If you’re into frugal jewelry, you NEED to know about Gold Vermeil! It allows you to get the look and feel of gold, for roughly the same cost of Sterling Silver!
What is Gold Vermeil? It’s a form of gold plated jewelry that layers at least 2.5 microns of gold (with a purity of 10k or better), on top of a Sterling Silver base metal. In the United States, the term is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. If these basic requirements aren’t met, the term can’t legally be used.
Sound good so far? Then buckle up, because we’ve only scratched the surface! I have a lot more to share! In the paragraphs that follow, I’ll provide more information on what Gold Vermeil is, how it’s made, how to care for it, what it’s worth, and LOTS more.
How is Gold Vermeil Made?
A Sterling Silver ring base is suspended in a tank of electroplating solution. A piece of gold that’s at least 10k is also placed in the solution. An electrical current is then fed into the tank. That current causes the gold to separate and adhere to the Sterling Silver. This process builds up a coating that soon encompasses the base metal completely.
The final thickness of the coating on the ring is influenced by the amount of time that the base metal is left in the tank.
How Thick is Gold Vermeil?
By definition, Gold Vermeil (which is pronounced ver-MAY) has to have a gold thickness of at least 2.5 microns. For the sake of comparison, standard gold plating often has a thickness of .5 to 1 micron, but it can be thicker or thinner. It’s not uncommon to find gold plating that only covers the surface enough to provide a VERY temporary gold appearance.
Even on delicate pieces like this simple and elegant Gold Vermeil ring, it’s nice to know that it has that thicker gold coating that a Vermeil piece is required to provide.
The Benefits of Gold Vermeil
Gold is expensive! At this moment, gold costs a little more than $1,500 per ounce! Sterling Silver is MUCH cheaper. Right now, it costs about $17 per ounce. I took my wedding ring off and weighed it a moment ago. I literally had no idea what it weighed—so I was curious.
Turns out, it’s exactly a quarter of an ounce. Based on that, if my ring were made of solid gold (which it isn’t), it would cost $375 for just the raw gold alone. When you tack on the cost of the metal alloys that are mixed in, manufacturing, middlemen, retailer markup, etc, the cost could grow to something much higher.
If my ring were made only of Sterling Silver, the metal cost would be around $4.25. Again, there are a whole host of manufacturing costs that would need to be factored before arriving at a true retail cost. The point here is that there is a HUGE difference in the cost of Gold and Silver.
Inexpensive Sterling Silver makes up the inner portion of Gold Vermeil jewelry—the part that no one sees anyway. It saves you the cost of using gold to fill the space. Because the vast majority of the weight of Gold Vermeil is made up of Sterling Silver, you’re able to save serious money over the cost of solid gold.
For the sake of example. Let’s assume that a gold coating of 2.5 microns represents 3% of the rings final weight. That would mean that 97% of the ring would be made of Sterling Silver ($4.12), with 3% would be made of gold ($11.25). This is a very basic illustration, but hopefully, you get the point.
Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a solid gold ring, I’m able to get my metal cost down to roughly $15 by using a less expensive metal in the ring’s center! Keep in mind, that you STILL end up with something that looks identical to the more expensive ring.
The real benefit of Gold Vermeil, is that it allows you to have the look of the gold that you love, for cost of the Silver you can afford. You can wear very expensive-looking jewelry without blowing your budget.
Gold Vermeil engagement rings, wedding rings, and wedding bands allow couples to lower their overall wedding costs. They can then redirect the money that’s saved on rings toward other wedding-related expenses (something there seems to be no end to).
Some couples love their Gold Vermeil jewelry and expect to keep it for a lifetime, while others plan to upgrade in a few years once they’re a little more established.
Can Gold Vermeil be Resized?
Jewelers can resize Gold Vermeil rings, making them smaller or larger if needed. After resizing, the ring will need to be replated to give the surface a uniform appearance.
Is Gold Vermeil Durable?
Just how long does gold vermeil last? The answer to that question depends on three main factors:
- The purity of the gold used. Lower purity gold (like 10k) is harder and more durable than higher purity gold (like 24k).
- The thickness of the gold layer. The minimum allowable thickness is 2.5 microns, but there isn’t a defined maximum thickness. There could be a layer of 3 microns, or more, on some Gold Vermeil items.
- How the jewelry is worn. Jewelry that’s worn every day will take more concentrated abuse than jewelry that’s only worn occasionally. How careful you are to remove it before activities that could potentially cause damage is another important aspect.
I frequently get durability questions like, “How does gold vermeil wear?” and “Does Gold Vermeil wear off?” Questions like these are related to a number of other more specific durability questions that I’ll address below.
Can Gold Vermeil Get Wet?
The issue of water goes well beyond swimming. Can you wear gold vermeil in the shower? Can you wash your hands or wash dishes with Gold Vermeil on? In reality, it’s best to remove your jewelry before coming in contact with water whenever possible. There are two primary reasons for that.
- Water is known as ‘The Universal Solvent’. Over the course of time, it wore away stone and created the Grand Canyon for example. Water can also wear away the gold layer on your jewelry with time and repeated exposure.
- Water carries dissolved minerals, known as ‘hard water’. As jewelry gets wet and then dries off, hard water deposits can form on the surface of the jewelry. Those deposits can be corrosive, but they can also mute or discolor the appearance of the gold.
During the swim season, I often get the question, ‘Can you wear gold vermeil in water’? Swimming has risks above and beyond the two already outlined above. Salt Water and Chlorine are two additional hazards that swimming can introduce. Both of these can be destructive to gold. Keep your gold as dry as possible to maximize its life and beauty. Getting it wet once or twice probably won’t be catastrophic, but repeated exposure could start to take a toll.
Will Gold Vermeil Tarnish?
Tarnish is a darkening, or discoloration, on the surface of your jewelry caused by oxidation. Copper is the second-highest ingredient in Sterling Silver. Copper tarnishes as it’s exposed to moisture. It’s this Copper component of the Gold Vermeil base metal that’s capable of tarnishing.
Gold Vermeil tarnish isn’t something that will materialize right away. It also isn’t something that’s inevitable—but it is possible, over time, as the gold layer wears down and your jewelry is exposed to moisture.
Does Gold Vermeil Turn Green? Tarnish can appear green, but it typically forms in patches—not a uniform discoloration. If tarnish eventually appears, it can easily be removed with a good cleaning.
How to Keep Gold Vermeil from Tarnishing
The best way to prevent the appearance of tarnish is to keep your jewelry dry. Remove it before exercising (sweating), washing your hands, showering, etc. If your jewelry does get wet at some point—remove it and dry it as soon as possible. You should also remove Gold Vermeil rings before applying lotions or hand sanitizer.
When you’re not wearing your Gold Vermeil jewelry, store it in a Ziploc bag (or some other airtight container.
Will Gold Vermeil Turn My Finger Green?
The same Copper component of Sterling Silver that can tarnish over time can also leave a green or black mark on your finger. Many people associate those finger stains with ‘fake’ or low-quality jewelry. It isn’t always an accurate association. Even ‘pure’ rose gold rings can leave these marks, because it also has significant Copper in the metal mixture.
Not everyone experiences these marks when they wear jewelry that contains Copper. Much of it has to do with the skin chemistry of the wearer. Things like hormone levels, ph balance, and how much you sweat can all have an impact. The lotions and medications being used can also influence whether marks appear as you wear your jewelry.
My wife and teenage daughter each had the same plated ring. It had copper as its base metal. My wife wore the ring for over a month without marks appearing on her fingers. My daughter saw stains on her finger the first day that she wore the ring. I inspected the plating, and it was all intact. Again, different people will have different experiences in this area based on the factors mentioned above.
If needed, you can add a coating of clear fingernail polish to the inside a ring to create a barrier that should prevent finger stains. Reapply the fingernail polish as needed. There are similar polymers, created for sealing jewelry, that can also be applied. They do the same thing as fingernail polish but can last longer between applications
Does Gold Vermeil Fade
The color of Gold Vermeil can fade slightly over time, as atoms of the two metals present in the jewelry defuse into each other. Standard gold plated jewelry pieces often have a layer of Nickel between the base metal and gold coating, to act as a barrier between the two. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s jewelry guidelines, Gold Vermeil can’t contain that Nickel coating.
It’s important to remember that gold plating (including Gold Vermeil) will need to be replated eventually. How long it takes before you get to the point where replating is needed, depends on the durability factors outlined above.
When you take it in for replating, you can specify how thick you want the application to be. You might pay the jeweler to apply a 5 to 10-micron layer of gold, extending it’s life before replating is needed again.
Does Gold Vermeil Change Color?
The only factors that could generally influence the color of your Gold Vermeil jewelry, are the possibility of eventual tarnish or fading (both of which are described above). Again, you may never experience any tarnish, but if you do, it can be removed with a good cleaning.
Does Gold Vermeil Rust?
Rust is a form of corrosion that can be extremely destructive. Fortunately, Gold Vermeil will not rust. It’s still a good idea, however, to keep your jewelry dry for the reasons outlined above.
Is Gold Vermeil Good For Sensitive Ears?
Gold Vermeil earrings often aren’t an ideal choice for those with sensitive ears, because Gold Vermeil isn’t Hypoallergenic. Any gold that’s less pure than 24k gold has other metal alloys mixed in to increase harness and influence the look of the gold. Unfortunately, 24k gold often isn’t hard enough to work well for body jewelry. Sterling Silver (the base metal for Gold Vermeil) also has metal alloys mixed in. It contains Copper (and sometimes small amounts of other metal additives).
The question often comes up, ‘Does Gold Vermeil contain Nickel?’ It’s an understandable question since sensitivity to Nickel is so common.
“Nickel is thought to be one of the most prevalent contact allergens. Researchers estimate that about 5–10% of the population in the industrialized world is allergic to nickel on contact, and that figure reaches 10–20% in young women, who are more likely to be exposed to the metal in jewellery — particularly earrings and other piercings — that contain the metal.” -Alla Katsnelson
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires companies that use the term Gold Vermeil for their products to meet certain minimal standards. Among those, is a requirement NOT to add any metals, like Nickel, on top of the Sterling Silver base without disclosing it to buyers.
This means that if no Nickel disclosure if provided, the jewelry shouldn’t contain Nickel. Here’s the issue though, the FTC can’t catch rogue retailers immediately. They also can’t prosecute immediately. Because of that, it’s still a buyer-beware environment.
Those with sensitive ears, won’t want to risk reaction to unknown metal additives, so earrings made from hypoallergenic metals might be the best idea. Surgical Stainless Steel and Titanium are two common choices.
What is Rose Gold Vermeil?
Rose Gold is a mixture of yellow gold and Copper that leads to gold with a beautiful pinkish appearance. Rose gold can be tricky to get repaired, because the color can vary so much from item-to-item.
Again, the Rose Gold color depends on the amount Copper that was added to the gold mixture. Less copper results in a pale pink hue, while more copper creates a much redder copper-like coloring. Jewelers have difficulty matching the precise color of the item they’re repairing—but they can recoat the ring in a completely new layer of rose gold.
Be aware that not all jewelers will want to resize or repair rose gold jewelry because they don’t have the supplies they need on hand. If one jeweler says they can’t help, you’ll need to check with others. Some jewelers are well equipped and work with a large amount of rose gold jewelry—you’ll be able to find someone to do the work for you.
If you live in a small rural community, and can’t find a local jeweler to work on your rose gold ring, you might consider mailing it to an out-of-state jeweler. There are several repair services that do work for people across the country (and around the world).
This gorgeous Rose Gold Vermiel Morganite ring is an affordable head-turner!
What is White Gold Vermeil?
This variety is made as White gold is layered on top of a Sterling Silver base. In reality, ‘White Gold’ is not actually white on its own. The gold layer has to be plated with Rhodium to provide the traditional coloring that you’re accustomed to. In a sense, White Gold Vermeil is a twice-plated piece of jewelry (the base metal is plated with white gold—the white gold is then plated with Rhodium).
The thickness of the gold layer is defined and regulated in the United States, but the thickness of the Rhodium coating is not. The challenge with White Gold Vermeil, is that the Rhodium coating is fairly thin and can sometimes wear through quickly. You’ll need to have a jeweler reapply the Rhodium plating for you periodically.
How to Clean Gold Vermeil Jewelry
You have to be very gentle as you clean your Gold Vermeil. If you press too hard or use the wrong products to clean with, you can rub through the gold that coats the surface. Never use brushes, silver polishing cloths, or chemical cleaners. You also DON’T want to use an Ultrasonic cleaner for this delicate job. They’re wonderful for many other types of jewelry, but Gold Vermeil isn’t compatible.
The simplest cleaning technique, is rubbing gently with a soft 100% cotton or microfiber cloth. Use a long up and down rubbing pattern, rather than circular motions as you clean.
If you feel that you need something more in order to clean your jewelry, add a few drops of mild dish soap (like Dawn) to a small bowl of warm water. Rather than submerging your Gold Vermeil in the water, dip your soft cotton cloth in the soapy water and then use the damp cloth to wipe the piece lightly When you’re done with cleaning, dip another section of the cloth in some clean water to rinse the jewelry with as you again wipe it down.
When you’re done rinsing, you’ll want to dry the item well. For jewelry items that have a lot of hard to reach parts, you may want to dry the item well with the cool setting of a hair drier.
Gold Plated vs Vermeil Which is Better?
Gold Vermeil is typically the better bet … but not always. Gold Vermeil generally has a much thicker layer of gold than standard gold plating delivers. Because of this difference (and because the base metal of Gold Vermeil is ALWAYS Sterling Silver), it’s typically more durable than standard gold plating. I say ‘typically,’ because there are situations where non-Vermeil gold plating might be the more durable option.
- When the standard gold plating is much thicker than the layer on an otherwise similar piece of Gold Vermeil (assuming the gold purity is equal on both).
- When standard gold plating offers a lower gold purity than another similar Gold Vermeil piece. Lower gold purity (like 10k or 14k is going to be harder than pieces with higher gold purity like 18k or 24k).
Because it’s difficult for a consumer to gauge the thickness of the gold coating on their jewelry, it’s easy to be misled. Gold Vermeil, at least, provides SOME assurance that the coating is no thinner than 2.5 microns (to be in legal compliance in the United States).
Rolled Gold vs Vermeil
Rolled Gold jewelry is also known as Gold-Filled jewelry. Rolled Gold and Gold Filled are both terms that also have specific manufacturing requirements that are enforced by the FTC. Rolled gold jewelry has to have a gold coating that totals at least 5% of the total weight of the item. That generally leads to a much thicker coating that you’ll find on most Gold Vermeil.
Rolled Gold has a gold layer that has been mechanically bonded to its base metal through a heat and pressure treatment process. That essentially makes the two metals one solid piece, adding durability.
Gold Vermeil is typically more durable than standard gold plating. Rolled Gold is generally going to be the most durable gold option outside of solid gold. It offers the ability to save significant money, while also getting jewelry items that can last for many years.
Gold Vermeil can be a great choice for those needing a frugal jewelry option. Gold Vermeil can be a great choice for those than need a frugal jewelry option. If you love the look of solid gold, but have budget constraints, Gold Vermeil might be for you! Understanding the advantages and limitations of Gold Vermeil will help you to make smart buying decisions. It will also help you to care for your Gold Vermeil jewelry, so you can get as much life and enjoyment out of those pieces as possible.