece or to protect it.
Sterling silver is usually plated with rhodium to help keep it from tarnishing. Rhodium is tarnish-resistant, so it keeps your silver jewelry looking shiny and new for longer. Sterling silver jewelry that is not rhodium plated is prone to tarnishing faster, but it also has a different appearance. Some people prefer sterling silver that has not been rhodium plated because they like the look of natural silver, which is whiter and has a more matte appearance.
White gold is also almost always plated with rhodium. This is because even after being blended with white metals like silver, white gold still retains some of its golden yellow color. Rhodium is required to make white gold actually look “white.” Also, if you happen to see jewelry listed as being “white gold plated sterling silver,” it means that the silver was plated with rhodium.
It is important to take special care of your rhodium plated jewelry to extend the life of the plating. When cleaning your jewelry, do so with warm water and mild soap, and avoid using any tools or chemicals that may be abrasive, including liquid jewelry cleaners. If using a polishing cloth, do so sparingly as that may wear away the plating. But don’t worry! With normal use, it should take many years for the rhodium plating to wear off your jewelry. If the plating has worn off your sterling silver jewelry and you notice that it is beginning to discolor or tarnish, you can easily remove the tarnishing with a silver polishing cloth. If your white gold pieces are looking a bit yellow, consider bringing them to a jeweler to have them “redipped” in rhodium (or just enjoy the warmer, “vintage”-looking color of white gold!).
If you are interested in checking out some rhodium plated sterling silver yourself, please take a look at our wide selection of silver jewelry here.