What is Gold Vermeil?
The 411 on this increasingly popular jewellery finish and detailed instructions on caring for your gold vermeil pieces.
The Definition of Gold Vermeil
If you want the look of real gold jewellery and accessories without the hefty price tag, gold vermeil (pronounced ver-may) is your best bet. Also known as silver gilt, gold vermeil is the highest quality and longest lasting alternative to solid gold. The term ‘gold vermeil’ refers to the practice of plating sterling silver in a thick layer of real gold. The gold coating must be at least 2.5 microns thick to qualify as gold vermeil (micron = 1/1000th of a millimetre).
The gold used for the coating must be at least 10 carats, but we use 18 carat gold for Wild & Fine designs, as this is the best compromise between gold quality and durability. Pure gold is soft, so the higher the carat value of the vermeil coating, the more likely it is to suffer damage from everyday wear. Using 18 carat gold in the vermeil pieces for Wild & Fine offers the look of fine quality gold but is more resistant to wear and tear than a 24-carat gold coating would be.
The History of Gold Vermeil
The practice coating sterling silver items in a thick layer of gold began in 18th Century France, when the fashion for gold was strong and metal workers wanted to satisfy their patrons’ seemingly endless desire for good quality gold designs without the expense or worry of having large quantities of the precious metal on the premises.
Today, the process of creating gold vermeil jewellery uses electroplating technology, submerging the sterling silver design in a bath containing gold particles and passing an electrical current through the piece and the liquid. This process forms a smooth, even coating of gold on the silver item, giving it the look of solid gold.
In the early days of the vermeil process, French artisans used fire gilding to get the gold coating onto their sterling silver pieces, but a key component of this method was mercury and so many of them went blind as a result of working so closely with it that the French government outlawed the process for a number of years.
In England, during the reign of Queen Victoria, George and Henry Elkington patented electroplating as a new way to coat one metal with particles from another. This made the vermeil process far safer and it enjoyed a resurgence in popularity as a result. Vermeil designs from this time are identifiable from the rosy hue they have developed over time. This is due to the higher copper content in Victorian gold plating. Pieces created using 10 or 12 carat gold today will develop the same rosy tones as they age.
How Does Gold Vermeil Differ from Regular Gold Plating?
Mass-market gold plating turns a lot of people off the concept of buying and wearing any kind of gold-plated jewellery, but we’d love you to reconsider. Gold vermeil is a far thicker plating that gold plated fashion jewellery, which means that it lasts a lot longer. Also, because the design underneath is made from sterling silver and not a base metal such as steel or brass, it is hypoallergenic and does not discolour to green or black.
Tips For Looking After Your Gold Vermeil Jewellery
- The gold coating itself will not tarnish, but the sterling silver layer underneath will. You can slow this process with preventative measures such as keeping your gold vermeil jewellery separate from your other jewellery, preferably in an airtight box or bag.
- Remove your gold vermeil jewellery before bathing, showering or exercising and before going to bed.
- Apply moisturiser, makeup, perfume and hair styling products before your put on your gold vermeil jewellery.
- Clean your gold vermeil jewellery by washing it gently in warm water with a small amount of washing up liquid or non-chemical soap. Ensure that you rinse it properly then leave it to dry on a cloth or paper towel. Make sure it is fully dry before putting it away.
- Polish gold vermeil items using a soft, non-abrasive cloth or purpose-made jewellery cloth and gently rub the surface in a circular motion. Avoid using a silver cloth as it will remove the gold plating.
- If you are worried that you have skin that jewellery doesn’t like (it’s a curious fact that some of us degrade jewellery faster, just because of our skin type and lifestyle) opt for gold vermeil designs that will sit over clothing, such as a statement necklace, as this will keep the piece away from your skin and preserve the gold coating for longer.
Did you know…?
- There is a gold vermeil wine cooler in the White House
- Gold Olympic medals have been made from gold vermeil since the 1912 games in Stockholm.
Discover our Gold Vermeil Designs
Sometimes Only the Real Deal will do
Whilst gold vermeil is the most durable lookalike for solid gold, certain occasions warrant an heirloom piece of jewellery that last longer than a plated piece.
If you would like a piece of jewellery to mark an important occasion in your life and relish the prospect of passing it down to future generations, solid gold is really the only feasible option.
If you have fallen in love with a Wild & Fine design and would like it made in solid gold, just get in touch for a quote. In the past we have had the pleasure of making one of our signature seahorses in 18 carat gold and given her diamonds for eyes. In all honesty, we would love to hold all the designs in the range in gold too and have Wild & Fine Lux as a permanent collection on the website, but our insurance would go through the roof.
Working to commission on these pieces is the next best thing, so do drop us a line if you would like a new or existing W&F design made in solid gold, especially for you.