If you're shopping for gold-tone jewelry, you may have seen jewelry labelled "gold vermeil", "vermeil", "14k vermeil", "18k vermeil", etc. Here's a little explanation about what this means!
Vermeil (pronounced vehr-may; it's French!) is a legally regulated term that refers to a certain kind of quality jewelry. To be legally called "vermeil" in the United States, the jewelry piece must meet ALL of these conditions:
1. Have sterling silver as its base material. Sterling silver is an alloy made of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other materials, and is a standard material used in high quality jewelry (versus, e.g., brass or copper).
2. Be plated in gold that is at least 10k (10 karats). That means the gold is at least 41.7% gold content.
3. Have gold plating that is at least 2.5 microns thick. A micron is 1/1000th of a millimeter.
Gold-plated jewelry refers to jewelry that has gold plating at least 0.5 microns thick. It does not require sterling silver to be used as the base material, and usually uses a less valuable material at its core. Since the plating is so thin, the gold color will wear very quickly compared to gold vermeil. Gold vermeil is superior to gold-plated jewelry.
If you see "14k", "18k" or another karatage before the word "vermeil", this simply refers to how much gold content there is: 24k is 99.9% gold content, 18k is 75% gold content, 14k is 58.3% and 10k is 41.7%.
Higher karatage is not necessarily better; pure gold is very flexible and yellow in color, so mixing it with other materials strengthens the gold, making it more appropriate for use in jewelry pieces. Mixing it with other materials also changes the hue of the gold so the yellow tone is not so aggressive.
National consumer protection agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission in the US, regulate the label "gold vermeil" because it denotes a certain quality level.
However, the regulations are different in certain countries. For instance, in Canada, the requirement for gold vermeil is 1.0 micron thick.
In the realm of gold-tone jewelry, gold vermeil is the best quality jewelry you can get short of buying solid gold. For people who want a cheap, high quality alternative to solid gold, gold vermeil is your answer!
You can shop for gold vermeil jewelry right here on our shop! At Jeanne's, all of products are gold vermeil. Our vermeil products use 18k gold and plating that is 2.5-3.0 microns thick. Our cute styles are also priced at 1/3 or 1/4 of the typical cost.