If you're a jewelry lover, you likely have a keen eye for trends and an appreciation for the various kinds of metals used to create beautiful pieces. Although many valuable metals are used in jewelry designs, gold remains one of the most popular options.
The value of gold has reliably increased over the last several years while the supply has decreased. When shopping for new gold jewelry, you may have stumbled upon some pieces labeled as "gold vermeil," "vermeil," "14k vermeil," or "10k vermeil." But what do these terms mean?
This article will discuss these terms and when gold vermeil might be the right choice for you.
What Does “Vermeil” Mean?
Vermeil is any piece of jewelry that consists of a sterling silver base layer, with a solid gold layer electroplated on top.
However, for a piece of jewelry to be marketed as "gold vermeil" in the United States, it must meet specific requirements:
- The base material must be sterling silver. Sterling silver is an alloy containing 92.5% by weight of silver and 7.5% by other metals, which is usually copper. The alloy is harder than fine silver (or pure silver), but it is prone to tarnishing. Its conductive surface makes it a good base for plating, as with vermeil.
- The gold-plated layer must be comprised of at least 10 karat gold, but it can range from 14k to 24k.
- The sterling silver must be plated in gold at least 2.5 microns thick (micron = 1/1000th of a millimeter)
14k and 10k Gold Vermeil Explained
The karatage listed before the words "gold vermeil" refers to how much gold there is in the metal. The two most common vermeil pieces are 14k and 10k.
14k gold is 58.3% gold and 10% other metals, while 10k gold is 41.7% gold content. You may be wondering which is better—the 14k gold vermeil or the 10k gold vermeil.
The answer is that it depends. Pure gold is flexible and soft. It is also bright yellow, which can look harsh against some skin tones. Gold plating strengthens the piece and changes the hue so that it is not as aggressive. So in some cases, the 10k gold vermeil may look more attractive than the 14k. It simply depends on the gold tone you're looking for.
US Vermeil Label Regulation
Vermeil label regulation is much stricter in the United States than it is in Canada. In Canada, the plating only needs to be 1.0 microns thick, whereas plating in the U.S. must be at least 2.5 microns thick. Thicker plating lasts much longer.
Because this is not closely monitored, you may end up purchasing a “gold vermeil” piece from a Canadian brand that does not match the Federal Trade Commission’s conditions in the United States. This means you may end up paying full price for a subpar piece of jewelry when you thought you were investing in something much more valuable.
Our recommendation is that you inquire about the plating thickness if you are purchasing from a Canadian brand. This will help ensure that you are making a good choice in jewelry.
Gold Vermeil FAQs
- Not for a long time. Other gold-plated jewelry tarnishes because the plating is thin and wears away over time, revealing the sterling beneath. But because the layer of gold covering the sterling silver is much thicker with gold vermeil, it tends to last a long time without tarnishing.
- With proper use, care, and cleaning, gold vermeil should last for many years. It is the highest-quality and longest-lasting option aside from solid gold jewelry.
- Yes, the vermeil is made of at least 10 karat gold electroplated over the sterling silver base. While it is not “solid gold,” it is still real gold!
- Yes, gold vermeil is hypoallergenic. It is made up of precious metals that are not bothersome to most people.
- Aside from solid gold jewelry, gold vermeil is the best quality you can buy. It ranks as “demi-fine jewelry.”
Gold Vermeil vs. Other Gold
- Gold vermeil is a thick electroplated layer of solid gold over sterling silver. Solid gold is an entire jewelry piece made of gold with no plating or sterling base layer.
- While gold vermeil and gold-plated jewelry both have layers of electroplated gold, the difference is in the thickness of the gold layer and the composition of the base metal.
- Gold vermeil is at least 2.5 microns thick and is electroplated over a sterling silver base.
- Gold-plated jewelry is much thinner and plated over a cheap base metal, usually copper.
- Gold-filled pieces often have a thick layer of gold-plated on top, just like vermeil does. However, gold-filled pieces use a cheaper base metal. The name is misleading—it doesn’t mean “filled with gold.” It is more akin to gold plating.
- All gold vermeil pieces are electroplated over a base layer of sterling silver. Sterling silver, however, does not have gold placed on top of it.
When to Buy Gold Vermeil
Buy gold vermeil if you're aiming for a cheap, yet high-quality alternative to solid gold. It is also great for those with sensitive skin, as it is hypoallergenic.
Opt for gold-plated jewelry if you aren’t concerned about the longevity of your jewelry or if you don’t care if it tarnishes—gold-plated jewelry can still look good for some time, and it is the cheapest option for those on a budget.
Whatever your style, gold vermeil is a stunning choice of metal for you to enjoy the style of fine jewelry at an affordable price.