Lately, gold vermeil has been making a buzz in the jewelry world. It is increasing in popularity but interestingly enough, not many people know what this is. Although vermeil might seem like a new craze, this type of metal has existed for centuries.
If you are into jewelry that looks like gold (notice that I don’t say gold jewelry here), vermeil may be of interest to you. It is an affordable alternative to real gold, although there are other similar options as well (such as gold-plate and gold-filled).
You might be wondering:
Is gold vermeil for me? To help you decide, we are going to outline everything you need to know about gold vermeil before you decide to make your purchase.
What is Gold Vermeil?
In a nutshell, vermeil (French for silver, pronounced ver-may) refers to a variety of gold-coated metal. For metal to be considered vermeil, it needs to meet three main trade criteria:
- The base of the metal must be of sterling (92.5%) or fine (99.9%) silver. This is why vermeil is also known by its other names: Silver Gilt or Gilded Silver
- The purity of the gold must be of at least 10 karats
- The thickness of the gold coat should consist of a minimum of 2.5 microns (0.0025 millimeters)
If these three criteria are not met, then the metal becomes gold-filled or gold-plated (more on this later). You can also find gold vermeil in other colors such as rose gold, Hamilton gold and so on. The color you choose depends on your preferences.
While gold vermeil is popularly used in jewelry, it is a versatile metal and has its other uses as well. A good example is the Vermeil Room of The White House. This famous room contains a wine cooler and tableware all made of vermeil. You will find vermeil being used in fixtures and furniture among other things. Also, many sports trophies and all Olympic gold medals are all made of gold vermeil.
Gold vermeil was a popular Victorian Era feature and was used heavily in jewelry, tableware and other items.
How is Gold Vermeil made?
To create gold vermeil, the item is first crafted in fine or sterling silver and is then covered in gold using the process known as electrolysis. In the past, vermeil was crafted using the process of fire-gilding, but this was later banned due to the dangers inherent in this process, especially the issue of mercury causing blindness. Electrolysis, if done correctly, results in a consistent thickness and quality that is capable of lasting for a very long time, and can last for many years.
How long does gold vermeil last?
The durability of your gold vermeil actually depends on the thickness of the gold plating. In other words, gold is the primary factor when determining whether or not the gold vermeil will last. As a general rule of thumb, the thicker the gold plating, the longer the life of the piece.
Another factor to consider is the purity of the vermeil. As you may know, the higher the purity of gold, the softer it is and more susceptible to scratches and damage. If you would want gold vermeil that will last for a long time, buying 14 k or 18 k gold vermeil is recommended. Anything higher will be too soft and lower would not have the color of gold you may be after.
Another question we get asked a lot is whether gold vermeil tarnishes.
Because vermeil is made with a silver base, and because silver is known for oxidizing, it is only a matter of time before gold vermeil starts to tarnish. However, this does not have to be a permanent issue. With regular cleaning and maintaining, the tarnish can be removed and the vermeil restored to sparkle.
How does Gold Vermeil differ from Gold-Plated and Gold-Filled?
Gold vermeil, gold-plated and gold-filled jewelry are very similar in concept. Only slight differences in execution and materials distinguish these three methods.
There is no standard metal or gold thickness when it comes to gold-plate. You can find gold plate in a variety of thicknesses and on a range of varying metals and alloys. With gold-plating, there is the high likelihood of the gold finish wearing out and chipping over time as the gold coating is very thin.
Gold-filled jewelry is more valuable than gold-plate. It contains more gold as the gold coating is quite thick. Also, the base metal used for gold-filled items is often a gold alloy. This is hypoallergenic and also does not tarnish. Gold-filled is the next best thing to solid gold. This is why it is costlier than gold-plate or even vermeil.
Gold vermeil is similar to gold-plate in terms of affordability and amount of gold used. The main difference between the two is that vermeil has its strict standards and is made entirely of precious metals (both silver and gold are considered precious metals) while gold plate has different levels of gold thickness and is made with any base metal. If the same criteria is met for both, gold plate and gold vermeil can be one and the same!
Buying Gold Vermeil
You can find gold vermeil in many jewelry stores online and in-store, however it is essential to be a vigilant buyer. Here are some things to look for before you buy:
- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Notice the prices. Gold vermeil is typically more expensive than sterling silver and gold-plated jewelry. If the price of the gold vermail is very similar to these, chances are the quality of the vermeil you are looking at is low.
- Check the coloration and the weight of the vermeil item. Ask about the level of purity as well as the thickness.
- Check for the mark ‘925’ on the item as this is used to signify silver jewelry covered in a layer of gold. This is a standard hallmark for vermeil.
- Buy from a reputable seller. When selling gold vermeil, sellers need to disclose any deviations from the minimum standards in the three abovementioned criteria as vermeil is a regulated metal. It is a good idea to request all specifications of the vermeil before you buy.
Potential Allergic Reactions
Certain metals such as nickel, copper, chromium and cobalt have been known to cause allergic reactions in individuals. This is not a concern with gold vermeil, as it only generally contains gold and silver.
However, if there are materials mixed in the vermeil such as nickel, sellers are required to disclose them. Be extra vigilant in inquiring about the composition of the gold vermeil.
How do you maintain Gold Vermeil?
With proper care and maintenance, gold vermeil jewelry can keep sparkling through the years. Here are our top tips for cleaning and storing your gold vermeil jewelry.
- When you aren’t wearing your gold vermeil jewelry, store it in a fabric-lined box, or a soft cloth away from dust and dirt. An airtight box is ideal as it can minimize the oxidization of the silver base.
- Avoid placing your gold vermeil near heat as this can cause discoloration and deformation. Also, don’t place any weight on top of gold vermeil jewelry as this can cause damage.
- To prevent tarnishing, wipe gold vermeil jewelry after use. The accumulation of body oils, cosmetics and grime can cause the jewelry to lose its sparkle and to fade.
- Avoid wiping gold vermeil items with coarse fabrics or chemicals as this can strip the gold off. Only use a 100% cotton or microfiber cloth to very softly wipe the item and warm soapy water.
- Never use chemicals to clean gold vermeil jewelry. This refers to makeup, washing liquid and even chlorine from swimming pools. These can discolor the jewelry and strip the gold off.
Gold vermeil is the ideal choice if you love gold but cannot afford to buy the solid thing. It gives you the look without the steep price. Also, if you are wondering whether to go with gold plate, gold-filled or gold vermeil, note that each has its benefits. The main reasons people choose gold vermeil over the other two is because it is more affordable than gold fill and more valuable than gold plate. Make your decision based on your preferences and what you deem is important.