There are a lot of terms that are specific to the gold and jewelry industry that may feel overwhelming to someone who’s new to it. If you’re interested in the field and want to learn more about it, you shouldn’t be discouraged by it.
Terms such as gold vermeil, gold plated, and gold-filled are good examples of that since they are often used, but many don’t really understand the difference between them. Here we will quickly explain what these terms mean and how they came about.
Vermeil is also known as silver gilt. It refers to the high-quality silver that’s plated with a thin layer of gold. This is done through a chemical process that’s known as electroplating. It uses electric current to bind the two metals together leaving a thin layer of gold over the silver.
There are clear rules as to what is considered to be vermeil. They are mostly about how thick the layer of gold needs to be in order to fit the conditions. The gold can be between 2.5 microns and 10 microns and it needs to be placed over sterling silver.
Those requirements may differ from country to country, and they are much less strict in Canada.
One of the great things about this type of gold is that it’s made to be rather durable. It means that the jewelry made from it can be worn every day without worrying that it will get damaged in any way. The durability depends somewhat on how thick the layer of gold is.
The thicker the gold layered over silver, the more durable the jewelry will be and that’s something to inquire about when purchasing vermeil jewelry.
The main benefit of using gold vermeil is in its price. Since the jewelry is only coated with gold, it costs much less than its counterparts that are made out of gold entirely. Another important advantage is they can be worn by those who suffer from nickel allergies.
Gold plated jewelry contains nickel and those with allergies tend to develop a rash while wearing it. This is an alternative that’s equal in beauty and design. However, that too depends on how thick the layer of gold is and it’s best to ask the seller about the amount of nickel used.
There’s also a lot of diversity within the style and look of vermeil gold and that transfers to the diversity in the style of jewelry made from it.
You may see this term in relation to vermeil jewelry. It refers to the purity of gold that’s used to cover the silver base. It means that out of 24 gold particles 14 or 18 are actually pure gold and others are different metals or alloys.
There is also 10K vermeil gold, but these are less common. 14K vermeil gold usually lasts much longer than 22K pure gold.
Many tend to confuse gold vermeil and gold plated jewelry since there are some similarities between the two. There are also many differences and they are just as important. Those who know their gold and their jewelry, never mix the two because the subtleties are what matters in the industry.
Gold plated jewelry refers to jewelry that’s made out of low-end metal that is plated with a layer of gold. This too is done through a process called electroplating. The metals used are often as simple as brass or copper, which are fairly inexpensive.
The main difference between the two comes from the fact that vermeil is made from two precious metals (gold and silver) while golden plated jewelry comes from only one precious metal (gold). That’s why this jewelry isn’t known as fine but “demi-fine”. The price of such jewelry therefore mostly depends on the thickness and quality of the golden part.
There are also no official requirements as to the amount of gold that needs to be used so that the term “plated” can be used. The thickness of the gold cover is up to the manufacturer only and sometimes it’s the same as is with the vermeil jewelry and sometimes it’s thicker than that.
However, since it’s usually considered a less expensive option, both the thickness of the gold and its quality is lower with plated jewelry than it is with vermeil. The gold is also less durable due to its poorer quality and thickens.
The main benefit of using plated gold is that it looks like real gold and it costs much less. This gold is great for decorations as well as for making affordable jewelry.
There’s a lot of possibilities in terms of design since it’s made out of metals that easy to work with and produce great details. Jewelry made out of plated gold will also be more durable than real gold since it’s much softer and easier to break.
There are also downsides to note using pure gold. It’s important to weigh these two against each other and to find the best option for a particular purpose. For instance, even though it will last long, gold-plated jewelry will also tarnish over time.
The gold plating is usually rather thin and it can scratch and be chipped if it’s not handled with care. This is also the case when gold-plated jewelry is worn underwater, which is why it’s best not to do it.
Unlike vermeil and gold-plated jewelry, the gold layer on top of gold-filled jewelry is rather thick and therefore durable. The base metal is low-end and of lesser value as is the case with plated gold. For the most part, it’s usually brass.
In terms of appearance, it’s rather difficult to see the difference between gold-filled jewelry and one made out of pure gold. That’s what makes this such an attractive option, especially when the lower price of gold-filled jewelry is considered.
The first difference comes from how this jewelry is constructed. In the case of gold-platted jewelry, the layer of gold is added in the process called electroplating. On the other hand, gold-filled jewelry is mixed with low-end metal in its core by bonding them together using heat.
This protects the jewelry from tarnishing and losing its color over time, as would have happened with gold-plated ones. There’s also a minimal amount of gold that needs to be used and it’s set at 5 percent. This ensures that the outer gold layer is thick enough.
In a way, gold-filled jewelry combines some of the pros of gold platted and pure gold. It has a higher gold content, which means that it’s worth more and considered to be a more luxurious product. However, since it’s still only made out of 5 percent pure gold it doesn’t cause allergies.
If this type of jewelry is properly cleaned it lasts quite a long time – up to about 30 years. In most cases, it lasts about ten since not everyone takes precious care of their jewelry. After that time, it starts to flake and chip a bit. That’s much longer than gold-plated pieces.
It’s not pure gold, and that means that the quality you’re getting won’t be the same as it is with pure gold jewelry.
For instance, some flaking will defiantly happen and that’s the price you pay for the mixture of metals used.
It’s also the most expensive alternative to pure gold, so it’s a matter of balancing between the two.
Carrying for gold-filled jewelry
The only way to make gold-filled jewelry last longer is to take good care of it. Luckily, it’s rather low maintenance jewelry and there are just a few things you can do to prolong its use, and those aren’t very difficult to do.
- Make sure that you store it in a box, and thus prevent dust from accumulating on it.
- After a while, it needs to be cleaned from the oils that come to contact with it from your skin. This is done in a bowl of warm water, with ordinary soap, and by using a gentle toothbrush. Make sure it’s dried after you return it to the box.
Which one to choose?
This isn’t an easy question to answer since it’s an individual choice and it depends on your taste, your purchasing power, and how you wear your jewelry.
All of these options have their pros and their cons and it’s best to take into account the quality, durability, and price and make your judgment based on that.
To sum up
The terms gold vermeil, gold-platted, and gold-filled are commonly used and often misunderstood.
They all refer to jewelry that’s made out of gold and another less expensive metal. Gold vermeil is a mixture of gold and silver, gold-plated and gold-filled jewelry is a mixture of gold and common, inexpensive metal.
All of these types of jewelry compete with their price, but there are some downsides to not having pure gold jewelry, as well as some upsides for those who are allergic to it.