Before I get started, I must tell you first that I love jewelry! I have an extremely large, and diverse, collection of costume and fine jewelry that I treasure and keep in a large, standing, jewelry chest. I love it all – pewter, gold, sterling silver, diamonds, glass, gemstones, resin – put it into a piece that catches my eye and I’m happy. However, I haven’t spent most of my life following jewelry trends so when I first started to see descriptions that mentioned rhodium plated sterling silver I wondered what this was. So, I decided to do some research that I’d like to share with you. Rhodium holds the distinction of being the world’s most expensive precious metal. It was first discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston, who isolated it from platinum and named it after the Latin rhodon, meaning rose. It’s a silvery-white metal and its appeal comes from its high reflective properties, which is almost unique among metals. Rhodium also costs about six times as much as gold by weight and 80% of the world’s rhodium comes from South Africa. The world production of the metal is only about 20 tons per year and some of the most expensive consumer items are made from rhodium. Right now, it’s very popular with Italian jewelry designers One of the most common ways to use rhodium is plated onto sterling silver, so what’s the difference between the two? Sterling silver is 92.5% silver with 7.5% copper added to make it a nice metal that is very popular with jewelry designers, and wearers. It has a glowing patina on its own and can be oxidized to give it a unique look. However, it tarnishes. Rhodium plated sterling silver has been polished and dipped in rhodium. It has a bright finish, similar to white gold items, and doesn’t tarnish. However, it shouldn’t be polished as that could scratch and dull the shine. Which is better? The answer is either depending on the piece, the look you are going for, and how you plan to wear and use the item. Each option has its good qualities so you can select either one and know you’re getting a good piece that will bring you years of use if you take care of it properly (i.e. no wearing of your rings while dishwashing, scrubbing floors, washing your windows, car or your pet, etc.). One last thing – because of its reflective properties some jewelers will plate rhodium onto nickel based items, which you don’t want if you are allergic to nickel. So always look to confirm that .925 sterling silver was used for the base of your rhodium plated piece (which you’ll see on our rhodium plated items). I’ll provide more information on the proper care, and feeding, of your costume and fine jewelry in future blogs so stay tuned! You can also see an example of our Rhodium jewelry here.