An ounce of Rhodium is currently 13 times more expensive than it was in January of 2018 and over 3.5 times more than it was in January of last year. The continued rise in price has once again sparked a search for an alternative to rhodium. Unfortunately for those of us in the jewelry industry, there is no viable replacement for the luster of rhodium, but this does not mean we are completely at the mercy of the market.
Rhodium plating has two functions: it acts as both color and tarnish barrier, and gives jewelry a bright white finish. Cutting back on the plating time would save rhodium, but it would also greatly reduce its ability to mask yellow gold or prevent silver from oxidizing.
In the past nickel has been used as a barrier, or pre-plate, under rhodium, however the allergies associated with nickel has all but eliminated this as an option. Between 2006 and 2008, rhodium rose form about $3,000 to $10,000 an ounce and palladium became the standard barrier, pre-plate, for many jewelry manufacturers to cuts without compromising quality. This is still to this day required by many large chains stores and volume buyers.
Palladium is an excellent barrier, in fact superior to rhodium, it’s white and tarnish resistant. So a layer of palladium followed by a shortened strike of rhodium will produce a bright white finish, providing the needed color and tarnish barrier while increasing the number of pieces you can plate with a bottle of rhodium. Think of palladium as a inexpensive primer prior to the final coat of color.
PALLABRITE™ MIRROR is a maintenance free ready to use palladium plating bath purposely designed for flash plating over white metals. This product produces a consistent bright white mirror finish that is tarnish resistant. Can be used as an intermediate layer over gold, silver, palladium, and platinum or as a final plate over low end jewelry. An excellent pre-plate to save money on rhodium plating. 2.5 grams per quart bottle. Heat to 125°F, 2-3 volts, 15-30 seconds. Platinized titanium anode.
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