“Plating” in jewelry means applying a very thin layer (in microns) of another metal onto the surface of precious metal, or basically “coating” the precious metal with a very thin layer of another element.
A piece of jewelry is plated mostly for two reasons: One, to enhance or change the color of precious metal, two, to protect the wearer or the jewelry from allergic/ chemical reactions.
In jewelry industry, there are two types of metals that are commonly plated: Silver, and white gold.
Silver is plated so that it’s protected against reacting to oxygen in the air, or chemicals on the surface of our skin, which turn its color into black eventually, depending on how strong the acidity or alkalinity of our skin is.
White gold, on the other hand is plated mainly for color enhancement. Because pure gold is naturally yellow in our environment, when it is mixed with other metals such as nickel to generate white gold, the alloy still has a hue and tone of yellow into it.
Therefore, in order to fully eliminate that yellow tint, white gold (which is still a bit yellow before plating) is plated.
Different metals could be used for coating or plating the surface of jewelry. One of the most used metals for plating is Rhodium.
Rhodium gives the white gold alloy that sharp white finish after plating, which is also used on silver and has the same effect. It is also a safer element to use and lasts for a long time.
However, it’s important to know that after a while the plating layer could wear out due to constant use, and you might need to renew the plating on your ring or other jewelry that are in everyday use.
There are also different colors of plating available. For example, you could have your silver piece plated in Rhodium (which is sharp white), rose gold, yellow gold, or even black, or dark blue colors.
It is interesting to know that some types of skins even react to the gold or silver alloys underneath the plating surface, and if you ever experience this, you can always use higher karats or different colors of gold alloys that are less reactive.
Also let everyone around you know about that, so they can pick a safer item when gifting you jewelry!