Black Gold — Fact vs. Fiction

 

Don't Let the "Black Gold" Advertisement Fool You -- This "Black Gold" Ring Has Been Plated With Black Rhodium.

Don’t Let the “Black Gold” Advertisement Fool You — This Ring Has Been Plated With Black Rhodium.

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

Misleading Ads About "Black Gold" Lead to Disgruntled Customers.

Misleading Ads Lead to Disgruntled Customers.

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

Pure Rhodium. This Makes for an Excellent Coating Material.

Pure Rhodium. This Makes for an Excellent Coating Material.

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?

rose gold with hand engraving and black rhodium centerA 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?

Rose gold, black rhodium, vintage ring

Rose Gold Ring with Partial Black Treatment

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?

black gold

Black PVD links with 18kt Rose Gold

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?”

Arrowhead with Black Rhodium Plating

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,
Calla Gold

 

Related Post

About Calla Gold

Calla Gold is a Personal Jeweler and Author who takes pride in working with clients one-on-one to integrate their personal sense of style and taste into custom designed jewelry and repaired jewelry pieces.   Unlike typical Santa Barbara jewelry businesses, Calla Gold has no brick-and-mortar location. Calla Gold comes to you, bringing you the jewelry collection you want to see and collaborating with you to create unique custom jewelry. Calla also works with at-a-distance clients.

33
Leave a Reply

avatar
13 Comment threads
20 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
15 Comment authors
Calla GoldSmithaCalla GoldSharee BarnesRicky Barker Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Antoinette Matlins
Guest

As usual, very well done Calla! I would also point out that depending on the process used, the “black” may look more like a “gunmetal gray” rather than a true black. True black can be accomplished, however, by oxidation, but only on a flat surface. I have a wonderful ring by a Turkish designer (during the Ottoman empire, much of the gold jewelry was oxidized to make the stone “pop” — to use your word) that is made in 24 karat gold. It has a very wide shank leading to the flattened top; the top is oxidized to create a… Read more »

The Goddard Company
Guest
The Goddard Company

Calla, thank you for your post. I would fall into the category of duped black-gold buyers if you hadn’t shared this!
Are there any other metals that we should be aware of in regards to trickery? I want to make sure to always be buying, “the real thing”!

Lance
Guest
Lance

Most people don’t know that there IS Black Gold and it is found only in one area along the Eastern Sierra in a few gulches. I will not point out a more specific location due to private property owners privacy request.
It is very rare and is GOLD not Rhodium. It has very unusual properties.

Abe S
Guest
Abe S

Thank you Calla, I really like the way black jewellery looks. What permanent black metal do you recomend to mount a precious stone on?

Andy
Guest
Andy

What about gold-chromium-cobalt alloys? After extensive research I’ve found that the oxide produced with the variant gold-cobalt alloy after heat treatment is better than just a plating because it penetrates the surface more. Granted, my ability to produce said alloy is limited, however I could share my detailed findings if you’re interested in experimenting.

Brooke
Guest
Brooke

HI! My engagement ring is black gold how do I find someone to plate it? I’m in Kentucky and pickings are slim here.

Erica
Guest
Erica

Thanks for all of the info! If I were to want a different look could I allow the black rhodium to wear off to reveal the underlying (white) gold? Is there a process necessary to remove the plating? Does the plating do damage to the underlying gold?

samuel sands
Guest
samuel sands

wow Calla Gold i can make blackgold how can you call your self a jeweller if you can not do this easy alloy of gold and it dose not have rhodium in or on it this is the funny’s thing i have read for a long time and it has to be cast you can not roller press it is to hard and i am not going to tell you what the alloy you should know

Samuel
Guest
Samuel

ok so you need a hand well do you know what cobalt is and what colour it is yes its blue similar to platinum but a bit darker now what happens if you first melt the cobalt and add carbon to it what colour do you get then thats all i a willing to tell you but i have made 6 wedding bands which are 14k black gold and only one has come back because it snapped (p.s) there are a lot of different types of carbon have fun you may need help from a ex foundry worker to get… Read more »

Michael Perlin
Guest
Michael Perlin

I recently had to answer a question with regard to a client’s request for Black Gold. I found your blog about Black Gold extremely helpful in explaining to this client that there is no black gold , but rather it is gold which is plated. Thank you for providing your customers with so much educational material on all aspects of jewelry. By making your customer’s wiser, you have insured their loyalty and respect. Great Job Calla.