White gold is a stunning, sleek and shiny alternative to other metals such as yellow gold and platinum. White gold jewellery was first made popular during the decadent Art Deco era in the 1920s. The elegant metal was thought to perfectly enhance diamond jewellery and it added to the clean cut pristine fashion styles which dominated this era.
Still a fashionable choice today, white gold is often chosen for engagement rings; especially for a bride with a modern taste. As its bright white look is one of its most appealing features, white gold engagement rings must be looked after carefully in order to keep it looking flawless!
This metal does have tendency to tarnish, therefore its necessary to get your white gold jewellery regularly re-plated in rhodium. As this re-plating process is a bit of a mystery to many, I will give you a brief insight into the process of rhodium plating and why it is so important…
Why does it need rhodium plating?
White gold is naturally a very soft metal. Thus, when used to make jewellery, it is alloyed with at least one other white metal. Metals used include nickel, magnesium or palladium. Because of this, the tones in the colour of the metal can vary slightly. It is all dependent on what the gold has been alloyed with. Another result of the alloying process is a tendency to grow dull/ stained/ brown over time.
There are other factors to consider however, when it comes to the discolouration of white gold jewellery. Rings (especially engagement/wedding rings), will need replating more frequently. Other pieces of jewellery (say, earrings for example) demand far less attention. This is because rings are far more likely to face wear and tear; coming into contact with harder or evasive substances more often.
How does the plating process work?
This is the part where we get into the nitty gritty science of jewellery. Remember, it is definitely not a DIY fix: if you feel like it’s time to get re-plating, talk to your jeweller and they will arrange this for you!
For our customers here at AC Silver, we offer yearly rhodium plating as a complimentary service if you have purchased the item from us.
For any of you that are intrigued by the scientific process that your ring undergoes when we take it to get re-plated for you, here’s a brief account:
- Your jewellery will be expertly cleaned (polished, then put in the ultrasonic machine, rinsed in distilled water and then steam cleaned). It is essential that white gold is sparkling clean before it gets re-plated to ensure the best results!
- Three solutions are prepared in beakers:
- Distilled water with two teaspoons of ‘electro clean powder’ and a stainless steel anode
- Distilled water with ‘activator powder’
- Distilled water with rhodium and a platinized titanium anode
- You will also need an extra beaker of distilled water for rinsing
- When all of the beakers are prepared, the technician will turn on the rectifier machine and turn it up to 6 volts. The ‘electro clean’ solution and the rhodium solution will both be heated to 100 Degrees.
- The positive lead of the rectifier machine will be placed on the stainless steel anode. The negative lead will be attached to a hooked wire- this is what the ring/piece of jewellery will be hooked on to.
- Next, put the item (let’s say ‘ring’, for ease) into the ‘electro clean’ beaker and agitate it for roughly two minutes. Remove and rinse in distilled water.
- Put the ring in the activator solution for 30 seconds (this beaker is not heated remember). Then rinse again.
- While doing this, readjust the rectifier machine to 3 volts and attach the positive lead to the platinized titanium solution.
- Lower the ring into the platinized titanium solution for 30 seconds and TA DA! Your ring is officially rhodium plated.
Now we’ve got all the science out of the way, let’s bring it back to you and the needs of your own jewellery. Many people ask how often this process needs to be done. As a general rule, white gold rings should be rhodium plated around once a year. However, it all depends on how often you wear the piece and what it comes into contact with. For example, if you wear a lot of cosmetic substances such as perfumes and moisturiser then the piece may discolour more frequently. It also depends on how well you care for your white gold (see more information on how to clean and look after white gold jewellery here).
Finally, as is the case with choosing of jewellery in the first place- it is a very personal thing. Your very skin could cause a piece to discolour more quickly due to a high PH balance. Even certain medications can seep through the skin and cause changes to the metal. This is why we say- there is no solid rule. Trust your instincts; if you feel like your gorgeous white gold ring is due a little care and attention, then it probably is!
Delilah Kealy-Roberts – Sales and Digital Assistant
Delilah joined the AC Silver team as a Sales & Digital Assistant in 2017 after completing her degree in English Literature at Leeds University. Delilah possesses a passion for jewellery and antiquities combined with an interest in blogging and social media.