July 27, 2021

What is gold vermeil?

By Bailey Lehrer
What is gold vermeil?

If you're looking to branch out into the world of gold jewelry, but are worried that you'll end up spending an arm and a leg, then gold vermeil might be your solution. Just what is gold vermeil? And how does it differ from gold plating? And what the heck is gold filled jewelry? See this article to find out.

1. What is gold vermeil?

Gold vermeil is a process in which gold is plated to it’s maximum thickness over solid sterling silver (up to 15x thicker than traditional gold plating). The vermeil technique originated as far back as it’s earliest known recorded mention, in Homer’s Odyssey in 8th century BCE, where thin gold sheets were actually fused to the sterling silver surface via hammering and burnishing. Vermeil is a French word, which literally translates to “of silver”. The French further refined the technique mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, developing early electroplating, which utilizes electricity and chemistry to create the golden surface. Although modern vermeil technique we use at Ringcrush is 100% safe, in the 18th century, this process used harsh chemicals like mercury and most French artisans suffered grave heath repercussions like blindness as a result of their craft. As strange as it may sound, vermeil is actually pretty­ popular in small-batch handcrafted jewelry. It is not an easy process to perfect, and it took Bailey several years to perfect the technique Ringcrush uses in their products. By applying vermeil in tiny batches by hand, the finished product was much higher-quality than typical mass-produced plated jewelry. Vermeil’s beauty and versatility comes from the fact that it plays on the strengths of sterling silver, which is actually a much harder and more durable metal than pure gold. Solid gold scratches fairly easily, and gold plated cheap base metal tends to discolor with time, but sterling silver provides an interesting solution to this problem. Because sterling silver is a precious metal, the cost is prohibitive to be used in mass produced jewelry. But Ringcrush values quality in our products, and we felt it was worth the added cost.



2. How does it differ from gold plating?

In both the vermeil technique and mass produced gold plated jewelry, a metallic piece of jewelry is “dipped” in a solution containing pure gold particles. An electrical charge is applied to the solution, which attracts gold ions from it and deposits them on to the piece of jewelry. 

ringcrush thin textured vermeil ring

Vermeil differs from mass produced gold plated jewelry in a few important ways. First, to be labeled as “vermeil”, the jewelry piece must meet the following criteria: the jewelry object must be made of solid sterling silver, and the piece must contain at least 2.5 microns of gold. This thickness may not sound like a lot, but it is up to 15 times thicker than mass produced gold “flash” plated jewelry. Meaning, the quality gold finish is designed to last for many years, and won’t wear off of turn your finger green in just a few weeks. Mass produced gold plated jewelry is also notorious for green coloration on the skin, due to the fact it utilizes cheap metals like brass as the base. Sterling silver is not known to typically cause skin discoloration, although in rare cases, such as when your body has an iron deficiency, even pure gold can cause darkness on the skin where the jewelry touches. That being said, using sterling silver reduces the possibility of discoloration to the minimum.



3. How does gold vermeil compare to solid gold?

A lot of people don’t know the advantages of gold vermeil over solid gold. Gold vermeil will provide that exquisite golden luster found in solid gold pieces, but the sterling silver base provides added durability due to the tensile strength of sterling silver. Pure gold, particularly solid 24k gold, is extremely soft, which is why it can be hammered into thin gold foil and stretched infinitely into gold wire. The malleability and ductility of pure solid gold makes gold a convenient material to form into jewelry objects, but the downside is pure gold scratches and dents very easily. When properly cared for, gold vermeil will never tarnish, because the solid gold surface does not oxidize, just like solid gold. Both solid gold and gold vermeil will maintain the golden luster over time, but vermeil will resist scratching a bit more efficiently.



4. Is gold vermeil a better investment than other types of jewelry?

Gold vermeil is a type of jewelry that is gold-plated over sterling silver. 99.9% of jewelry at the price points Ringcrush offers in our vermeil pieces is typically made with cheap metals like brass, which is notorious for causing green discoloration on the skin. Plus, vermeil is made only with precious metals with real value. Using only pure sterling silver and pure gold makes purchasing vermeil jewelry an investment. In just 50 years, pure gold has risen 1000% in price, and silver has risen 1800%. Jewelry made with brass is not considered an investment opportunity, as brass is not a precious metal traded like gold and silver.



5. Is all Ringcrush jewelry made with the vermeil technique?

Ringcrush uses the vermeil heavy deposition technique in all of our jewelry pieces, however some of our pieces use a higher quality material referred to as gold fill. Whenever plating is required, we use the same heavy deposition technique, depositing the maximum thickness of gold onto our jewelry, about 2.5 microns thick. In some cases, we have opted for a higher quality material than vermeil, known as gold-fill, in our ring shanks and chains. Gold fill uses a substantially thicker layer of solid gold than vermeil and mass plated jewelry, around 5% of the total metal content is solid gold. At such a significant thickness, gold fill is known to last forever, never losing it’s gold coloration. With proper care, vermeil can last for a very long time as well, but gold fill can be a bit more practical for every day wear.

We have developed a bit of a complicated multi-faceted process for producing our jewelry pieces, to maximize quality, but also allowing us to the create one-of-a-kind look we are famous for. The organic bezels around our raw gemstones can only be made with copper, due to a bit of a complicated chemistry restriction. That being said, we use the same vermeil technique of a heavy deposition gold plating in that small portion of our designs to maximize the longevity of the golden luster, and use gold fill on the rest of the design, particularly in the spots known to experience wear and tear, such as where your skin rubs against the metal (on our chains, ring shanks, and earring posts and backs). For more information about the technique used on your specific design, please refer to the specific product page, or feel free to reach out to us at support@ringcrush.com and we would be happy to elaborate!

 

Shop Ringcrush Vermeil Jewelry

 

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