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Black Jewelry: Should You Get Black Rhodium or Oxidation?

Written by Annabelle
May 6, 2020

What’s not to love about black jewelry? It’s dramatic, it’s beautiful, and it makes stones pop like nothing else. But not all black jewelry is created the same; this dark finish is achieved via multiple jewelry methods, and the two most common finishes are black rhodium and oxidation. Here’s what you need to know about them.

Two Types of Black Jewelry

Black Rhodium

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This opal ring is plated with black rhodium

You may have seen jewelry described as “black gold.” While black gold isn’t a genuine metal, this term is often used to describe gold jewelry that has been plated with black rhodium.

Rhodium is a rare precious metal that is used to treat jewelry and enhance its appearance. In its natural form, it’s very bright and silvery, making it a good choice for touching up white gold. 

Black rhodium is a mixture of rhodium and other metals and chemicals to create a dark color. This mixture is then used to plate other metals such as sterling silver and gold. 

As a result, you can always expect black rhodium in plating form; what that means is that it’s merely a coating over another metal. While it always has a consistently black and dark aesthetic, this also means that it will fade over time from wear.

Oxidation

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These vintage pieces of jewelry show wear and oxidation.

Oxidation happens to a variety of metals; it’s a chemical reaction due to chemicals from your air and skin that come in contact with your jewelry. This oxidation causes the metal to change color, resulting in what you know as tarnish or rust.

However, oxidation is often desirable for items made specifically from sterling silver, as oxidized sterling silver can range from several shades of gray to even deep, almost-black. The process is done via a chemical solution. The metal is exposed to the solution and allowed to oxidize quickly until it reaches the desired color.

Oxidation like this only works for sterling silver, but it happens to be much better than black rhodium in terms of regular wear since it will not rub off. The only time when oxidation is removed is if you send in your jewelry for polishing. The jeweler will have to reapply the oxidation after polishing and cleaning to make the surface turn dark again.

What Should You Get?

If your item is a pair of earrings or a necklace, you can opt for black rhodium as there’s less chance of the plating wearing off. For rings and bracelets, it’s better to select oxidation as these items receive constant rubbing due to their position on your hands.

Now you’re all set on what type of black jewelry you should get! If you have something you want to apply black rhodium or oxidation to, get started with our rhodium service: 

  • before and after pictures of a ring that's been plated with rhodium

    Rhodium Plating

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Ali

What about brooches ? What is the best option for a silver made lion head brooch ? Black rodium plated or oxidized ?

Catherine

Hi there, we’ll reach out with further details!