Daily Wire Tip Oct. 4: 18kt Gold Fill vs. 18kt Vermeil

By on October 3, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
October 4, 2010


Which is considered higher quality, 18kt gold fill or 18kt vermeil?

-Melody in Durham, North Carolina


The difference between gold fill and vermeil is the thickness of the gold and the metal that is in the center. To be considered vermeil, the base item must be made of sterling silver and the gold covering it has to be no less than 10kt. To find out the legally acceptable definition of each of these products, I went to the FTC page Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals, and Pewter Industries.

And I quote:

"§ 23.5 Misuse of the word "vermeil."

(a) It is unfair or deceptive to represent, directly or by implication, that an industry product is "vermeil" if such mark or description misrepresents the product’s true composition.

(b) An industry product may be described or marked as "vermeil" if it consists of a base of sterling silver coated or plated on all significant surfaces with gold, or gold alloy of not less than 10 karat fineness, that is of substantial thickness7 and a minimum thickness throughout equivalent to two and one half (2 1/2) microns (or approximately 100/1,000,000ths of an inch) of fine gold.

Note 1 to § 23.5: It is unfair or deceptive to use the term "vermeil" to describe a product in which the sterling silver has been covered with a base metal (such as nickel) plated with gold unless there is a disclosure that the sterling silver is covered with a base metal that is plated with gold."

As well as:

"(5) Use of the terms "Gold Filled," "Rolled Gold Plate," "Rolled Gold Plated," "Gold Overlay," or any abbreviation to describe all or part of an industry product unless such product or part contains a surface-plating of gold alloy applied by a mechanical process and of such thickness and extent of surface coverage that reasonable durability is assured, and unless the term is immediately preceded by a correct designation of the karat fineness of the alloy that is of at least equal conspicuousness as the term used."

Therefore, 18kt gold filled is definitely the better quality product.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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  1. avatar

    John Ricci

    October 4, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Sorry Dale but I have to disagree with you on the higher quality. Vermeil is 10 thousands thick gold plating over sterling silver and gold filled is 1/12 thick layer of gold sheet over brass. Although the gold plating will wear off the sterling silver piece (how fast determines the item in questions and how it will be worn) the gold filled item is usually guaranteed for twenty years. The actual value is in the sterling silver vs brass. Gold filled is usually used for flat surface jewelry or chain and vermeil is used for modeled pieces. I suppose we could argue that both will serve the needs of the consumer which is the most important factor.

    • avatar


      October 5, 2010 at 1:36 am

      Hey John, thanks for your opinions and the banter. You make good points when looking at the product make-up, as silver is of higher monetary value, however the gold does not last long enough for ‘style’ value, so I have to agree with your last comment – the customer’s choice.

  2. avatar


    October 6, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Which in turn opens another can of worms if one looks at the difference of what we in the U.S. consider “normal” for quality gold and what the European market considers high quality gold levels. Personally, I enjoy using the vermeil daisy spacers in my work. I love the look of them when matched with button pearls and crystals for drops, etc.
    Bottom line, as said, it is what the customer considers as the final factor.

  3. avatar

    Michael Stahl

    October 9, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Thanks for the information and coments about gold-filled versus vermeil. I feel that because gold-filled intemates that the gold is throughout the item it should last quite a bit longer than gold-plated. While watching QVC they sell items called “18kt clad gold” and “14kt rolled gold”. What does this mean? Some of the items are quite expensive and on others they are very inexpensive. I could use a little help with this.

    • avatar


      October 9, 2010 at 10:54 pm

      Good follow-up questions Michael. Again we deal with what I call ‘marketing’ terms, which are words used that often confuse and/or mislead customers.

      The definition of the word ‘clad’ means to sheathe, cover or clothe. When paired with the word ‘gold’, clad can mean a variety of things including ‘plated’ or gold-filled. Then you will see terms like ‘double-clad’, meaning a thicker layer or coating of the top metal (which could also be silver as is used on collector’s coins).

      ‘Rolled gold’ is the term most often used in other countries to describe what American’s call ‘gold-filled’. And yes, gold-filled items last much longer than plated ones (my mom has a bracelet from 1943 that is stamped 14kgf-it looks as good today as it did when it was gifted to her!) Gold-filled items are 50 to 100,000 times thicker than gold plating and 17 to 25,000 times thicker than Heavy Gold Electroplate (stamped HGP).

      Here’s a bit of trivia for everyone – did you know that 14k gold contains just 58% gold? The remaining 42% is alloy.

      I would think that the higher priced item would have more genuine gold, however one really has to watch what they buy today. If the 18k clad gold item is over silver, then it will have a higher value than the 14k gold-filled but the 18k plating will not last as long with regular wear. Be sure you call whatever 800 number is provided for full information, before you make a major purchase.

  4. avatar


    October 25, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    I have a pin made of vermeil that looks like a lacy bow that is about 40 yrs. old. I quit wearing it after a few years because it is tarnished & I don’t know how to safely clean it, which is why I’ve been leery of vermeil every since. Isn’t vermeil going to tarnish over time, unlike gold-filled? Suggestions?

    • avatar


      October 25, 2010 at 11:48 pm

      Actually Sandy, the vermeil is probably not tarnished, but the gold layer has probably worn off. My advice here would be to take it to a ‘real’ jeweler (not a ‘chain’ store) and have them look at it under a microscope or loupe.