What is imitation rhodium? And should rhodium be used with white gold or sterling silver?
Imitation rhodium is typically an alloy of copper, tin and zinc, and/or nickel used for plating other jewelry metals like brass and steel to give these metals a bright white, lustrous finish. Plated items include finished pieces, plating on Swarovski crystal, base-metal components and findings. When designing with imitation rhodium components, it is best paired with sterling silver given the similarities in color. Please note that the imitation rhodium finish can wear off with time and usage.
Rhodium is considered a precious metal and is a member of the platinum family. Conventional rhodium plating is found on white gold as it provides more of a white appearance than it would otherwise have, as well as enhances the gold's ability to resist scratches. Sterling silver components can be rhodium plated in an effort to prevent tarnish as well as enhance the durability of the surface as rhodium is much stronger than sterling. Rhodium plating can wear off with time. Re-plating rhodium over precious metal findings and jewelry can be done by a jeweler.
Imitation nickel-plated findings are another alternative for non-precious metal silver-colored components. They have a grey-ish cast and are nickel free, which makes them great when designing for people with nickel allergies.
Again, the deep white color and shine can wear off with wear and the plating will need to be reapplied to prevent tarnish.
- Sandra Lupo, Jewelry Designer and Instructor and Swarovski crystal Ambassador