Gold vermeil (pronounced ver-may) is a very specific type of metal used in the jewelry industry. “Vermeil” is French for “vermilion,” which is a color family and pigment usually associated with a reddish orange. Gold vermeil is a popular option in jewelry, but it has distinct qualities that separate it from other metal styles like solid gold and gold-plated jewelry. In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between vermeil and other types of gold and look at the benefits of using vermeil in jewelry manufacturing. Read on for more!
What is Gold Vermeil?
Gold vermeil is a piece of sterling silver jewelry that’s coated in a layer of gold or gold alloy. In order to be called vermeil, a piece of jewelry needs to satisfy three specific requirements set by the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
- It must have a sterling silver base
- The gold or gold alloy must be at least 10 karats
- The layer of gold coating must be at least 2.5 microns thick.
These regulations ensure that sellers are conducting business ethically; retailers can't just dip any metal in gold of any quality or purity and sell it as vermeil. This also allows consumers to feel confident in their purchases and trust that their jewelry is made of high quality materials. Now let’s get into what those requirements really mean…
Okay, but what’s a karat?
A karat is the measurement of how much gold is present in a metal, indicated with the letter “K.” 24K is 100% gold, and 10K is 41.6% gold. Anything less than 24K of gold is an alloy (a combination of metals, meaning it isn’t 100% pure). Higher gold percentages make the metal higher quality and therefore more expensive. Here’s a chart to help you visualize some common gold purities in jewelry:
…And what’s a micron?
A micron is the equivalent 0.001 millimeters; it’s a tiny unit of measurement suitable for the thin layers of metal that jewelry can be plated with. To be considered vermeil, the layer of gold on a piece of jewelry has to be at least 2.5 microns — or about 0.0025 millimeters — thick. While we might not be able to detect the difference in a micron or even a half micron with the naked eye, those tiny measurements make a big difference in the longevity and durability of the gold plating. The thicker the layer of gold or gold alloy plating is, the more durable and resistant to tarnish the jewelry will be.
Gold Vermeil vs. Gold Plating
While gold vermeil must adhere to the FTC’s specifications, gold plating isn’t defined by any such regulations. Gold plating can use any type of gold at any weight — a piece can be covered in a layer of gold under 10K and less than 2.5 microns thick and still be marketed as gold plated jewelry. Vermeil is a standardized term, so you know what you can expect from each piece of vermeil jewelry, including its durability and luster. Gold-plated jewelry can vary greatly from piece to piece and place to place, and could tarnish much more quickly if the alloy has less gold present or the plating layer is too thin. For this reason, consumers should feel more confident purchasing vermeil jewelry than gold-plated jewelry.
The Benefits of Using Gold Vermeil in Jewelry
Now that we know the difference between the types of gold used in jewelry, let’s discuss the benefits of using gold vermeil in your jewelry manufacturing:
Lower cost to reach a wider demographic
Using vermeil in your jewelry manufacturing (even if it’s just one of many design options) can help you attract a wider customer audience. Not everyone who appreciates gold jewelry and expects high quality can afford pieces made from pure gold; offering only high karat solid gold options could significantly shrink your consumer demographic, while including vermeil in your product line may create an easier and more accessible entry point for a whole new category of customers.
Increased durability and longevity
Providing high quality materials at an affordable price can instill trust in your brand. Because of the standards that define vermeil, the quality is guaranteed to be great. The sterling silver base in vermeil is a durable and reliable precious metal that will hold up well to the daily dings, dents, and scratches that jewelry can encounter. In addition, 2.5 microns is relatively thick, so the top coating layer is less likely to wear away with time. Layers that measure fewer than 2.5 microns will require more frequent maintenance, such as polishing, buffing, and replating services.
Making a high-quality, affordable material like gold vermeil available for your consumers is a great move for a jewelry brand. At MJJ Brilliant, we have a large, fully-stocked inventory of a variety of materials ranging from go-to metal choices like vermeil to rare and precious stones sourced ethically and sustainably. We help you find exactly what you need so you can give your customers exactly what they’re looking for.
If you’re in search of a wholesale jewelry manufacturer that uses only the best materials and boasts decades of experience, consider MJJ Brilliant. We’ve spent over 40 years partnering with jewelry brands and retailers of all sizes, producing over four million beautiful pieces each year. Contact us today to learn more about how MJJ Brilliant can help you produce the jewelry your customers will love.