Journal / Materials
What is Gold Vermeil Jewelry? Everything You Need to Know
You’re likely to come across a lot of technical and style terms when you’re shopping for solid gold jewelry. Gold vermeil, gold plated, gold bonded, gold filled: what do all these terms mean? If you didn’t study jewelry or fashion but want to be better informed, we’ve got you covered.
First, let us help you pronounce gold vermeil. This is a tough one for a lot of people. Vermeil is pronounced like vehr-may. Say it with us, VEHR-MAY. Ok, now that we’ve cleared that one up, let’s move on to what it means and how it affects the fine jewelry you’re shopping for.
What is Gold Vermeil?
Gold vermeil is comprised of a base metal and a layer of pure gold bonded to the outside. The great thing about gold vermeil is that sterling silver is always used as the base. By using a real gold layer of 14k or 18k gold bonded to 925 sterling silver, you get a quality piece of fine jewelry that is more affordable and still luxurious.
Vermeil jewelry, also known as silver gilt, must have three key attributes to earn its name:
1. It must have a base of sterling silver (silver of 92.5% purity).
2. It must have a gold coating of 10k or higher covering the silver in full.
3. The pure gold must be a minimum of 2.5 microns in thickness (100/1,000,000 inches).
It’s really a straightforward equation, and there is little room for ambiguity when it comes to gold vermeil. Thanks to regulations in major global markets, you know exactly what you’re getting when you buy vermeil pieces.
Origins of Gold Vermeil
The history of gold vermeil can be traced back to Western Europe in the mid-1700s. French craftsmen were the first to experiment with a technique known as fire gilding to create a durable bond between precious metals. However, fire gilding proved dangerous and inefficient, to the point that the method was abandoned in favor of a technique called electroplating. Using an electrochemical process with minimal risk, electroplating soon became the go-to method for creating gold vermeil jewelry and décor.
While electroplating was somewhat crude at first, technology improved rapidly, and vermeil took on a reputation for quality and consistency. Decorative pieces in the White House, the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London, and even Olympic Gold Medals have been certified vermeil—how’s that for a seal of approval? Nowadays, gold vermeil is produced in larger quantities with industrial methods or in smaller batches with homespun DIY kits. Vermeil is one of those jewelry trends that has stood the test of time, and rightfully so.
Gold Bonded Jewelry
So is gold vermeil the same as gold bonded? It’s not the same, but it has a similar process. 925 Sterling silver is always the base for gold-bonded jewelry, and the amount of gold used is closer to 10% compared to 5% with gold vermeil. It’s the next level up in luxurious jewelry at a more attainable price point. With several layers of real gold, you can expect a luxurious and durable gold item.
Gold bonded is the ideal material for sleek modern chains, rings, bracelets, and multiple types of necklaces. Compared to vermeil, it feels heavier and more authentic. It is also resistant to tarnishing and is perfect for everyday wear. Besides, you can stock up on the latest styles with plenty of cash left to spare.
Gold Plated and Gold Filled Jewelry
The plot thickens, but the amount of gold does not. Gold-plated and gold-filled jewelry are an affordable alternative to gold vermeil and gold-bonded jewelry because less gold is used over a non-silver metal alloy.
Gold-filled jewelry has more gold than plated jewelry. It has to have a 1/20 gold content but is often bonded over brass. This can present a problem for those with allergies. Similarly, gold plating is done over a brass, copper, or nickel base but only has a thin layer of gold that can rub off or change colors over time. It’s a very economical option, but not great if you want to have a jewelry piece that lasts for a long time or is hypoallergenic.
Is Gold Vermeil Good for Jewelry?
Now you know what vermeil is and how to pronounce it properly. You also know the alternatives to gold vermeil. So is it good for jewelry, and is it the best choice? At JAXXON, we have gold-bonded chains, custom pendants, and bracelets that use the same real 14k gold as our solid gold collection because it makes for a more luxurious and premium piece of jewelry. We still think gold vermeil is a great option for jewelry and recognize the craftsmanship that goes into making beautiful gold jewelry. If a gold bonded or gold vermeil chain ends up being the right fit for you, make sure to take care of it properly and learn how to clean your gold so it can shine for a lifetime.