Gold vermeil has been increasing in popularity but many consumers and even some sellers often confuse Gold Vermeil with Vermeil Style or gold over sterling silver. Let’s look at differences and gain some insight into how they are marketed in the current jewelry market.
If you are into jewelry that looks like gold, vermeil may interest you. It is an affordable and durable alternative to real gold. It’s made from solid sterling silver and plated with a thick layer of real gold.
For metal to be considered vermeil, it needs to meet three main trade criteria:
- The base of the metal must be of sterling (92.5%) or fine (99.9%) silver. This is why vermeil is also known by its other names: Silver Gilt or Gilded Silver
- The purity of the gold must be at least 10 karats
- The thickness of the gold coating should consist of a minimum of 2.5 microns (0.0025 millimeters)
You can also find gold vermeil in a variety of colors such as rose gold, white gold, and so on.
To create gold vermeil, the item is first crafted in fine or sterling silver and is then covered in gold using the process known as electrolysis. In the past, vermeil was crafted using the process of fire-gilding, but this was later banned due to the dangers inherent in this process, especially the issue with mercury causing blindness. Electrolysis results in a consistent thickness and quality that is capable of lasting for a very long time.
Gold over sterling silver
Gold over sterling silver is similar to gold vermeil, but the gold layer is much thinner. It doesn’t meet the 2.5-micron gold layer thickness to be called vermeil legally. It’s made from the same process as gold vermeil: the item is first crafted in sterling silver, then soaked in a gold solution, and then goes through an electronic plating process to create a gold layer on the top of the sterling silver core.
How the name “Vermeil” is used in the current jewelry market?
Due to high gold prices and alternative materials being available in the market today, real gold vermeil jewelry is not as popular as before. You can still find them in fine jewelry stores and some high-quality jewelry brands. It may surprise you that not all “Vermeil Jewelry” on the market is real legal Vermeil jewelry. It does not necessarily mean the seller is dishonest. Some sellers are not 100% sure of the fine difference between “Vermeil” and “Vermeil Style”. In my opinion, the name “Vermeil” has been over-used in today’s market and sometimes refers to “Vermeil style” as a marketing term. “Vermeil Style” is actually just an equivalence of “gold over sterling silver”.
It is confusing and maybe problematic to the seller and designer when used inappropriately. For designers and retailers, it’s important to check with your jewelry wholesaler or jewelry supplier’s wholesaler and confirm the thickness of the gold plating layer. Make sure you describe your jewelry material properly and avoid any tarnish on your jewelry band image or any potential legal or regulatory issue.
How to tell apart Vermeil jewelry from Gold over Sterling Silver jewelry?
The best way to tell is through lab testing. However, this is not feasible for most people or at all times. In most cases, you can simply ask your seller or supplier about the gold layer thickness. You should expect a quick and straightforward answer to confirm whether or not it’s legal Vermeil. In the situation that you have to make a guess, here are some tips that can give you a clue:
- Price. Vermeil jewelry price should be significantly more expensive than the same silver jewelry piece. This is due to the amount of gold used. 2.5-micron plating is expensive. If you see a Vermeil Jewelry price is very close to the same silver jewelry piece, it’s better to ask the thickness of the gold layer. It’s possible some brands may choose to sell Vermeil with much less profit but you should expect a clear price difference in most cases.
- Marking. We know sterling silver jewelry normally has a “925” mark on it. However, if you see the “925” mark on the Vermeil jewelry, it’s better to confirm the gold layer thickness. The reason is when you plate a .925 sterling silver jewelry with a 2.5-micron thick gold layer, the amount of the gold added will push silver content to less than 92.5% of the total metal used. It will make the “925” marking become illegal in trading for many regions, like European Union. For designers who plan to plate silver jewelry into legal vermeil jewelry, please be aware of this marking issue and check your local regulation and make sure the “925” marking will not create any issues.
Gold vermeil is the ideal choice if you love the look of gold but affordability or price points get in your way. No matter gold vermeil or gold over sterling silver, they are precious metal all the way through. In many people’s opinion, they are more valuable than gold-filled, which has a base metal core and only a gold wrapper outside. No matter if you are a consumer or in the jewelry trade, make sure you understand the difference between Vermeil and gold over sterling silver or the so-called “Vermeil Style”.