Plated jewellery as an alternative


As a general rule I dislike electroplating and would rather get jewellery or accessories fully made with a more affordable, yet tarnish resistant metal like sterling silver. Yet even while using a cheaper metal, often costs can rack up and plating simply is a more affordable alternative, although with higher maintenance cost.

When choosing between different kinds of plated items among those on the market, rhodium plating is definitely superior to silver plating despite being more pricey.

Steak so rare...

Silver plating is generally used to cut costs and provide cheaper alternatives to cutlery or jewellery otherwise made with a higher percentage of silver in its base metals. Although the results are usually a wonderful lustre, this silver layer tarnishes over time if not polished and can be difficult to reverse, thought not impossible, unless it comes off to show the metal underneath in which case replating is the solution.

Rhodium plating, however, is usually used to enhance white gold, as the metals used to bleach normal yellow gold into white gold often still leave a hint of yellow, but rhodium is also used to plate silver items such as sterling silver or other alloys.

Rhodium itself is incredibly rare as part of the platinum group, and coloured silver to white. It is a noble metal and inert, but also extremely expensive like others of this group. It withstands corrosion spectacularly.

The plating, or rhodium flashing, brings white gold to its intended colour, makes it more reflective and additionally provides protection to the item about a micron thick.

There's no simple solution

There is still a caveat however, as the rhodium will still wear off and should be reapplied every couple of years though depends greatly on the quality of the work. In the end, in order to find a product that will withstand all skin types and require a minimal level of maintenance, we must still be prepared to pay colossal prices.

I’ve also read that rhodium plating is an incredibly toxic process however, and that people that do it are often not suitably protected from it. New ‘ultra white alloys’ such as the Argen alloy are a suitable alternative to rhodium.

With the amount of options out on the market, it can be difficult to cut through the amounts of costume jewellery that will often fade away quickly, let alone find environmentally friendly options like argen. A quick search on a popular search engine didn’t provide me with any samples of argen used on the certain accessory I was looking for.

Instead, it returned results related to ‘Argentina’. It seems we have a way to go yet before rhodium use decreases. In the meantime though, do I worry more about my silver jewellery lasting where the long term impact is more jewellery discarded, or the equally real impact my jewellery purchases have on those that make them…