If you're shopping for gold-tone jewelry, you may have seen jewelry labelled "gold vermeil", "vermeil", "14k vermeil", "18k vermeil", etc. Here's a little explanation about what this means!
What is Gold Vermeil?
Vermeil (pronounced vehr-may; it's French!) is a legally regulated term that refers to a certain kind of quality jewelry. To be legally called "vermeil" in the United States, the jewelry piece must meet ALL of these conditions:
1. Have sterling silver as its base material. Sterling silver is an alloy made of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other materials, and is a standard material used in high quality jewelry (versus, e.g., brass or copper).
2. Be plated in gold that is at least 10k (10 karats). That means the gold is at least 41.7% gold content.
3. Have gold plating that is at least 2.5 microns thick. A micron is 1/1000th of a millimeter.
Source: Federal Trade Commission
*Note that in Canada, the requirements for labelling an item 'gold vermeil' are much lower; the plating thickness needs only to be 1.0 micron thick. If you are purchasing from a Canadian brand, you should ask for the plating thickness. Plating that is 2.5 microns thick will last many years longer than 1.0 micron, so you should be sure of the quality that you are paying for.
Put another way, vermeil pieces are made with precious materials with heavy plating to ensure long-lasting wear.
How is gold vermeil different from gold-plated?
Gold-plated jewelry refers to jewelry that has gold plating at least 0.5 microns thick. It does not require sterling silver to be used as the base material, and usually uses a less valuable material at its core. Since the plating is so thin, the gold colour will wear very quickly compared to gold vermeil. Gold vermeil is superior to gold-plated jewelry.
What does "14k vermeil" mean?
If you see "14k", "18k" or another karatage before the word "vermeil", this simply refers to how much gold content there is: 24k is 99.9% gold content, 18k is 75% gold content, 14k is 58.3% and 10k is 41.7%.
Higher karatage is not necessarily better; pure gold is very flexible and yellow in colour, so mixing it with other materials strengthens the gold, making it more appropriate for use in jewelry pieces. Mixing it with other materials also changes the hue of the gold so the yellow tone is not so aggressive.
What do you mean when you say it's regulated?
National consumer protection agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission in the US, regulate the label "vermeil" because it denotes a certain quality level.
However, the regulations are more lax in certain countries, and this can be dangerous territory for consumers.
For instance, in Canada, the requirement for vermeil is only 1.0 micron thick. This is very thin plating, and you can expect that your jewelry won't last more than a couple of years with regular use.
However, jewelry brands based in Canada might call their products "vermeil" when they're marketing in the US, even though it's technically not vermeil according to US regulations. It's an illegal practice, but it happens. Unfortunately, the people who lose out are the customers who expect a certain quality level but are in reality getting much worse.
Should I buy vermeil?
In the realm of gold-tone jewelry, gold vermeil is the best quality jewelry you can get short of buying solid gold. For people who want a cheap, high quality alternative to solid gold, vermeil is your answer!
You can shop for gold vermeil jewelry right here on our shop! At Linjer, all of our gold-tone products are either gold vermeil or solid gold. Our vermeil products use 14k gold and plating that is 2.5-3.0 microns thick. Our cute styles are also priced 25-50% less than traditional jewelry brands.
Want to learn more?