Prized for its glittering beauty and spiritual significance, Gold is the most desired precious metal in the world, and is widely used in jewelry making. It’s also one of the most expensive metals, which is why solid gold jewellery comes with a hefty price tag.
Fortunately, there are other options and techniques available for the budget-conscious discerning customers of today, such as gold plating, gold filling and vermeil. Of all, gold Vermeil is a fantastic alternative to solid gold, as it gives you all the sparkle and shine of gold at an affordable price.
In this blog, we have outlined everything you need to know about Vermeil- what is it, how is it made, is it good for you, how it differs from other gold plating, buying tips and finally how to take good care of your vermeil jewelry.
- What Is Gold Vermeil?
- How Is Gold Vermeil Made?
- Why Should You Buy Gold Vermeil?
- Is Gold Vermeil Expensive?
- Buying Tips For Vermeil Jewelry
- How To Care For Gold Vermeil Jewelry
What Is Gold Vermeil?
‘Gold Vermeil’, also called ‘Silver gilt’, is a thin surface coating of gold electroplated on silver.
The term Vermeil (pronounced ver-may) is a trade regulated quality standard that applies to jewelry featuring a specific thickness of gold plating over a sterling silver core.
There are three qualifying factors that sets vermeil apart from other gold jewellery:
- The strength of the gold used must be at least 10 Karats with high quality vermeil usually being 14 K or more.
With a 10K gold covering, the layer would contain at least 41.7% gold content – much greater than that of gold plating.
- The thickness of the plating has to be a minimum of 2.5 microns. This is 5 times more than the 0.5-micron requirement of regular gold-plated jewellery.
- The base metal has to be sterling silver.
The official definition of gold vermeil according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is:
“An industry product may be described or marked as ‘vermeil’ if it consists of a base of sterling silver coated or plated on all significant surfaces with gold, or gold alloy of not less than 10 karat fineness, that is of reasonable durability and a minimum thickness throughout equivalent to 2.5 microns of fine gold”.
When these three standards are not met, then the metal becomes gold-filled or gold-plated.
How Is Gold Vermeil Made?
This gold plating technique originated in France in the 18th century.
Vermeil jewelry is made by first creating the base of the item out of sterling silver and then plating it with a layer of gold.
The original process of making vermeil used fire-gilding with mercury, a highly toxic element, and was subsequently banned by the government.
Modern vermeil jewelry is created by Electroplating, which uses electric current to activate the gilding process.
The electroplating technique is a chemical process that requires the sterling silver jewelry be placed in a bath containing fine gold particles, which adhere to the surface using electricity.
Electroplating can be done in two ways:
- Micron plating: This method involves measuring the thickness of the gold layer. This is necessary when plating jewelry pieces and watches.
- Flash plating: Here, gold is dipped into the electroplating solution for a short time, and then the gold ends up coating the piece.
Why Should You Buy Gold Vermeil?
Affordable yet luxurious, Gold Vermeil is one of the hottest trends right now. It boasts all the glowy good looks of solid gold, but for a smaller price tag.
Gold vermeil provides superior durability and premium quality pieces without breaking the bank, allowing consumers to build a diverse collection of gold jewellery.
If you’re looking for gold pieces that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, vermeil is the perfect in-between option you can go for, without sacrificing on quality. While it is not as inexpensive as regular gold-plated jewellery, it is less costly than solid gold jewellery with the same karat value. Pieces of exquisite design that typically cost hundreds or even thousands are readily available.
Vermeil is a great choice for sensitive skins as it is hypoallergenic and made with high-quality precious metals (gold and sterling silver) only. It will not turn your skin green like a copper ring would. Regular gold plated jewelry includes nickel which can cause allergic reactions on your skin.
Vermeil jewelry doesn’t tarnish easily because of its thick gold plating. This makes it a perfect choice for everyday wear.
Vermeil gold has the added value of the entire piece being made of precious metals, with the base metal being real silver. This will help it to retain its value over time. Even if all of the gold plating wears off, you’ll still be left with a piece of solid silver jewelry.
A vermeil jewelry is available in many different qualities and offers myriad of choices. This technique can be used to create not just yellow gold but also rose gold jewellery to complement your style.
Most jewellers are able to create this finish much more easily than gold filled, so you’ll find that it’s more frequently used in designs. In addition, as with any gold plated jewellery, this finish can potentially be repaired by re-plating.
Vermeil is quality jewelry that is durable and perfect for everyday wear and will also last a long time with proper care. This type of plating is significantly thicker and therefore, longer-lasting than regular gold plating.
Due to its thicker layering, vermeil gold is a durable option for jewellery pieces. 14 to 18 karat gold vermeil is perfect for long-lasting jewelry. With proper care and cleaning, a gold vermeil piece will stand the test of time and resist tarnishing, unlike gold-plating which can tarnish quite quickly.
Is Gold Vermeil Expensive?
Gold vermeil jewellery isn’t as expensive compared to solid gold jewellery, and can cost as little as a tenth as much as solid gold. However, it can be more expensive than gold plated jewellery because of the sterling silver base metal.
As vermeil jewelry is composed of two precious metals, it’s usually thought of as being closer to fine jewelry and tends to fall under the category ‘demi-fine’.
Both the karat and thickness of the gold layer have an effect on the pricing. The higher the karat and thickness of the gold layer, the more expensive and valuable the piece will usually be.
Furthermore, vermeil jewelry is valuable than gold plated jewelry because of its sterling silver base. The copper and brass base metals used gold-plated jewelry, are less precious.
Difference Between Gold Vermeil And Gold Plated
Many people tend to confuse vermeil with gold plating, but there is a big difference in their quality, durability, and desirability.
The following two differences highlight the stark contrast between these: –
The base metal used for gold plated jewelry can be anything from nickel, brass, zinc to stainless steel; occasionally it is silver. But gold vermeil is always made with sterling silver as the core metal. Gold vermeil legally must be coated on top of solid 925 sterling silver.
Gold vermeil is at a minimum 5 times thicker than gold plating. As per the regulations, the gold in gold vermeil must be at least 2.5 microns thick.
In contrast to vermeil, there are no specific requirements for gold plated jewelry. The gold layer can be any thickness. Gold plating is usually less than .5 micron thick. That’s why you’ll often see the the gold plated layer can easily fade after you wear a piece a few times.
Buying Tips For Vermeil Jewelry
There are a few factors that you can look out for when buying vermeil jewelry: –
The price of the item is a great way to gauge if it’s real vermeil or not. If the item is the same price as sterling silver items or items labelled as gold-plated, it is unlikely to be genuine gold vermeil. Real vermeil pieces should fall somewhere between the cost of real gold pieces and gold-plated jewelry.
Whether you’re buying in stores or online, the seller should list the thickness of the piece. To be considered vermeil, the gold coating should be at least 2.5 microns thick. It is usually difficult to judge the thickness of the gold covering by eye. However, if the item is advertised at 14 K or more, it is more likely to be genuine gold vermeil, as cheaper gold-plated items are often covered in 10 karat gold.
To the naked eye, vermeil may look exactly like gold. But don’t get tricked and check for the stamp that denotes the standard silver purity value. You’ll often see gold vermeil rings stamped with 925 on the inside instead of a gold hallmark. If you see that marking, it’s an easy way to know there’s sterling silver.
Anything that claims to be authentic sterling silver should be marked as .925 or 925 If you can’t find this on the jewelry you’re looking at, it’s probably just gold-plated.
How To Care For Gold Vermeil Jewelry
Here are some care and cleaning tips that you must follow, in order to keep your vermeil jewelry sparkling through the years:
- Follow the rule ‘last thing on and first thing off’ when accessorizing to prolong the life of your vermeil piece.
Apply make-up and perfume before putting on your jewelry to protect the finish.
- To clean your jewelry, use lukewarm water, gentle liquid soap, a clean cotton or microfiber cloth and buff it gently.
- To keep the electroplating looking brand new, don’t work out or shower in your jewelry and be cautious when using lotion, hairspray, sunscreen and other chemicals found in your home.
- Although the covering on gold vermeil is thicker, it will still wear off over time, and this process will be accelerated if you expose the jewelry to detergents, alcohol and other cleaning liquids.
- Substances such as chlorine, can permanently damage or discolor your gold vermeil jewelry.
Bear this in mind when using chlorine bleach or before diving in the swimming pool
- Gold vermeil can tarnish over time due to the effects of oxidation on its sterling silver base. To prevent oxidation, store your jewelry in a dry place, such as soft fabric bag, pouch or ziploc bag. Ideally store your pieces separately so there is no chance of them rubbing on each other.