First of all, what is rhodium? Rhodium is a very expensive and shiny precious metal. Jewelry consumers love it because it doesn't rust or tarnish easily. Often, rhodium is used as a plating material to cover other metals like silver or white gold to make them look brighter and protect them from getting scratched or tarnished over time.
Now, does rhodium plating fade? The answer is yes; over time, it can wear off. Rhodium plating is not a permanent solution. Think of it like a coat of paint on a wall. If you touch the wall often or scrub it, over time, the paint will start to come off. The same goes for rhodium plating on jewelry.
Why Does Rhodium Plating Fade?
There are several reasons:
- Physical Friction: Jewelry items like rings and bracelets that are in constant contact with surfaces, whether it's from typing, holding things, or simply rubbing against your clothes. This repeated friction can cause the rhodium plating to wear away faster than pieces not exposed to constant friction.
- Chemical Exposure: Harsh chemicals found in lotions, perfumes, makeup, and household cleaning products can speed up the fading process, causing the plating to lose its luster. Even chlorine in swimming pools can have a negative effect on rhodium plating.
- Skin Oils: The natural oils from your skin can also contribute to the fading of rhodium plating, especially if the jewelry is worn frequently. Rhodium is a very durable metal, but it is not immune to corrosion. The salt in sweat can cause the rhodium plating to break down, leading to unsightly discoloration and tarnishing.
- High Heat: Exposure to high temperatures can adversely affect the rhodium plating. If you're cooking or doing other activities that expose the jewelry to heat, it could speed up the fading process.
- Exposure to Salt Water: Going for a swim in the ocean? The salt in seawater can be corrosive and speed up the rate at which the rhodium plating fades.
- Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaners: While these devices are great for getting your gems and metals to sparkle, the vibrations and chemicals used can also accelerate the fading of rhodium plating.
- Long-Term Storage: Believe it or not, even if you're not wearing your jewelry, the rhodium plating can begin to degrade over a very long period, especially if stored in a less-than-ideal environment with fluctuating temperatures and humidity.
How Often Should Rhodium Plating Be Reapplied?
Given that the rhodium plating can wear off, you may need to have the item replated after a certain period, depending on how often you wear it and how well you take care of it. Some pieces might need replating every 12 to 18 months, while others that are worn less frequently might only need attention every couple of years.
So, while rhodium plating does offer an attractive, bright finish and offers some protection to the metal underneath, it's not a permanent solution and will require some upkeep to maintain its appearance.