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Vermeil vs Gold-plated vs Gold Filled

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

These are probably 2 of the most asked questions about gold and silver alloys.

Having abundance of choice is freedom.

However, with many similar metals, it is easy to get confused!

So here you have a comparison between vermeil vs gold-plated vs gold filled.

What is gold vermeil?

Vermeil, or gold vermeil, is gold-plated sterling silver.

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

But today, sterling has emerged as the defacto standard for silver in jewelry.

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

Sterling silver is a silver alloy.

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

Sterling silver has 92.5% purity.

The remaining 7.5% part comes from cheaper metals, like copper.

Addition of these metals, makes silver harder and suitable for jewelry and other daily use.

Why? Because 100% fine silver is too soft for jewelry.

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

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

The thicker the plating the more durable will vermeil be.

However, many times a higher karat is for plating.

The gold plating in vermeil is often 22K or 24K.

Those are high-purity gold karats.

22K is 91.7% pure

24K has 100% purity.

For more on this subject, you may like to check this article on gold types and karat system.

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

It is hypoallergenic, meaning it does not interact with the skin.

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

For example, had we used 12K, which is only 50% pure, there would be a higher probability that the remaining part could contain non-hypoallergenic metals.

The first one that comes to mind is nickel.

Say the remaining 50% of 12K plating is copper.

This part may contain parts of nickel, which is non-hypoallergenic.

Using 22K or 24K for plating, prevents greatly any undesired reactions.

Although there can be no guarantees for zero allergenic effects, it is highly unlikely.

What is Gold-plated jewelry?

This means that an inner metal is plated with gold.

There are many options for the inner metal.

There is no restriction like vermeil where silver has to be used.

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

This base is immersed into gold solution and given an electric current.

This gives birth to a reaction named electro-plating, which forms bonds between the inner and outer parts.

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 electro-plated keeps cost low.

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

If you want to have a gold-plated piece close to rose 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 wear time of the coating.

Gold is not an ordinary metal.

It is an expensive precious metal traded worldwide.

The more it is put in a coating, higher the price will be.

The thickness of the plating commands the time it will take to wear off.

A thicker layer will have a longer wear period.

When the coating diminishes, the inner alloy comes to daylight.

While it is hypoallergenic, the inner metal may be not.

So when the inner part gets in contact to the skin, undesired reactions may occur.

The moral of the story is: when the inner part is saying hello to you; time for a replating session has arrived.

So, when buying a gold-plated jewelry, you should always ask for the inner metal, the karat and thickness of the plating.

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.

Gold vs Vermeil vs Gold-plated vs Gold filled Side by Side
Type Inner metal Outer metal
Gold Gold Gold
Vermeil Silver Gold
Gold-plated Random Gold(thin)
Gold filled Random Gold(thick)

Differences Between Gold, Vermeil, Gold-plated and Gold filled jewelry

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

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

It may be 14K or 18-Karat gold, but it is gold.

And even if it is coated, for example, as in a white gold ring with rhodium coating, it should be presented as it is.

Vermeil jewelry is mostly clearly defined.

It is a silver base coated with gold.

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

As silver has a lower price than gold, 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 different than silver.

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

Thus, gold-plated jewelry will have a lower price tag than a vermeil piece.

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

First, the outer layer is much thicker.

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

On the other side, gold filled pieces are produced by covering an alloy with a thicker layer of gold.

This difference in thickness, increases coating’s time to wear off.

It also increases the price of the outer layer, and the whole piece: more gold, more money.

In all circumstances, a thicker coating and higher purity of gold mean smaller risk for allergies.


Related Questions

1. Is gold vermeil durable?

Gold vermeil is durable, but the question should be how durable it is.

The answer to this question is directly related to the karatage and thickness of the gold coating.

Gold coating with less gold in percentage will enter faster in reaction with chemical agents.

The higher percentage of copper like metals is the reason.

When it comes to thickness, the thicker layers are the more durable and wear off in a longer time.

2. Does Vermeil look like real gold?

Yes, it does.

In fact, it is not possible to distinguish visually a 14K gold piece with a vermeil piece coated with 14K gold.

3. Does gold vermeil turn green?

Vermeil does not turn green as it is coated with gold.

Even so, the matter of fact is this layer may wear off with time.

Friction, skin oil and chemical agents like perfumes will quicken this process.

When a part of this gold coating wears off completely, the inner silver core will get in contact with the skin and air directly.

This will open doors to sterling silver getting tarnished and changing its color and appearance of the jewelry.

4. Can you wear gold vermeil in the shower or pool?

Wearing your vermeil pieces in the pool or shower is not a good idea.

Getting in contact with shampoo and pool chemicals can never be beneficial for vermeil jewelry.

Especially, if the gold coating diminishes showing the silver part, you can be sure that the mentioned factors will quicken tarnish and take away its luster.

5. Is 18k Vermeil gold real?

Yes, it is real. Vermeil is gold-plated silver.

18K vermeil gold is a sterling silver piece electroplated with 18-Karat gold.

6. Is it worth buying gold-plated jewelry?

Of course! Gold-plated jewelry looks just like gold jewelry and offers a tinier price tag!

You can build up your jewelry collection within a smaller budget!

7. Is plated gold real gold?

Yes, gold plated is real gold which is covered on a non-gold alloy.