Originally referred to as the “poor man’s platinum”, white gold was first invented after World War I as an alternative its more expensive counterpart, platinum. This set into motion the Art-Deco white jewelry trends of the period.
Unlike, platinum, however, white gold has to be “rhodium plated” in order to appear as white as it does. Rhodium is another silvery-white precious metal within the Platinum Group that is plated over white gold to give it that clean, white look.
Interestingly, rhodium is, at times, more expensive than platinum! But since it is used as a transitional metal to plate jewelry, small amounts are used, making it very affordable overall.
Without rhodium, white gold actually has a subtle yellowish tint to it (since gold in its pure form is yellow and there really is no such thing as ‘white gold’).
The other magic ingredients? Nickel or palladium is mixed with gold dilute the yellow color of gold, thereby creating ‘white gold’. Virtually all white gold rings on the market today are made with nickel, rather than palladium–mainly because of cost and lack of consumer demand.
How Often Should A Ring be Re-Rhodium Plated?
Depending on the thickness of the rhodium plating first applied and a series of other factors, including how often the ring is worn, how much the ring is rubbed against other materials (such as clothes), or even how much it comes into contact with household chemicals, the time for replating could vary.
Typically, however, approx. 2-3 years is normal. Many people, however, after re-rhodium plating a white gold ring a few times, decide that it’s not really worth the trouble and some even begin to like the “honey” tint that shows through the white gold ever so slightly.
How Much Does Re-Rhodium Plating Cost?
Depending on your local jeweler, you can expect to pay between $20-$35 for rhodium plating. The good news is that with all gold wedding bands, a simple polish, cleaning, and rhodium plating, will make your white gold wedding band look exactly as it did the first day you purchased it!
Don’t want to deal with the whole rhodium plating issue? You will want to consider either a traditional yellow gold wedding band–or if you must honor the Art Deco white jewelry fashions–consider a platinum wedding band or titanium wedding band.
Most though, remain faithful and happy with their white gold wedding band–and rarely consider rhodium plating a hassle. Our advice? Get your white gold band rhodium plated when you’re already at your jeweler for a good cleaning and polishing every 3-5 years!
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- Sweat of the Sun - Properties of Gold - Apples of Gold Jewelry | January 24, 2009