It can be really confusing to figure out what various types of gold jewelry are actually made of, not to mention which is best for you. Gold vermeil is a type of gold jewelry that is created when a piece of sterling silver jewelry is thickly plated with real gold. Gold plated jewelry is similar except for a few key differences.
The first difference between gold plated and gold vermeil is the base metal. Gold plated jewelry which usually costs less, is made with cheaper base metals that can include brass, nickel, or copper. The plating is usually done with an electric current in a tub of gold solution, which is called the wet plating method.
There is also a type of gold jewelry called flash plating which is when a very thin layer of gold is electroplated onto usually a brass or nickel base. The layer of gold is so thin it will usually wear away very quickly leaving the piece tarnished and unwearable.
The layer of plating can range but with cheaper jewelry is usually around .5 microns thick. These pieces will usually not last for the long term and with regular wear will tarnish and fade quickly. The average lifespan is around six months. When buying gold plated jewelry be sure to ask about how thick the gold plating is because the thicker the plating the longer the piece will last.
With gold vermeil, you get a thicker plating of gold, which in the US is required to be at least 2.5 microns thick over a base of sterling silver in order to be considered gold vermeil. Gold vermeil because of the thick coating, will last for years with regular wear. It is also hypoallergenic due to the higher quality of the sterling silver base metal which is 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals usually zinc, copper or nickel.
Different Definitions of Gold Vermeil
However, be aware because some brands from countries outside the US have different standards for gold vermeil and the plating will not be 2.5 microns thick! For example, in Canada gold vermeil is considered any piece plated with at least 1 micron of gold, not the 2.5 microns that the US standard requires. At Treasure and Kin, we follow the American standard and all of our gold vermeil pieces are between 2.5 and 3 microns thick. This ensures the jewelry pieces are durable and will last for years to come. Additionally, all of our gold vermeil pieces are made from recycled gold and silver because we firmly believe in sustainability and being environmentally responsible.
Ultimately the decision between gold plated jewelry and gold vermeil depends on several factors. Whether you are looking for a hypoallergenic jewelry, how long you want your piece to last, and pricing all play a role.
Here's more information about the different types of gold jewelry.