gold bracelet and chain

Vermeil vs Gold-plated vs Gold Filled

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  • What are the differences between standard gold, vermeil, gold plated and gold filled jewelry?
  • How much silver is there in vermeil and sterling silver?

These are probably two of the most asked questions about these metals.

In summary, vermeil is sterling silver that has been gold-plated. Gold-plated jewelry is similar, but the core comes from cheaper base metals, not 925 silver. Gold filled pieces are generally made from an inner metal like brass or copper covered with a thicker layer of gold than the latter.

For more details, check this post on vermeil vs gold-plated vs gold filled.

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What is gold vermeil?

Vermeil is a specific kind of gold-plated sterling silver.

In early times, there was also pure silver plated versions of vermeil.

But today, sterling has emerged as the standard.

Although there are many alloys like argentium and 835 silver, sterling is the first in this race.

It is a popular jewelry metal thanks to its lustrous look, increased strength and durability.

100% fine silver is too soft for jewelry. This is why we use alloys.

Sterling silver has 92.5% purity.

The remaining 7.5% part comes from cheaper metals, for example a base metal like copper.

Addition of this base metal part, makes it harder and suitable for jewelry and silverware.

Had we used pure silver, it would quickly lose its form.

Sterling silver is not magnetic but it does tarnish. The gold plating prevents tarnish: a sort of oxidation and chemical reaction with sulfur dioxide, which creates black spots on sterling’s surface.

In the US, vermeil’s coating must be at least 10-Karat gold and 2.5 micron thick.

1 micron is 0.0001 centimeters. 2.5 micron is about 1/10,000 of an inch.

The thicker the plating, the more durable and more expensive it will be

The price also increases with the karat value.

18k plating will cost more than layering 14k.

18k has 75% gold content while 14k has 58.3% purity.

Some manufacturers opt for internal standard for the karat value. So despite 2 vermeil piece may look very similar, they might be a price gap because of purity.

100% pure yellow gold is 24 karat. 10k is less than half pure at 41.7%.

For more on this subject, you may check this article.

Using the higher karats for plating, reduces the risk for metal allergies.

In other words, 18k is more hypoallergenic than 10k which includes less of the precious yellow metal.

Hypoallergenic means that the materials are not likely to interact with the skin and cause any irritation.

But there might be trace metals in its composition, which a sensitive skin may show allergic reactions to.

The first ones that comes to mind are nickel and lead.

Using nickel-free higher karat pieces like 18k will reduce possible skin allergies.

Although there can be no guarantees for zero allergenic effects, it is will be reduced significantly.

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What is gold-plated jewelry?

This means that an cheaper inner metal is plated with gold.

There are many options for the core: brass and copper are commonly used

As this inner alloy is less expensive, it brings a price advantage over solid gold and vermeil jewelry.

During production, the base is immersed into gold bath and is given an electric current.

This gives birth to a reaction named electroplating, which forms bonds between the core and atoms present in the solution.

The result is the base alloy getting coated by a layer of gold.

As for the core alloy, there are many alternatives for the coating too.

It can be made of different karats.

But of course a 10k or 12k layer of electroplating keeps cost low.

Another benefit of lower karats for plating is that it gives a rosy color.

If you want to have a piece close to rose or pink tones, you may choose a gold-plated item with higher percentages of copper in the coating.

In these items, the thickness differs.

This affects 2 important points: the price and the life time of the coating.

Gold is an expensive precious metal.

A thicker and more pure coating will command a higher price.

Also, the thicker layer will have a longer wearing off period.

Gold is hypoallergenic, but the inner metal may not be.

When the coating diminishes, the inner alloy will come to daylight.

So, after entering into contact with the skin, undesired reactions may occur if there are any allergen metals.

The moral of the story is: when the inner part is saying hello, you should know time for a re-plating session has arrived.

To end with, when buying a gold-plated jewelry, always ask for the inner metal, the karat and thickness of the plating.

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What is gold filled jewelry?

This is the term used for pieces with a basis covered by a layer of gold.

This layer is thicker than the coating of a gold-plated item.

In fact, the term “gold filled” is a bit misleading at first, because there is not a void piece which is filled in.

It is used just on the outside and only after the inner base is made!

Maybe it would be better to think of it as “thick gold layered” instead of gold filled.

Obviously, it a more luxurious option over the former thinner jewelry.

Gold vs Vermeil vs Gold-plated vs Gold filled Side by Side
Type Inner metal Outer metal
Solid gold Gold Gold
Vermeil Sterling silver Gold
Gold-plated Random Gold(thin)
Gold filled Random Gold(thick)

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Conclusion

When we say gold ring, we mean that the ring is made of nothing else.

It may be rose gold or white gold but in the end, it is totally the same alloy.

It may be 14k or 18 karat , but it is the same metal.

And even if it has a outer layer, for example as in a rhodium plated white gold ring, it should be presented as it is.

Vermeil jewelry is mostly clearly defined.

It has a silver base coated with regular gold plating.

This base is most of the time 925 silver, and in a minority of cases, pure silver.

You should check the standards in the country you are shopping to prevent any confusion.

As the price of gold is higher than silver’s, we may say a similar designed vermeil jewelry piece will cost less than its yellow counterpart.

Gold-plated jewelry is close to vermeil, except for its base being not silver.

A cheaper alloy of metals is used for this core part.

Thus, it will have a lower price tag than a vermeil piece.

When we arrive to gold filled jewelry, there are significant differences with regular plated items.

Normal plated pieces are usually made by using electroplating alloys in a gold bath.

Gold filled pieces are covered with an alloy with a thicker layer.

This difference in thickness, increases coating’s time to wear off; along with the price.

A thicker coating translates into a smaller risk of metal allergy for people with sensitive skin.