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Many contemporary jewellery brands now use gold vermeil to create a high-quality, rich gold to their pieces, without having to use the more expensive, solid gold.
Gold vermeil covers many Crown jewels and it is also on sporting trophies and medals including the Olympic medals. The ‘Vermeil Room’ in the White House is so named as it houses a collection of vermeil.
In this article, we’ll ask what is gold vermeil? We look at why it is used, its properties, we compare it with other gold finishes and we also investigate how to take care of it.
What is Gold Vermeil?
Vermeil (pronounced ver-mail or ver-may) means “gilded silver”.
Normally at least 14-carat gold makes up the plating, but more often 18-carat gold is used.
To be classed as ‘Gold Vermeil’ it must meet three conditions:
- The item must be a base of 925 sterling silver
- The Gold must be at least 10-carat gold
- The plating must be at least 2.5 microns thick (one micron being 1/1000th of a millimetre).
If the piece does not meet all three criteria, the jewellery is instead said to be just ‘gold plated’.
Is Vermeil Good Quality?
Yes, gold vermeil is an excellent quality and better than gold plated.
It is plated but on sterling silver, which is already a prime quality and strong. It also has a thick layer of genuine gold on top.
The History of Gold Vermeil
They started the technique of gold vermeil plating in France in the 1700s. Initially, it carried out by fire-plating the gold onto silver. This was quite dangerous as it involved mercury.
Nowadays applying gold vermeil is applied by a process of electrolysis, which creates a consistent and even finish.
Why is Gold Vermeil Used?
The principal reason for using gold vermeil is cost – you get the look and depth of real gold but at a fraction of the cost.
The Difference Between Gold Plating and Gold Vermeil
Gold plating often has only a thickness of approximately 1 micron thick (sometimes less!) as there is no rule as to how little gold needs to cover the item.
Gold vermeil, with a minimum of 2.5 microns thick, is obviously of a much better quality of plating. They also lay gold vermeil plating on top of 925 sterling silver. This compares to many gold plated jewellery which can often be plated on to base metal.
There is also a newer type of gold plating, only much more advanced. Called ion-plating, it is a superior method of plating jewellery again. You can read all about it here.
Will Gold Vermeil Jewellery Irritate Me As Gold Plating Does?
With the thin layer of gold used in gold-plated jewellery which can easily come off, plus the often base-metal under the layer of gold, there is no surprise that gold-plated jewellery led to many allergies and irritations.
Gold vermeil jewellery, as we’ve explained, is different. In the unlikely even that the gold came off (which would be hard to do as it’s a comparatively thick layer) then 925 sterling silver lays underneath – which is very unusual to be allergic to.
14-carat and 18-carat Gold Vermeil
The number of carats before the Gold Vermeil refers to the content of gold used in the plating. For instance, 14-carat gold vermeil means that they plate the piece with 14-carat gold.
Different gold contents normally produce a different richness of colour. 18-carat gold vermeil is often a more saturated gold colour or truer-gold colour than 14-carat.
The gold used in gold vermeil can be yellow or red/rose gold.
Gold Vermeil Hallmarks
There is no gold vermeil hallmark. Instead, you will see the 925 or sterling silver hallmark on the piece – this signifies that the jewellery is 925 sterling silver underneath the gold.
How to Look After Gold Vermeil
Caring for your gold vermeil jewellery is simple. A polish with a gold polishing cloth will restore the gleam very well.
As with all jewellery, remove your jewellery to shower or bathe and definitely do not wear it whilst swimming in a chlorinated pool.
You should not spray harsh chemicals or perfumes on or near it.
Will Gold Vermeil Tarnish?
Like gold, gold vermeil will not tarnish. If the gold has been removed and the silver underneath is exposed, this may tarnish as it’s a natural property of silver to do so. A jewellery wipe can easily remove this.
Gold vermeil wears very well if we treat well it and may only dull a little. Again this will be revived with a jewellery cleaning cloth.
If you have no jewellery cleaner to hand, use a multi-purpose lint-free cloth to polish.
Gold vermeil is a superb choice to get the rich look of a high-carat gold, but without the hefty price tag.
It really suits warmer skin tones and sun-kissed skin. The rich colour of gold vermeil also look fabulous with pops of colour with gemstones in the jewellery.
It’s also useful for those with metal allergies as gold is very inert and this layer of pure gold over sterling silver will cause few reactions.