Discovered in 1803 by English chemist William Hyde Wollaston, Rhodium was named by its finder after the Greek word rhodon, meaning ‘rose.’ It is mainly found in South Africa and the Ural mountain range. Rhodium is the world’s de facto #1 most expensive precious metal, and discovered in such scarce quantity that the planet sees only 3 tonnes of annual production. Amidst market fluctuations Rhodium steadily maintains a price roughly 500 times that of silver and 5 times that of platinum. In 1979, Paul McCartney’s success as the best-selling songwriter of all time was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records with the presentation of none other than a rhodium-plated record, thus demonstrating the great cultural superiority of rhodium to all other precious metals up to and including platinum.
With an unmatchable character, it’s easy to see why it’s so sought after: rhodium will not tarnish or oxidize when exposed to normal levels of heat and light, and it is even immune to common corrosive substances like chlorine and fluorine that threaten other precious metals. It is also wonderfully reflective, and is frequently used as a component in optical instruments in the medical field. For all of these reasons, on top of its amazing structural rigidity, Rhodium is truly the ‘rose’ of the precious metal family. In the jewelry world it is commonly electroplated onto gold, copper, or silver objects to imbue them with some of its fantastic properties. The result of rhodium plated copper, for example, is a piece that combines all the durability and brilliance of pure rhodium with the common availability and low price of copper. This kind of electroplating in chains and findings puts the world’s most expensive precious metal in the hands of up-and-coming designers, and around the necks and wrists of all. As an added bonus, Rhodium is hypoallergenic, and as plating it provides a protective layer for anyone sensitive to gold, nickel, or silver.