Basically they are two very different things…
Vermeil, (Pronounced: Ver-may) refers to Sterling Silver with Gold plate. A quality piece of Vermeil jewellery is created using 18ct gold and in some cases 22ct and 24ct gold depending on the desired effect and design. To be consider a true Vermeil piece requires two important factors, firstly the original design has to be made in a precious metal, Sterling Silver and secondly the gold plate has to have a minimum thickness of 2.5 microns on all surfaces. Vermeil jewellery has a larger quantity of gold then used in other types of gold plated pieces. The gold is applied by electrolysis which bonds the gold to the metal. This process makes the gold plate hard wearing and long lasting. Gold Vermeil jewellery has a collectable appeal as the original design is created in precious metal making the entire piece more valuable .
Next, let’s have a look at Gold Filled jewellery. The term ‘Gold Filled’ refers to jewellery which has a thin layer of gold bonded to an alloy which is a non-precious metal. Most commonly used is brass. Sometimes ‘Gold Filled’ is also referred to as ‘rolled gold’ or ‘rolled gold plate’. The process is created when a thin sheet of gold is bonded to an alloy such as brass or copper through heat and high pressure. In order to be considered ‘Gold Filled’ the amount of gold used must be a minimum of 9ct (UK) 10ct (US) and usually doesn’t exceed 14ct. The gold used for this process is a lower carat then used in Gold Vermeil making this choice of purchase less expensive and also less valuable to have in your jewellery collection.
You will also find that there is gold plated jewellery which also commonly uses brass and sometimes copper as the alloy. It is similar to gold filled as the same materials are used however, it contains far less gold making it less hard wearing. The plating on gold plated brass is much thinner and can wear off quite quickly sometimes if unlucky it can peal off of the underlying alloy. However, this process still uses actual gold as opposed to a ‘gold tone’ metal which might be used in some cases just for colour.
To summarise, both Vermeil and Gold Filled jewellery are popular choices; however, in my professional opinion I would always recommend Gold Vermeil as the whole piece is made using precious metal with no hidden surprise’s. If you shop in the UK and are purchasing from an established company your jewellery should by law carry a hallmark stamp. Hallmarks in the UK include, the Makers Mark, Date, Metal Used and Location of the Assay Office (Hallmarking agency UK). I’ve include a picture of my own hallmark above to give you an idea of what to look for. However, in the US the rules are different and a Vermeil piece might cary a 925 stamp (Sterling Silver) and in some cases a GV (Gold Vermeil) stamp.
As with all special purchases, always make sure to ask questions and see proof that what you are buying is authentic to its description. I hope this article has been helpful and that you can enjoy future shopping adventures with the knowledge of what to look for in your next jewellery purchase.
I’ve included a few useful links below if you’d like to read further on this topic.