Clients frequently ask me if I can design jewelry for them made in black gold. When I try to explain that black gold jewelry just isn’t a thing, they often send me advertisements from websites that offer it.
When a jewelry company advertises “black gold,” this should raise a red flag.
What Some Manufacturers Don’t Want You to Know
What many buyers don’t realize is that the “black gold” rings and pendants they see online are either CAD images or pictures of gold rings plated with black rhodium. Sellers attract buyers with these eye-catching images and leave the “black rhodium plated” part in the fine print.
Other sellers may be more transparent about their use of black rhodium, but they often do not mention how quickly the plating will wear off.
Does this mean you should not buy black rhodium plated “black gold” jewelry? Not necessarily – but there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Rhodium Plating – The Process and its Duration
Rhodium plating is similar to coloring your hair. The original hair color is not changed; the hair is simply covered with a fine layer of a different color material. In the same way, rhodium plating does not change the color of the base metal; it simply covers it with a different colored metal. Normal rhodium is white.
While a good hair dye and a good rhodium plating alike are meant to be long-lasting, neither is permanent. Both will fade and will need to be recolored in order to maintain the desired look. In the case of rhodium plating, you also have scratches and scuffs to worry about, which will expose the gold underneath.
Depending on several factors – such as how often a jewelry piece is worn, the quality of the plating, and how fresh you want the plating to look – re-plating will be necessary after anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.
How Much Does it Cost to Black Rhodium Plate my Ring? Partially or Fully?
A black rhodium plating will generally cost between $75.00 to $120.00. If you want to just black rhodium plate a portion of your ring it may actually cost more than plating it in its entirety. This is because we have more prep time to mask off the portion of your ring to be left in its original natural color.
The ring above, is a rose gold hand engraved wedding band with black rhodium on the center. It is an excellent example of why a little black goes a long way. By leaving part of the ring in the original rose gold the black area is much more interesting.
Another reason this partial black rhodium is better than total ring black rhodium plating is because it can nestle nicely in the detailed recesses giving a longer lasting black detail. If this ring had a total black plating all over it, the shiny edges would have worn off much more quickly and not in a pleasing way.
Black Rhodium, Yes or No?
A well-done black rhodium plating can really make your jewelry “pop.”
If you see a “black gold” style online that you just love, find out if they can email you a picture or two of an actual finished ring. This will let you see the real thing and not just the idealized CAD Computer Aided Design image. Their description should explain how they achieve the black look; check to see if it mentions black rhodium.
If you love the look of black rhodium and understand its limitations, I say go ahead and get it! If you plan to order a black rhodium plated ring online, you should first make sure that there is a jeweler in your area who can re-plate it. That way you’ll be able to maintain its unique and rockin’ look!
What Else is it if They Say it Isn’t Black Rhodium Plated?
I recently saw this used bracelet with various chips and dings in the black links. We were unable to do anything to the black links except steam them as they were PVD coated. I discuss PVD coating in the post, Plating vs PVD Coating. It describes the differences and may help you make a choice if you are searching for a black or partly black look for your jewelry.
Other black details on jewelry besides black rhodium are oxidation and black enamel. See my blog:Using Oxidation, Black Rhodium and Black Enamel for Black Jewelry.
“So Black Gold Isn’t Real?”
Scientists have recently discovered a method for turning nearly any metal black, making black gold a reality! By using a high-power laser to focus huge amounts of energy on a tiny spot of metal, researchers are able to create microstructures that capture nearly all light that falls on the metal, turning it pitch black.
Unfortunately, the process requires a very expensive femtosecond laser and access to huge amounts of electricity. As such, don’t expect to see this technology used in jewelry making any time soon!
When femtosecond laser technology comes down in price, we’ll have black gold. But for now we have black rhodium and a couple other non-permanent techniques. If someone tries to sell you black gold, it’s a fiction. If they try to sell you black rhodium plated gold or platinum, it’s a fact!
Black Rhodium Jeweler,