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A Guide to Gold Vermeil Jewelry

Gold vermeil necklace

Meta: Gold vermeil is an excellent alternative to solid gold but comes with some caveats. Here’s what you need to know.

A Guide to Gold Vermeil Jewelry

In the realm of gold-tone jewelry, gold vermeil is the best quality you can get. But do you know it can also be found in trophies, gold medals, high-end cutlery, and luxury home décor?

Whether you’re eyeing for a gold-tone piece, or you want to build your jewelry collection, let’s take a look at what a gold vermeil is—and if it is right for you.

What is Gold Vermeil?

Vermeil gold stacking rings

As beautiful as gold. See these stacking rings by Alari Design here.

Gold has always been the most classic metal of choice for jewelry. However, it comes at a price.

This is where gold-toned jewelry comes in. Gold vermeil is a specific type of gold-plated jewelry. There are several factors that determine if a piece of jewelry is vermeil—the purity of the gold, the type of base metal used, and the thickness of gold plating.

Also known as “gilded silver” or “silver-gilt”, gold vermeil jewelry is made of silver and coated with a thick layer of gold.

While a traditional plating can be thin, vermeil is required to have at least 2.5 microns thick of 10 to 24 karats gold. In fact, it is a legally regulated term, for which the base metal must be made of fine or sterling silver. Otherwise, it cannot be considered as a vermeil, especially if there are other metals present in the piece.

Vermeil is considered to be the highest quality form of gold plating. The typical gold-plated jewelry doesn’t require silver as the base metal, and its plating can be too thin, around 0.5 microns thick.

Gold Vermeil and Durability

Due to the thickness of its gold plating, vermeil lasts longer than other plated jewelry, making it a great choice if you can’t afford real gold. However, durability is all about the karat and thickness of the gold plating. The minimum plating required is 2.5 microns—the thicker it is, the longer it will last.

While pure 24k gold is too soft for jewelry, it works well for vermeil, since the silver base metal is hard. However, the higher the karat number, the softer the plating is, and the easier it will wear away. If you’re looking for the most durable piece, opt for 14k or 18k vermeil.

Usually, gold vermeil can be re-plated—and restoring it to original state will require the standard thickness of 2.5 microns.

If you’re looking for an heirloom jewelry piece, keep in mind that vermeil pieces tend to show their age more, and the gold plating will likely wear off over time, revealing its silver base metal.

We can say these pieces are great when you want to spend less on jewelry and look luxurious, but think twice before considering them as investments or sentimental heirloom jewelry.

Gold Vermeil and Color

vermeil necklace

Gold Vermeil Pendant by Kalliste NYC. See it here.

To the naked eye, vermeil usually looks like real gold, and it would be hard to tell the difference without testing the metal. The higher the karat is the brighter yellow the tone will be. While  22k to 24k gold vermeil piece appears bright yellow,  10k to 12k pieces looks duller.

Opal gold vermeil ring

Opal Rose Gold Vermeil Ring by Rose and Choc. See it here.

Since gold vermeil jewelry shines the same way as real gold, it’s a great option if you want to build a high quality jewelry collection without breaking the bank. It can be found in yellow gold, white gold, rose gold—and even black gold. When it comes to antique vermeil pieces, expect them to look rosier due to the higher amounts of copper added to the gold alloy back then.

Gold Vermeil and Value

Even though vermeil has a thick coating of gold, it is important to understand that it is not gold jewelry. But still, it holds value because of the precious metals used. For that reason, we can also say it’s more valuable than typical gold plated and gold-filled pieces made with cheaper base metal or alloy.

While it is obviously more affordable than solid gold, it is still more expensive than other gold plated jewelry. Unfortunately, gold vermeil is unlikely to have much residual value in the future—unless you purchased an item that’s a masterpiece of a renowned designer or a piece with some cultural significance.

It might not have the same intrinsic value of gold, but if you like its luster and luxury without the hefty price tag, vermeil jewelry can be a great option. At the end of the day, it’s your preference that matters.

Best Types of Gold Vermeil Jewelry

Vermeil Earrings

Vermeil earrings gold

Gold Vermeil Earrings with Sunburst Design by Earth and Elements Co. See it here.

When it comes to vermeil jewelry, do you know that it’s best to stick to pieces with less direct contact with your skin? Vermeil earrings won’t often strike against hard surfaces, so the plating will likely last longer. Also, earrings won’t likely come in contact with chemicals or chlorinated water compared to rings and bracelets.

Usually, vermeil earrings are more expensive than typical gold-plated ones, but they will last longer, and definitely won’t start flaking off after wearing them a few times.

Vermeil Necklaces

Gold vermeil necklaces

Gold Vermeil Necklaces by Glacier Mist Co. See them here.

If you have some metal allergies, vermeil necklaces can be great for you. However, you may want to go for a 14k or higher karat necklace that will less likely cause an allergic reaction.

Necklaces are jewelry pieces that often take a beating, so consider your lifestyle if you can keep up with maintenance. Chlorine, perspiration, and other chemicals can strip the gold from your jewelry, so always take them off before jumping into the pool, and applying your makeup and perfume.

Vermeil Bracelets

Rustic gold vermeil bracelet

Gold Vermeil Bracelet Cuff by Arts Myrna. See it here.

Gold vermeil bracelets are a great idea to add a little bit of sophistication to your look without breaking the bank. A 10k or 14k vermeil bracelet will likely retain its shape and is more resistant to scratching

Vermeil Rings

Dome ring

Stylish Gold Vermeil Dome Rings by Velanti. See them here.

Vermeil rings have advantages, but the gold color will soon fade, revealing its silver metal. Though these pieces can easily be re-plated and repaired, you would want to go for real gold when choosing engagement and wedding rings.

However, if you want to keep up with latest fashion trends, vermeil rings are an easy way to do this. It allows you to follow the latest trends without too much investment.  

Vintage Vermeil Jewelry

Monet vermeil bracelet

Monet Vintage Gold Vermeil Bracelet. See it here.

Costume jewelry became especially popular after World War 2, when precious metals and gemstones were harder to come by. As a result, designers got creative with what they had available, churning out sophisticated and elegant costume jewelry pieces at lower prices. Monet and Trifari are two popular design houses that frequently used gold vermeil.

A Brief History of Gold Vermeil

Gold items were once exclusive to the wealthiest member of society, so alchemists used the method of gold plating to resemble real gold pieces. Mercury gilding, also known as fire gilding, was the process used, involving the mixture of pure gold and liquid mercury to coat various objects. Do you know it even became a form of art in Europe during the Italian Renaissance? In fact, the rise of Baroque in the 17th century and aristocracy’s love for gold made it more popular.

Eventually, gilding was categorized into two types based on the core metal used: ormolu and vermeil. While “ormolu” refers to mercury gilding over a copper alloy, “vermeil” refers to gold plating over a silver alloy. Also, the method suited the metalwork applications of the time—from arms and armor to weapons and sculpture.

Unfortunately, the ancient gilding technique led to mercury poisoning and blindness to exposed artisans, so it was replaced by electroplating in the 1840s. During the Victorian era, vermeil became popular in use, from jewelry to vases and platters. In the 19th century, “vermeil” became the preferred term for “silver-gilt” and is now safely produced through electroplating process.

Wrapping Up

Gold vermeil is the best option if you want the gold look without the gold price, while still maintaining a high standard of quality. Unlike gold plating or rolled gold, which are of lower quality, gold vermeil offers the best gold plating style and suits costume jewelry that you plan to wear and love for a long time.

To learn more about other types of gold-toned jewelry, check out our articles on gold plating and rolled gold.

If you want to start browsing for stylish gold vermeil jewelry, click here instead.