Sterling Silver vs Rhodium Plated : Which is Better for Jewelry?[With a Bonus Tip]

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Silver lovers have no shortage of sterling silver jewelry.

Yet, there are other choices available.

Rhodium plated sterling silver is one of these alloys.

We answered the top 5 questions below, followed by a more detailed pro-con comparison with 925 silver.

You’ll also find a delighting bonus at the end!

 

A. Top 5 Questions on Sterling silver vs rhodium plated silver

1. Will sterling silver vs rhodium plating tarnish?

Rhodium plating is a process that is used in the jewelry industry to give a silver piece a platinum-like finish. However, there are some drawbacks to this process that you need to know about before you decide if it is the right option for you.

The biggest difference between sterling silver and rhodium plated jewelry is how they react to wear and tear. Sterling silver will tarnish over time with exposure to air, body fluids, perspiration, or other chemicals in your environment.

Rhodium plated items will not tarnish because they have been coated with a thin layer which prevents the metal from reacting with oxygen in the air.

This means that if you want your jewelry to stay shiny and new looking, then rhodium plating might be a better choice.

2. Is Rhodium plated sterling silver hypoallergenic?

This is a popular metal coating for sterling silver and white gold.

While rhodium plated white gold is more known, coated silver jewelry is there too.

The good news is, rhodium is a white metal that does not cause allergic reactions. It belongs to the hypoallergenic metals group, which is considered safe for jewelry or other personal items.

Also, sterling silver and rhodium are not magnetic metals.

However, you should be aware that if the plating wears off, the inner sterling alloy will come into contact with your skin.

And if that alloy contains any allergenic metals like nickel, you might experience skin allergies.

If it ever happens, you may easily restore your jewelry with re-plating.

Thanks to this small operation, the layer will be renewed.

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3. How durable is rhodium plated sterling silver?

Rhodium plated sterling silver is a durable material.

The durability of plated sterling silver depends on how the piece was made and the care taken to keep it clean and polished.

With care, the plating will last longer and protect the inner alloy. This will prevent silver from getting tarnished, scratched or damaged as rhodium is much harder than sterling silver.

Rhodium has a Mohs hardness rating of 6, while silver is rated at 3.

4. Which is more expensive, rhodium or silver?

Rhodium is a rare metal that is more expensive than silver.

Thus, plated jewelry is often more expensive than sterling silver ones.

The price of rhodium is higher because it’s rarer and more difficult to find.

5. How to tell if sterling silver is rhodium plated?

You can compare it with a sterling piece you have. If it overshines your piece, it might be plated.

Another simple way is to use the refraction of sunlight. Rhodium is a highly reflective metal, much more than silver. Tilting the plated piece in daylight will send rays in all directions.

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B. Pros of Rhodium Plated Sterling Silver

Rhodium plated jewelry is more durable

Sterling silver is a type of silver with 92.5% pure silver content. It contains 7.5% copper for hardness and strength. Yet, it is still softer than many metals, including rhodium.

Rhodium is a silvery-white metal that is hard and durable. It has a high resistance to corrosion and tarnishing, which makes it ideal for jewelry.

The plating is often used to protect and enhance the shine of sterling silver.

The Mohs scale of mineral hardness is a relative scale that compares the hardness of one material to another. It is based on the ability of one material to scratch another. The higher the number, the harder the material. For example, a diamond has a Mohs rating of 10 and can scratch anything below it on the list.

The Mohs hardness scale is a standard way of measuring the hardness of minerals. It ranks minerals on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the hardest. The Mohs scale does not measure how easily something can be scratched or damaged, but rather how difficult it is to scratch or damage.

Rhodium gets 6 on the Mohs scale while silver has only 3.

This means that the outer layer will protect sterling silver against many scratches and impacts.

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Rhodium plated sterling silver is more shiny.

Sterling silver is only 92.5% pure silver. The remaining 7.5% comes mostly from copper and other base metals to increase strength and durability.

This addition also affects the color.

Rhodium is a bluish-white metal with a shiny finish. It’s primarily used as a surface coating of jewelry and other decorative objects. It can be applied to various metals such as gold, platinum and sterling silver.

As the plating is much more refractive than sterling silver, it will exhibit more shine and luster.

Moreover, rhodium has a strong corrosion and tarnish resistance.

This will protect the inner alloy of silver, and prolong the beautiful look of your jewelry piece.

Rhodium is a hypoallergenic metal

Silver is a hypoallergenic metal, yet, its alloys like sterling may contain non-hypoallergenic metals.

The first culprit is always nickel, which demands attention to avoid unease on sensitive skin.

Even trace amounts in 925 silver may cause skin allergies for people with metal hypersensitivity.

Possible effects of nickel allergy include itching, redness and blisters.

This is called “allergic contact dermatitis“.

The coating may help clear out this possibility.

It is a noble metal which resists getting into reactions even at high temperatures

It is a hypoallergenic metal and considered safe for skin allergies..

A thin layer of this non-reactive metal will suffice to separate sterling silver from outside substances such as humidity and chemicals like deodorants and perfumes.

This will prevent any undesired skin reactions with metals in sterling silver.

Note that this ends when the plating wears off.

In that case, this opens the door to possible reactions if there are any allergenic metals which come into contact with the skin.

To summarize, rhodium plating will make a sterling piece much safer for people with hypersensitivity.

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C. Cons of Rhodium Plated Sterling Silver

Rhodium is more expensive.

It is traded higher than gold and, of course, silver.

This means a rhodium plated piece will command a significantly higher price than a classic sterling silver piece.

The end price will vary with the thickness of the plating, besides rarity, any design and branding value.

Greater the thickness, higher the price.

Rhodium plating may wear off.

Naturally, a plated sterling silver is not made of a homogeneous material. It has 2 distinctive parts which are different metals.

The removal of the outer layer will change the appearance clearly as rhodium is much more bright and shiny than silver.

This is because it has a much greater refractive index.

It exhibits more shine and refracts light in many directions.

The loss of plating will bring sterling silver to daylight, which is brighter.

Nevertheless, it is always possible to restore the plating with a visit to your jeweler.

 

Sterling silver jewelry has many more design choices.

Sterling silver jewelry, with its natural finishes, is the perfect choice for those who wish to purchase a piece of silver that is both eye-catching and affordable.

Sterling silver has been a staple fashion accessory for centuries. It is simple, chic and extremely popular among fashionistas.

Other than its stunning shine, sterling silver is a soft malleable metal enabling jewelry artists to show their creativity.

With elegant designs and intricate details, sterling silver jewelry gives off a luxurious feel without compromising on affordability. The intricacy of this kind of jewelry lends itself well to any jewelry collection.

 

Rhodium plated silver jewelry has fewer options.

As the plating is much harder(and expensive), it reduces artistic freedom.

This also impacts availability, whereas sterling silver jewelry is easily reachable in practically every jewelry store.

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D. Conclusion: Which is better, sterling silver or rhodium plated?

Rhodium plated sterling silver adds a stunning flavor to every jewelry collection.

It elevates durability as it is much harder than silver.

With its mirror-like finish, it will also increase shine significantly, making silver more eye-catching than ever.

Have you worried about skin allergies from traces of allergenic metals?

You can say goodbye to all those as rhodium is a noble metal which is hypoallergenic.

It has the utmost resistance to chemical reactions, including anything that initiates hypersensitivity.

However, rhodium plated sterling silver is not a rose without thorns.

The trivial con is price. It is one of the most expensive metals.

Its rarity dictates a price even greater than the price of gold, palladium and platinum.

Another downside is, at the end of the day, the plating is a thin layer protecting the inner sterling.

It is not a design which is the same metal inside out.

If the coating wears off, the core will come under daylight.

While this is not the end as you can always have a re-plating session to revive the rhodium layer, this does not happen with solid metal jewelry like palladium.

Lastly, rhodium’s brittle nature limits the availability of designs.

Plain sterling silver is appropriate for more delicate jewelry where artistic details shine.

When we add its higher price, it becomes obvious that rhodium plated silver jewelry will offer less variety in designs and be harder to find when shopping.

If you have interest in rhodium plated, you’d probably like jewelry without plating and with a better shine than sterling silver.

We have the answer.

Meet a different kind of silver: Argentium silver

If you are looking for a silver piece with high tarnish resistance and is more durable than sterling silver, you should definitely check argentium silver.

You may think Argentium silver as an upgrade from the traditional sterling.

It has a higher purity than 92.5%: Argentium silver may have up to 96% silver in its composition.

There are two versions: Argentium 935 and 960. These have 93.5% and 96% silver purity respectively.

The composition includes germanium which enhances tarnish resistance and endurance to everyday wear and tear.

This addition also makes it whiter and gives antibacterial properties.

Argentium silver offers a serious alternative to rhodium plated and classic sterling silver.

Check out more on this silver alloy in this post.