What is Vermeil

by Dale Armstrong

Could you tell me about vermeil? I have a bracelet that is marked 925 FAS and is gold in color. I was told it was vermeil-gold over silver.

-Penni in Lubbock, Texas


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

-Melody in Durham, North Carolina
Answer to "What is Vermeil":

Vermeil (ver-may) is a French word that came into use in the English language in the 19th century for the much earlier term silver gilt. Vermeil is a combination of sterling silver, gold, and other precious metals. It is commonly used as a component in jewelry. A typical example is sterling silver coated with 18 karat gold. To be considered vermeil, the gold must also be at least 10 karat (42%) and be at least 1.5 micrometers thick. Sterling silver covered with any another metal cannot be called vermeil. Vermeil can be produced by either fire gilding or electrolysis.

The original fire-gilding vermeil process was developed in France in the mid-1700s. However, due to the high levels of mercury that the artisans were exposed to, resulting in blindness, France later banned the technique. Today, vermeil is safely produced through electrolysis.

I do have to caution those who would use and sell their handmade jewelry using vermeil components, though, as the gold coating is extremely thin and with regular wear, comes off very easily.

Answer contributed by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong
Answer to 18K comparison:

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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  • Category: General Education
  • Technique(s): Design