Gold-filled? Gold plate? Gold vermeil? If you like gold jewelry but can’t afford the real thing, you’ve got plenty of options for alternatives.
But it’s not immediately obvious what the differences are.
We’re going to break them down so you can make buying decisions with ease. We’ll also walk you through the wonderful world of vermeil.
In fact, vermeil is so versatile that there’s even a vermeil wine cooler in the Vermeil Room at the White House!
But what is gold vermeil jewelry and why should you buy it? Read on to get the lowdown.
What Is Gold Vermeil Jewelry?
Vermeil is sometimes called silver gilt, though it’s a type of gold plating.
The jewelry starts out as a well-crafted piece in sterling or fine silver. A gold coating gives it the vermeil finish.
If the gold isn’t at least 10k, and at least 2.5 microns thick, then it isn’t vermeil.
If you know your gilt jewelry, you might already be confused. The process sounds a lot like both gold-filled jewelry and gold plate.
To make gold-filled jewelry, jewelers roll a sheet of gold onto the silver. This makes gold-filled jewelry more expensive because it uses more gold.
But jewelers use electrolysis to make vermeil. They submerge the silver piece in a bath containing gold particles. It gives an even finish across the whole piece.
And it differs from gold plate because vermeil must be on a sterling silver base. Gold plate could be any metal, such as steel or brass.
Where Did Vermeil Come From?
Vermeil is a centuries-old technique, even though it seems new to many jewelry buyers. It’s also pronounced ‘ver-may’, due to its French origins.
French metalworkers invented the vermeil process in the 18th century. Before they refined the technique, they used mercury which struck many jewelers blind. The French government ended up banning the process for a time.
The Victorians perfected the electroplating process which was much safer. They favored vermeil and used it on all kinds of silver objects. It suited both their love of gold and financial sense.
You can usually spot antique vermeil from its rosy tone. Jewelers added more copper to gold in the 19th century. To get the same look in a modern piece, choose jewelry in the 10k-12k gold range.
Modern vermeil looks more like regular gold jewelry. Even the Olympic gold medals are vermeil!
Why Would I Buy Vermeil Jewelry?
It offers durable jewelry at a more affordable price point than solid gold jewelry.
And if you have any metal allergies, you’re in luck. Most sterling silver is pure and doesn’t contain nickel, chromium, or cobalt.
When the gold coating wears off, you’re still left with a nice piece of hallmarked silver jewelry.
If you buy gold plate, the coating is thinner and can chip away over time.
Vermeil also comes in different kinds of gold. Prefer yellow gold? Great, you’ve got plenty to choose from.
And rose gold hit the trend list in 2016 when Pantone named ‘Rose Quartz’ its color of the year.
Check out this blog if you want more proof that you should own gold vermeil jewelry.
What Should I Look for in Vermeil Jewelry?
Look at the price. Vermeil jewelry is more valuable than gold plated jewelry because of the silver base.
A low price can show it’s not real vermeil. Or check for a hallmark, which guarantees the presence of silver.
Many vermeil pieces use 14k gold (or more). If a listing says a piece uses 10k gold, it might be gold-plated.
Does Vermeil Wear off or Tarnish?
Gold doesn’t tarnish because the metal only reacts with halogen gases. But silver does oxidize, which causes the black tarnish.
And the vermeil can wear off. Though that depends in part on how often you wear the piece. And how much contact it has with your skin.
Thankfully, the thicker the gold plating, the longer the vermeil can last.
But the purity of the gold also affects its durability.
Pure gold is soft. The higher the value, the more it can suffer damage or scratches.
Likewise, the lower the value, the harder the coating. That makes it more resistant to scuffs or scrapes.
How Do I Care for Gold Vermeil?
Wearing jewelry against the skin causes the gold coating to wear off over time. That’s because of the oils your skin contains to protect it.
It is possible to care for your jewelry in a gentle way to preserve the coating.
Avoid using polishing cloths which can be too harsh. Instead, you can use mild dish soap in warm water.
Swish the dish soap in the warm water. Leave your jewelry to soak for around 15 minutes.
Use a soft toothbrush to lift away any dirt. Rinse the piece with clean warm water and dry with a lint-free cloth.
Wipe down your jewelry before you put it away. That’ll stop a build up of oil from your skin or dirt.
It’s best to store your vermeil jewelry wrapped in a soft cloth or an airtight box. Take it off before you go running or swimming, have a shower, or wash any dishes.
Avoid using sprays like hair spray or perfume after you’ve put your jewelry on.
How Do I Wear Vermeil Pieces?
If you’re new to gold vermeil, start off with a small piece. Rings and earrings make great starter pieces for your collection.
Slim stackable bangles can let you introduce vermeil alongside other materials. Try combining it with sterling silver or even wood!
Or if you’re feeling brave, try a statement piece. A vermeil pendant, a watch or a bracelet can set off your outfit.
Enjoy Your Vermeil Jewelry
Gold vermeil jewelry makes a great choice if you like gold but you don’t like its price tag. It’s a sterling silver base also makes it more valuable than other gold effect pieces.
Make sure you take care of it and it’ll be a staple in your collection for years to come.
Looking for more advice about fashion and accessories? Check out our blog for more tips.