Gold vermeil is a jewelry term that is legally regulated because it proposes that the piece of jewelry was manufactured using a specific standard. Misusing the term can alter the value of a piece of jewelry, putting the buyer at risk because the jewelry components do not match what is accepted in the international jewelry market as gold vermeil.
Today’s blog will clarify the differences and provide much-needed guidance to consumers if you do not know the differences between gold-filled, gold-plated, and gold vermeil.
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In the United States, specific criteria that a piece of jewelry has corresponded to be gold vermeil. Vermeil is a French term that refers to a particular grade of fineness in jewelry. The Federal Trade Commission has outlined three specific criteria for gold vermeil, and these criteria are summarized below:
- Jewelry must have silver as the base metal. The silver composition of the jewelry should be 92.5%, otherwise known as sterling silver. The rest of the silver may be made of other materials. Jewelers made from other base metals such as copper are not vermeil.
- The plating of the jewelry must correspond to at least ten karats. The gold used for the plate must be at least 41.7% and no less. It can be more, but certainly not less than 41.7%.
- The gold plating of the jewelry measures 2.5 microns thick at least.
These are the rules for gold vermeil in the United States. Note that each country will have varying policies and specifications.
For example, the Canadian equivalent of these standards indicates that the gold plating only needs to be one micron thick. A thicker plate that is at least 2.5 microns in thickness will last much longer.
The thicker the plating, the more durable the resulting jewelry, and the more steadfast the performance in the long term.
In a nutshell, gold vermeil jewelry is plated heavily for durability and is set with precious stones. These pieces of jewelry are made to stand the test of time.
Vermeil Vs. Gold Plated Vs. Gold Filled
Gold vermeil is a regulatory term that refers to jewelry with sterling silver as a base and has a 10-karat gold plating that is at least 2.5 microns thick. The gold used for the plate must also be at least ten karats, or 41.7% pure gold.
Anything below these parameters and the jewelry cannot be legally marketed and sold as gold vermeil jewelry. Regulation exists for this type of jewelry because consumers must be given what they deserve, value-wise, for their hard-earned money.
In the US, the FTC is charged with protecting consumers against fake jewelry and gold vermeil jewelry that do not meet the standards set by the country. In short, you can sue a jewelry store if they don’t refund you once you discover that the gold vermeil jewelry sold to you isn’t gold vermeil.
However, do bear in mind that the concept and regulation of gold vermeil jewelry are uneven.
There may be heavy regulation in Canada and the US, but we cannot say the same everywhere. So, if you buy gold vermeil, we recommend getting it from a country that regulates it.
If the regulation is lax, you risk buying something substandard, which means you will not be getting your money’s value from the purchase.
Vermeil jewelry is considered a step closer to fine jewelry, so demi-fine jewelry is often used to refer to vermeil jewelry. The fineness of the crafting and the weight of the gold used for the electroplating all contribute to the final price of the jewelry.
Also, vermeil jewelry is not super durable – it is just more durable than comparable pieces with thinner electroplating. If the gold vermeil provides just the minimum thickness in microns, then replating will still be necessary as the piece experiences wear and tear, just like the rest of your jewelry at home.
Generally speaking, jewelry stores will encourage you to purchase gold-filled jewelry instead of gold-plated ones or even vermeil because the gold content of gold-filled jewelry will always be higher. Since electroplated metal doesn’t last as long as gold-filled jewelry or almost pure gold, you will have to decide what to prioritize – price or durability?
The main difference between gold-plated jewelry and gold vermeil is the base metal. Gold-plated jewelry doesn’t need to be manufactured with sterling silver. Jewelers can opt to use brass or copper for gold-plated jewelry.
The karat weight of the gold used for electroplating doesn’t matter either. The gold can weigh less than ten karats, and the output will still be referred to as gold-plated jewelry. What matters is that electroplating occurred, and some gold was transferred to the surface of the jewelry.
There are situations where a gold-plated piece of jewelry can be more valuable than gold vermeil. Since there are no clear rules on gold-plated jewelry, a jewelry manufacturer can use brass as a base metal and gold with a higher karat weight than what is specified for gold vermeil.
Should 18-karat gold or higher gold values be used for the electroplating, equivalent jewelry with just ten-karat plating will likely have a lower valuation.
Gold-filled jewelry occupies a league of its own. It supersedes expectations, especially if placed side by side with just gold-plated jewelry or gold vermeil. The reason for this is the difference in the manufacturing process. Gold-filled jewelry may have a base metal like brass or copper, but the plating process is thicker. Sometimes, the gold corresponds to 100% of the weight of the base metal.
Essentially, the base metals are only used to strengthen the jewelry. In terms of durability, you can’t compare gold-filled jewelry and regular electroplated ones. Gold-filled jewelry will take more punishment and for a more extended period, too.
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