Jul 9

Black Rhodium Plating, Adding that “Pop” to your Jewelry!

By Calla Gold

What is Rhodium?

calla-gold-jewelry-black-rhodium-trinity-ring

My Classic Trinity Engagement Ring With the Black Rhodium Finish

Rhodium is a very rare, naturally occurring member of the platinum group of metals – making it a very deluxe metal!

Rhodium is actually one of the most expensive precious metals.  The price of rhodium can fluctuate, but generally an ounce of rhodium can go for roughly $2,500 dollars!

It’s extremely tough, able to resist corrosion and scratches.  It’s silvery color and highly reflective nature also make it “pop!”  It is because of this toughness and highly reflective nature that rhodium makes an excellent plating material.

What Exactly is Black Rhodium Plating?

On the Left, a Black Rhodium Finished Heart Ring. On the Right a Yellow Gold Heart Ring

On the Left, a Black Plated Finished Heart Ring. On the Right a Yellow Gold Heart Ring of the Same Design.

I asked a few people who do black rhodium plating how black rhodium is created from regular white rhodium.

The amount of non-answers I got was most interesting, from “if I tell you I have to kill you,” to “they add a chemical and then it turns black.”

“Gee thanks guys. I feel so informed!” So I’ll tell you about plating and we’ll just admire the black version for its wonderful look. OK?

All About Plating!

Gold Plated Porsche

Jewelry plating is covering one metal surface with a very thin layer of another.  I go over the plating process in my blog “Gold Plating Jewelry Explained – How Plating Renews Your Old Jewelry.”

Why I Love Black Rhodium Plating, and Why You Should Too!

Rose Gold With Hand Engraving and Black Rhodium Wedding Band

An Example of Norwegian Rosemaling Engraving. The Black Rhodium Makes This Engraving “Pop!”

When I was introduced to black rhodium it was an exciting time. The finish allowed me to design in a completely different way.

I felt like ropes that had tied me were cut away. Clients of mine that wanted a really different feel for their design were the first to help me celebrate with the antique tone that created such a different look.

When I started using hand engraving in my designs years ago I felt that same excitement. But with black rhodium there’s just something so “rock n’ roll” and slightly misbehaving about it. I just love that!

How Black Rhodium Sets off Your Gemstones

Brown opal champagne diamond necklace

black rhodium pendant with opals

Yowah Opal and Champagne Diamonds Pendant with Black Rhodium

Just check out this rockin’ pendant!  When my client came in with the Yowah opal, I knew we had a design challenge on our hands.

White diamonds were too bright as an accent and overwhelmed the subtle detail of her opal. I wanted to use champagne diamonds, but when  set in bright gold their delicate color tone was overwhelmed and they no longer looked champagne colored.

The dark rhodium created shade, if you will, to let the diamonds subtly glow. It let the opal look like the star of the piece that it was meant to be. Without  the dark rhodium this project would be disappointing. Instead it is  unique and it works.

Is Your Ring a Candidate for Black Rhodium?

Dark Rhodium Makes These Diamonds Gleam

black rhodium and engraving

The Texture Holds the Plating Nicely

The black rhodium look is awesome, but unfortunately, black rhodium will wear off a bit more quickly than white rhodium.

This is especially true on rings that are worn daily and are simple, smooth and shiny.

That plain white gold shiny gold band you’re wearing that you’d like to spice up with black rhodium? Uh, no. That won’t fly a bit.

The thing that helps make black rhodium “stick” to your jewelry is a textural element.

If your ring design has engraving or some three dimensional texturing on it, then it is a candidate for black rhodium.

Smooth rings don’t have anything for the rhodium to “hang on” to, so it will wear away faster.

What About  Black Rhodium for Your Earrings and Pendants?

French Clip Bold Style Earrings Jazzed up With a Bit of Black Rhodium Finish

For a more lasting plating try it on your earrings and pendants. I suggest this because they don’t get the frequent hand washing that rings get. Any plating will last longer when worn gently.

What do You do When it Starts Wearing off?

Image of Different Stages of Rhodium Plating from Fox Fine Jewelry

Fortunately, re-plating rhodium or black rhodium on your jewelry is easily done. Like waxing your car. It looks amazing, but it does need maintenance to stay shiny and beautiful.

Black treatment will cost more than white rhodium.

This is because often after the black plating is done, your jeweler will take the time to polish some of it away to create a bit more definition and lighter darker contrast. And the prep and steps for black plating are more extensive than with white rhodium.

Any time your black ring is sized, the black rhodium will need to be redone, because it is heat sensitive. Thus sizing a black finished ring will cost more. But, it is so worth it to have such a unique finish.

What is the Cost of Black Plating my Ring?

The cost to black rhodium plate an average ring with no complex issues would be between $75.00 and $120.00.

I say give it a try and see how you like the look.

Your Personal Jeweler,
Calla Gold

Want to Know More About Rhodium Plating?

Rhodium Plating; Like Coloring Your Hair, Only for Jewelry!

The Kiss of Night for Your Jewelry – Using Oxidation, Black Rhodium and Black Enamel

Gothic Jewelry Style For Getting Married Darkly

33 thoughts on “Black Rhodium Plating, Adding that “Pop” to your Jewelry!

  1. Dear Calla,
    I’ll tell you how black rhodium is made and I don’t have to kill you because I’m in metals and it’s no big secret in my workshop.
    What is black rhodium? Black rhodium is a regular rhodium plating solution that is intentionally contaminated with tin sulfate, tellurium oxide, and arsenic trioxide at very low percentages but enough to make it plate a uniform black color instead of the original elemental color of bright silver/white.

    There is no such thing as black rhodium just like there is no such thing as white gold. Both elements must be contaminated/alloyed with something to make it absorb or reflect a particular spectrum of light so that it appears the desired color. Black rhodium plating wears similar to white rhodium plating but with normal rhodium, it is most often applied to bleached gold so that when it wears, what you see is the underlying white colored metal. Unfortunately for black rhodium plating, the underlying metal is not black so you see the true metal color as it wears necessitating re-plating often. It does look good as a decorative plating on items that contain white and “black” diamonds.
    Hope this helps your readers.

    • Dear Tyler,
      Thank you for sharing the chemical secret that gives me the delicious black rhodium.
      I do not agree that white gold is bleached gold. Just sayin’. I can tell that you have your opinions about how things are made and that’s cool. I like the term alloyed over contaminated, which makes me think of the CDC coming in with environmental suits and all that.
      I agree with you that black rhodium looks amazing next to diamonds, especially black diamonds.
      Digging the chemical info,
      Calla Gold

  2. Hi Calla,
    I liked Tyler’s comment and the addition of the secret formula for black rhodium.
    Thanks for so many examples of black rhodium finishes on rings and the earrings. It really helps me to visualize how black rhodium might work for me.
    That black rhodium ring with the hand engraving and the rubies is so beautiful. I’d wear that ring…. in a minute!

    • Hello Tracey,
      Thanks for letting me know that helped. Do visualize how black rhodium could change up the look of your jewelry. I find it refreshing and updating to add black rhodium to some of my clients pieces that need a bit of goosing to give them a new look.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

      • Hi. I want to do a ring with no engravings, with diamonds. Basically like a black men’s eternity ring. I want the black to be shiny. Should I go with black rhodium, black enamel, or black polished titanium?

        • Hi Jay,
          Black rhodium will wear off. So as an eternity band usage I wouldn’t recommend it. Black enamel can chip if it gets direct hits so again as an eternity band that is a non-starter. I do not deal with titanium so I cannot speak to black titanium and how that finish is created. I’d guess that black ceramic would be what you’d want to use.
          If this is for a wedding band you might want to read an opinion about it:
          https://www.callagold.com/wedding-rings/dont-buy-titanium-or-tungsten-wedding-bands/
          And just so you know I’m having some issues with my site. If you can’t get to the blog, try back in a couple of days. I can see it, but on certain computers it is not showing up.
          Your Personal Jeweler,
          Calla

  3. Hello Calla,

    Just for verification from J. Tyler’s comments, “There is no such thing as black rhodium just like there is no such thing as white gold.” And your follow up, “I do not agree that white gold is bleached gold. Just sayin’.” J. Tyler did not say that white gold is bleached gold in any way. J. Tyler is correct, there is no such thing as white gold, it is created from yellow gold.

    The black rhodium makes for gorgeous creations!

    K. Parks

    • Hi K,
      Thanks for coming by and adding your voice to the conversation.
      Tyler mentioned bleached metal in his comment.
      I was responding to that mention. True he didn’t say white gold, but I guessed that’s what he meant.
      Even through white gold is yellow gold with white metal alloys making it look white I am comfortable calling it white gold.
      I agree with you that black gold makes beautiful creations.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  4. Can you only do black rhodium plating on gold? I love the look of “black gold” but the engagement ring that we decided on is platinum with a green diamond center stone. I absolutely love it and it is gorgeous the way it is, but when we first started looking at rings I was really drawn to the uniqueness of the black plating and how it made colored stones seem to pop even more. Would black rhodium plating be something I could still do with a platinum ring?

    • Hello Emily,
      I do black rhodium plating on platinum. Know that it is not a true black, but more dark grey. You noticed correctly, that colored gemstones really pop when next to the black rhodium finish.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  5. BTW there is no such thing as the “platinum group of metals” its a group 10 transition metal just like nickel. Do you want a ring made of nickel?

    • Hello Dan,
      Here is a quote from the definition of rhodium on wikipedia:
      Rhodium is a chemical element with symbol Rh and atomic number 45. It is a rare, silvery-white, hard, and chemically inert transition metal. It is a member of the platinum group. It has only one naturally occurring isotope, 103Rh. Naturally occurring rhodium is usually found as the free metal, alloyed with similar metals, and rarely as a chemical compound in minerals such as bowieite and rhodplumsite. It is one of the rarest and most valuable precious metals.

      Rhodium is a noble metal, resistant to corrosion, found in platinum- or nickel ores together with the other members of the platinum group metals. It was discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston in one such ore, and named for the rose color of one of its chlorine compounds, produced after it reacted with the powerful acid mixture aqua regia.
      Here’s the link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhodium
      I do not state that we make rings out of rhodium, but that we use black rhodium as a feature to add to gold jewelry. I use white gold and then use the black rhodium treatment to create the look you see pictured in the blog.
      Your reference to there being no such thing as the “platinum group of metals” seems to be contradicted by the statement above, “It is a member of the platinum group.”
      I have heard it referred to as a member of the PMG Platinum metals group by my jeweler friends. As a jeweler and not a trained chemist I do rely on the data I get online.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

    • Yes there is. The platinum group metals are the 6 metals iridium, osmium, palladium, platinum of course, rhodium, and ruthenium, all of which have similar chemical and physical properties.

      So, if I understand, you thought that, because you personally didn’t know about this, that it couldn’t exist?

  6. Hi. I have a small jewelry co. And the bench man I use says he is not good with Black rhodium plating does anyone know where I can get it done with the proper micron thickness??? Thanks in advance for the help.

    • Hello Brian,
      Would you comment again and let us know where you are located? Would you be willing to mail pieces to the right black rhodium plating service provider?
      You might also ask your question on the MJSA Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America discussion board on LinkedIn. You have to get permission to join the group, but we discuss lots of technical things and have a lot of jewelry makers on there. People do ask for referrals and get responses.
      Best of luck,
      Calla Gold

      • I would like to get in contact with you about getting a black gold ring I have replated..it’s been hard finding someone to do this thank you

        • Hi Richard,
          I’d be happy to be in contact and help you with black rhodium plating your ring. You may call me at 805-963-4157 or email me at callagold@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.
          Your Personal Jeweler,
          Calla

  7. Hi–I just have a question. Does black rhodium adhere/last better on 14 K or 18 K gold?
    Thanks,
    Jeanne

    • Hi Jeanne,
      It’s not the karat that determines how black rhodium holds on, but the detail and nooks and crannies that the black rhodium has to hold on to. Also how much the jewelry is in contact with skin, sweat, water, soap and other chemicals, rubbing; like on towels, scratching and the acidity level of the person’s PH, which is in contact with the jewelry.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  8. Hello,
    Do you know any company that turns sterling silver in to black rhodium?

    • Hi Christopher,
      Your silver ring will always be silver, but it can be black rhodium plated, or oxidized to darken it. I do this service. Feel free to contact me.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  9. I’d agree that Black Rhodium should not be applied to a wedding band or everyday ring. It wears off extremely fast.

    I’m taking my wedding band back to my jeweler’s shop every 2 months, dropping it off to be replated and getting it back half a month later….only to repeat that cycle.

    It is getting to the point, I’m honestly looking at getting a second wedding band for everyday use and using this one as a special events only band.

    • Dear Brian,
      Your story is a fantastic true story of what can happen when a ring isn’t really a candidate for black rhodium. I’m guessing it is high polished as opposed to textured which holds the plating much better.
      Your solution sounds like a smart one. I’m sorry you have to do that.
      Thank you for sharing this.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  10. I bought a Black Plated Tungsten ring from a known mall jeweler and a few months later, the plating is wearing off. Are you able to re-plate them and how much would they run for? Thank you.

    • Hi Stan,
      My specialty is Gold and Platinum. I am not expert on tungsten. I do know that plating on smooth surfaces can wear off fairly quickly. I’d contact your mall jeweler regarding the plating on your piece. Even if they re-do it, it will wear off again in a similar time period.
      Good luck to you.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  11. Hi!! This is such great information…I am bookmarking this page for future reference, so please don’t ever remove it!!
    So, I am sure I am not alone here, but, I ask a lot of questions prior to purchasing a piece of jewelry and recently found a guy on Etsy that is selling “black rhodium” at a base price of $799, then 10k, 14k & 18k starting at an additional $1,000. I am having a hard time getting more info from him as to what exactly is being purchased! I am assuming that the $799 “black rhodium” model is really plated sterling silver or something because the price of solid black rhodium would be obscene! In fact, thinking about paying $799 for black rhodium plated sterling is obscene as well!! And another $1000 for plated 10k?? Am I the only one that thinks this sounds odd?? Please, someone, check out “DymondNcrustD” on Etsy and share your thoughts!! There is a review from someone saying their rhodium started coming off the first month. My question is…what’s underneath!?!? (My suspicion is $800 alloy! HA!)

    • Hi Laura,
      I went to the ETSY site and saw this under their metal description, “Metal: Black Rhodium or 10K, 14K, 18K Solid Black Gold.” Since there is no such thing as solid black gold this is a sales pitch and nothing more. As far as what is underneath it sounds like sterling silver for the $799.00 option. Seems high.
      Now when I dig deeper he does disclose that it is black rhodium, that is the process of his black gold. But you need to read a lot to get there.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  12. Love your article. very helpful. And your responses are great. I too, am looking for someone who does black rhodium plating successfully. The answer I have received from those who sell the plating solution is that the process is the same as regular rhodium plating. “Is Not!” That’s what brought me here to your page. Great insight! Thanks for your help!

    • Hello Moseis,
      Thank you for your jeweler’s perspective on black rhodium. I definitely had some interesting trial and error and multiple conversations with other jewelers struggling to successfully use black rhodium. The consensus was definitely don’t black rhodium plate on a smooth surface on a daily wear ring.
      I’ve been asked why black rhodium plating is significantly more expensive than white rhodium plating. Since you are a jeweler you’ll appreciate this. My black rhodium sticks better if I white rhodium plate first and then black rhodium plate after careful prep. That prep takes a while because I am only black rhodium plating rings with engraving or three dimensional elements on it and the prep must be excellent or a spot won’t successfully plate and that’s like seeing a smile with a missing tooth. It kinda ruins it.
      Your Jeweler Friend,
      Calla

  13. HI,
    MY QUERY IS CAN PLATINUM METAL BE BLACK RHODIUM ?
    IF I HAVE USED BLACK DIAMONDS IN PAVE SETTING ON PLATINUM CAN THAT PARTICULAR PORTION TURN BLACK WITH HELP OF BLACK RHODIUM?

    • Hello Parul,
      Platinum can be plated with black rhodium. When you pave set (like paving stones, where small gemstones are set very close together down in the metal), black diamonds, they will benefit greatly by having the prong tops in black rhodium. When it wears off you’ll need to re-apply the black rhodium. Ideally you’d just black rhodium plate in the setting of diamonds area and leave the shiny metal balance of the ring plain platinum. That’ll give your ring some pop and contrast and allow that look to last longer.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

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