There are many jewelry shoppers who don’t actually know what the term “vermeil” means. Let’s take a look at what gold vermeil is and how it is made.
What Is Gold Vermeil?
Gold vermeil, or just vermeil, is a term used to refer to jewelry or other items made of silver and coated with gold. The word “vermeil” comes from French and is pronounced “ver-may.”
An alternative term is “silver-gilt” (or “gilded silver”), which has the same meaning as “vermeil.”
How Gold Vermeil Is Made
Vermeil jewelry is made by first creating the base of the item out of silver and then plating it with a thin layer of gold.
The method used to cover the surface of the piece with gold is called electrolysis.
Gold vermeil can be made with gold of varying purity, but in the U.S., there is a minimum requirement: To be considered vermeil, a piece needs to be plated with gold that is at least 10 karats (which corresponds to approximately 42% gold content).
Further, U.S. regulations state that an item cannot be sold as vermeil unless its gold plating is at least 2.5 microns thick (0.0025 millimeters).
Also, if the core of the piece contains another metal besides silver, this should be disclosed by the seller.
Vermeil and Durability
How long a vermeil jewelry piece will last depends on the thickness of its gold plating. The thicker the item’s top layer of gold, the longer it will take for it to wear away.
The karat of the gold layer is also related to the piece’s durability: The higher the karat number of the plating, the softer the gold alloy is and the easier it will be for the surface to scratch.
Gold Vermeil vs. Gold-Filled and Gold-Plated Jewelry
The main difference between vermeil and gold-plated/gold-filled jewelry is that vermeil items have a base made of silver, whereas plated and filled pieces can be made with a variety of metals.
For this reason, vermeil jewelry can be more valuable than comparable gold-plated or gold-filled items made with a cheaper base metal or alloy.
Vermeil does not necessarily have a thicker gold layer than gold-plated items.
As for gold-filled jewelry, although the thickness of its gold coating may vary, it is often the case that it is thicker than that of vermeil items.
Therefore, you may find that from a durability standpoint, gold-filled pieces are superior to vermeil ones.
Vermeil, Nickel Content, and Allergies
In general, if you are wearing vermeil, you shouldn’t be worried about allergic reactions to nickel as this type of jewelry usually does not contain the metal.
However, if the base of the piece does contain nickel and you are allergic, it can give you a rash if the plating wears off.
Remember: If a vermeil item contains nickel, in the U.S., the vendor is required to disclose this, so don’t forget to check if you are concerned about an allergy.