When it comes to sustainable luxury, we always go for gold—or in this case, gold vermeil. What’s the difference? Gold vermeil is far more affordable than solid gold, but also far more long lasting than gold plated pieces. Basically, you could call it the Goldilocks—sorry we had to—of fine jewelry.
Unlike solid gold jewelry, gold vermeil pieces needn’t be confined to engagement rings and heirlooms.
It may not last forever, but vermeil jewelry ticks most of our boxes when it comes to sentimental anniversary gifts or self-love moments. And whilst you may not pass your vermeil earrings down to your great-grandchildren, there’s always a case to be made for the accent pieces that spruce up your ensembles—if only for a decade or two.
What is gold vermeil jewelry?
First things first: how to pronounce vermeil? The correct pronunciation of the French word is vehr-may.
Simply put, gold vermeil jewelry is thickly plated silver—hence its nicknames as “silver gilt” or “gilded silver”. But unlike other gold plated jewelry, vermeil jewelry adheres to strict standards and regulations set in the 19th century. According to the Federal Trade Commission of the United States, the base metal for gold vermeil must be sterling silver (or 925 silver.) This is very different from other gold plated jewelry, which is usually made up of cheaper base metals such as nickel, copper or brass.
The Federal Trade Commission also requires that the gold used for gold vermeil be of a certain quality (at least 10 karats) and thickness (at least 2.5 microns). These regulations ensure that gold vermeil maintains its quality over time.
Used by some of the best jewelry brands, vermeil jewelry, won’t last as long as solid gold jewelry, but it is often considered better value for money. Especially if you’re not looking to invest in heirloom pieces.
Just beware: not all countries have the same standards. Canadian regulations only require the gold plating to be 1.0 microns thick. So if you buy gold vermeil jewelry from Canada, you may get up to 60% less gold than you expect.
Gold vermeil vs solid gold: Is vermeil real gold?
Although it isn’t solid gold, gold vermeil is still considered to be real gold. Unlike other gold plated metals, gold vermeil is strictly regulated. It must be plated over sterling silver. It must be 10 karats or more. And it must be at least 2.5 microns thick, which is 10 times thicker than regular plated gold.
Similarly solid gold isn’t the same as pure gold. Pure gold is always 24 karats, meaning that it contains no other metals. 24K gold is the purest form of gold and anything less is an indication of how much gold the metal contains. Check our in-depth guide to gold purity to understand how karats are calculated.
Solid gold is what is usually referred to as karat gold and is a mixture of gold and other metals. Most gold vermeil is plated with various designations of karat gold. In order to be considered “real”, gold must have a karatage of 9 or higher. Gold vermeil prescribes a karatage of 10 or higher, meaning that it is always considered “real gold.”
However, the value of vermeil jewelry will vary according to its karatage. 14K gold vermeil contains 58% gold and is less expensive, while 18K gold vermeil contains 75% gold and is obviously more expensive.
How is gold vermeil different from other gold jewelry
What is gold vermeil vs gold plated vs gold filled jewelry? Yep, it gets pretty confusing and it’s not something you want to get wrong. Especially when you’re trading in a family heirloom or shopping for the next one.
|Base Metal||Gold Thickness||Price||Regulation||Longevity with regular use|
|Gold Vermeil||Sterling silver||2.5 microns||Good value||Regulated||Several years|
|Gold Plated||Copper, brass, nickel or silver||0.5 microns||Cheap||Not regulated||Several months|
|Gold Filled||Copper, brass, nickel or silver||5% of total weight||More expensive||Regulated||Several years|
|Solid Gold||Gold||100% of total weight||Most expensive||Regulated||Several decades|
Gold Vermeil vs Gold Plated
Both gold vermeil and gold-plated jewelry are plated. However, vermeil jewelry is regulated, whilst regular gold-plated jewelry isn’t. This affects the value of the piece, as well as its durability and longevity.
Gold vermeil is always made from sterling silver, whilst gold-plated pieces can be made out of anything—from copper to brass to nickel. This means that gold vermeil is of a much higher quality and is hypoallergenic, whilst gold-plated jewelry can cause skin irritation and discoloration (we see you green fingers.)
Gold vermeil also contains a much thicker layer of gold, meaning that it takes a lot longer to tarnish.
Gold Vermeil vs Gold Filled
Gold filled must be filled with gold, right? Wrong. Whilst the name sounds enticing, the reality is less so.
Gold filled jewelry is an old-fashioned technique that is usually more expensive than its worth.
Instead of using electroplating, a thin gold layer is mechanically bonded to the outside of the base metal. Unlike gold vermeil (which only uses sterling silver), the base metal of gold filled jewelry isn’t regulated and is usually copper.
When it comes to the amount of gold, both gold vermeil and gold-filled jewelry are regulated, but not in the same way. Gold-filled jewelry only requires 5% of the piece’s total weight to be gold, while vermeil jewelry requires a gold thickness of at least 2.5 microns.
Gold Vermeil vs Solid Gold
Solid gold is just that—gold—while gold vermeil is actually gold plated sterling silver. When it comes to quality, longevity and durability, solid gold is unrivaled. But when it comes to seeking out the best value for money, gold vermeil is a popular choice.
Regulated by the Federal Trade Commission of the United States, vermeil jewelry is not 100% gold but it contains a lot more gold than regular gold-plated pieces. If you want a piece that lasts forever, stick to solid gold. But if you want a more affordable piece that’ll last a couple of decades, gold vermeil hits the sweet spot.
Is gold vermeil good quality?
Highly regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, gold vermeil is of much higher quality than regular plated gold.
Gold vermeil is plated sterling silver. No other base metals can be used, ensuring that vermeil jewelry is of a higher quality.
The type of gold used also affects the quality of gold vermeil jewelry. Strict standards prescribe that vermeil jewelry is plated with at least 10K gold. Naturally 14K gold vermeil is higher in quality and durability, while 18K gold vermeil affects the quality and value of vermeil pieces even more.
Good enough to add to your designer jewelry organizer but not as expensive as solid gold, we recommend gold vermeil as a more affordable approach to good quality fine jewelry.
Does gold vermeil wear off?
Any kind of plating will eventually wear off, but the question is when.
The biggest determiner of how long alloyed gold will last is how thick the layer of gold is. Regular gold plated jewelry is unregulated and the layer of gold is usually only 0.5 microns thick. Gold vermeil is at least five times thicker than this. Strictly regulated, all gold vermeil has a layer of gold that is 2.5 microns thick or more.
Because the layer of gold plating is so thick, gold vermeil can withstand many years of heavy use, while regular gold plated jewelry may wear off after a couple of months or even weeks.
Will vermeil tarnish?
Vermeil jewelry can tarnish, but because it has a sterling silver base metal, it is far less susceptible to tarnishing than plated gold with copper or brass base metals.
Tarnishing is caused when certain metals chemically react with air or moisture to form carbon dioxide on the surface. This presents as brown or black discoloration on the surface and can be prevented by reducing exposure to humidity, sweat, lotions and perfumes. However, you needn’t stress about protecting your vermeil jewelry from the elements too much—tarnished vermeil can be easily polished to bring it back to its original state.
Is vermeil waterproof?
Can vermeil get wet? Can I shower with vermeil? You can, but if you can help it, we wouldn’t recommend it.
The odd shower won’t affect the metal much, but continuous exposure to water can increase the chance of tarnishing. Similarly, we wouldn’t recommend submerging vermeil jewelry in water for long periods of time. You won’t notice a change immediately, but it will reduce the lifespan and the brilliance of your vermeil pieces.
Interestingly, not even solid gold is 100% waterproof, so we suggest removing all jewelry before hitting the beach, the pool or the gym.
Is vermeil hypoallergenic?
The main metal that causes allergic reactions is nickel. So technically, all vermeil jewelry should be hypoallergenic. This makes it the best affordable precious metal for quality earrings, necklaces and bracelets for women.
But like all things, not all manufacturers play by the rules.
To ensure that your gold vermeil is 100% hypoallergenic, we recommend purchasing vermeil jewelry from reputable jewelry brands.
Price: Is gold vermeil worth it?
If you’re after an affordable, high-quality alternative to solid gold, vermeil jewelry is the best value.
Adhering to strict regulations, vermeil jewelry contains a lot more gold than regular plated gold, and it only uses sterling silver as a base metal. This means that it lasts much longer and is a lot more durable than other alloyed gold. However, gold vermeil doesn’t last forever. And if you’re looking to splurge on a future family heirloom, you’re better off sticking to solid gold pieces.
Frequently asked questions about gold vermeil
Gold vermeil is the highest quality gold jewelry you can get without buying solid gold. Because the alloyed gold is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, it must adhere to very specific regulations. The gold must be at least 10 karats. The layer of gold plating must be at least 2.5 microns thick. And the base metal must be sterling silver. Read our guide to gold vermeil to learn more.
Gold vermeil can wear off over time, but not nearly as quickly as regular gold-plated jewelry. By law in the United States, vermeil has to have a gold layer of at least 2.5 microns. This is 5 times thicker than regular plated gold, meaning that it takes a lot longer to wear off.
Vermeil (highly regulated alloyed gold) lasts a lot longer than regular plated gold. The base metal for vermeil is always sterling silver, which is a lot less susceptible to tarnishing than other base metals. And the thicker layer of gold plating means that it will take longer to wear off than flash-plated jewelry.
Vermeil, meaning thickly plated sterling silver, may not be 100% solid gold, but it is still considered “real gold.” Strict regulations require that vermeil is made from gold that is 10 karats or higher. And the layer of plating must be at least 2.5 microns thick. This means that the precious metal has enough gold in it to be considered “real gold.”