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Channel Set - Ann Kendall

Rhodium, by its nature, is rare -- found only in the smallest of trace amounts within platinum ore. It is sought for its brilliant sparkle and the brightness it brings to the dull hue of created white gold. Once white gold is dipped into a rhodium bath, the shine refracts and reflects whatever is near, entering the spectral plane of often a nearby diamond.

I didn’t want a diamond – I was emphatically (for me at the time, I am much more so now regarding just about everything) against the purchase, not really for the issue of expense, but because it simply didn’t suit my lifestyle. But he persisted and purchased one, so the only real thing to do was to try and make it into what I wanted – more millimeters of white gold to widen the band and a bezel setting for the stone deep into the width of this new band. A new dip of rhodium kept the shine not blindingly bright but fresh and clean every couple of years.

And every few years, I would encounter a cracking of the skin beneath my ring finger – one specific property of rhodium that appealed to me early on was its ability to cover the allergic properties of the nickel, which is mixed with yellow gold to create the initial white gold material. It seemed, however, that my hands were anti-receptive to this anti-allergic property, and I never really took the ring off – hence my lifestyle concerns from early on. For me, jewelry should be at its best serviceable, so the thought of some routine where I had to take an item off every time, I approached water just didn’t make sense. Friction ultimately causes rhodium to wear down and dissipate, so my approach to ring-wearing didn’t really jive with rhodium’s natural reaction to overuse.

These minor skin irritations generally cleared up quickly with a few days of ring-rest or heavy-duty hand lotion. But last summer my poor finger, over the course of a few weeks, came to look as if it had been burned in a sun fire: red, dry, peeling skin began to seep from under the ring up toward my knuckle and down toward my joint. No amount of my usual treatments worked to solve the encroaching fiery redness of my finger, so I awkwardly went to the dermatologist. I explained it felt odd to come in for what I was pretty sure was an injury to just one finger caused by jewelry. A few tubes of steroid cream and two months later have cured most of the burn look, but it appears that a permanent red mark will probably remain for a good long while, if not forever.

The doctor explained a few things to me about the mechanics of jewelry and its impact on the skin. The design of the ring, while quite functional for daily life, did leave a small channel between the diamond, the band, and my finger – allowing for all kinds of bacteria to hideout and mix with the deteriorating rhodium, all of which lead to direct contact with the nickel I was attempting to avoid. Essentially ring fatigue allowed a skin trauma to take place, all right there on my hand, in my direct eye-view each and every hour of the day. Not so unlike twenty years of marriage: friction, fatigue, return of yellowish non-bright tones, seeking trace amounts of hue to cover allergic reactions.


Ann Kendall: mother, writer, English professor, traveler, advocate.

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