Plasticware is fantastic, isn’t it? You pull it straight from its sealed plastic wrapper, completely sanitary and ready for use. If you are a little thrifty, you can wash it and reuse it a handful of times. After about the fifth wash or so, of course, it begins to warp. Toss it in the trash! It’s cheap and easy to replace.
When you buy costume jewelry, you may have a similar experience. It looks and wears so beautifully for a short time. If you are lucky, you may get a few months of wear before it begins to fade, chip, or break. Eventually, the links break loose or the base metal shines through, but it was cheap, so you make peace with the loss and throw it in the pile of other long forgotten treasures. RIP crystal studded bangle, until we meet again in jewelry heaven.
That is both the benefit and disadvantage of purchasing costume jewelry. Easy come, easy go! Precious metals and stones, however, have staying power. Although it may come at some expense, with proper maintenance, jewelry items made with quality materials will last you for years to come. Your items will require different maintenance based upon their materials and construction. Similar to keeping a car finely tuned, this maintenance is worth the investment when done properly.
One of the most common area of confusion for customers involves caring for white gold. To keep it looking its very best, white gold requires routine rhodium plating, and with its growing popularity, this has become a constant topic of discussion. 14k white gold contains the same gold content as 14k yellow, but white gold contains different alloys than yellow gold. Alloys are a mixture of metals, and in yellow gold those are silver, copper and zinc. White gold, however, is gold which may be mixed with palladium, zinc, nickel, silver or occasionally platinum. Because gold is naturally yellow, they use white alloys to create a white look, but it will still maintain a slight yellow tone due to the yellow hue of the gold. To create a bright, crisp white color, white gold items are given a rhodium finish, which is a member of the platinum group.
Rhodium plating does not flake or peel, but will fade over time. Fading will occur faster on items which are agitated more often, such as rings and bracelets, but will occur slowly on pendants and earrings. For most items, it is recommended that rhodium plating be done every six to twelve months. It is an easy process which can usually be finished while you wait. The process involves polishing and cleaning the item thoroughly before electroplating can occur. The item is then attached to a negative lead, an anode is attached to a positive lead and both are placed in a rhodium solution. When completed, the item is rinsed in distilled water. The finished product will be bright, shiny and look as new as when it was purchased. Most jewelers will charge between $40 and $100 to rhodium plate, varying by item and location. This is good to consider when purchasing a white gold piece, as it will slowly reveal a slight yellow tint if not maintained properly.
Yellow gold plating requires a similar process, involving a yellow gold solution rather than a rhodium solution. Yellow gold plating is generally used to re-plate a non precious metal, such as costume jewelry. Black rhodium is also available, but wears significantly faster than both white and yellow.
If you are looking for a white tone but aren’t comfortable with routine rhodium plating, consider investing in platinum. Although platinum is significantly more expensive than white gold, it has many advantages. Platinum does not require plating and wears much slower than gold. After twenty years of wear, a platinum item will be as thick and strong as the day it was purchased, whereas gold slowly thins over time, requiring more repairs.