What is gold vermeil jewellery and how to look after it
Gold is one of the most precious metals on earth. It has been highly prized since ancient times. It was considered to be a powerful metal associated with wealth, status, good fortune and immortality. Even to this day, it is customary for Indian brides to wear 24 carat gold jewellery to their wedding for a lifetime of happiness and good fortune.
In practical terms, gold is a beautiful material that is extremely durable and unlike other metals, does not easily react with the elements or tarnish. However it is also one of the most expensive metals, and while very dainty gold jewellery can be affordable, larger pieces can quickly become prohibitively expensive.
Like silver, gold is very soft and is rarely worn as jewellery in its pure form. Most gold you purchase today, even though it may be called “solid gold” is a gold alloy (or mix of metals) comprising pure gold, silver, copper and a small amount of palladium or zinc.
The purity of the alloy (or percentage of gold in the alloy) is measured in carats. The higher the carat, the greater the content of pure gold, and the more expensive the item. For example, 18ct gold is an alloy comprising 75% gold, and 25% silver/copper/palladium/zinc. In contrast, 9ct gold comprises 37.5% gold and 62.5% silver/copper/palladium/zinc. Additionally, the proportion of the different metals in the alloy can be adjusted to determine the colour. For example rose gold has relatively more copper and less silver than yellow gold.
It is worth noting that although lower carat gold such is more affordable, it can still be quite expensive for weighty pieces. Additionally, because low carat gold such as 9ct or 10ct comprises less than 50% gold, it takes on the colour of the other metals in the alloy, so it is less warm and rich in tone.
As a result, there are a number of alternatives to “solid gold” that have been developed to enable people to enjoy some of the benefits of gold (such as its wonderful lustre) while also being able create weightier, statement pieces.
The most common alternatives to solid gold are:
As gold vermeil only comprises precious metal alloys (i.e. gold and silver alloys) we believe it is the best choice for quality statement pieces.
Importantly, not only is gold vermeil the highest grade of gold-plated sterling silver, but Brave Edith also chooses to apply higher quality standards:
We plate our pieces in an extra thick layer of 2.5 microns of gold which is over 14 times the thickness of standard gold plating, so it is more resistant to wear.
Unlike common plating or “flash plating” which involves quickly dipping jewellery into an electroplating solution to coat the piece, our process involves very precise measurement of the thickness of the gold layer.
We use 14 carat gold, as this is harder and more scratch resistant than higher carats of gold, but still has ample gold content (58.3%) to retain the warm hues.
Brave Edith believes that high end statement jewellery should be affordable. Sterling silver is considerably lighter and more affordable than gold, which allows us to create larger pieces that are both comfortable to wear and affordable. And by only using precious metals for all of our jewellery, Brave Edith is able to create pieces of superior durability and lustre.
Gold toned jewellery that is made from brass with standard gold plating can cause allergies when the plating inevitably rubs off. Because Brave Edith jewellery is only made using hypoallergenic materials - high quality sterling silver and a thick layer of 14ct gold - it is kinder to your skin and much less likely to cause an allergic reaction.
As gold vermeil mostly comprises sterling silver and gold, it can be repaired and recycled. This means that when properly cared for, gold vermeil jewellery will stand the test of time. And if after prolonged wear, the gold plating wears through, your jewellery can be easily re-plated.
Gold filled (sometimes called rolled gold) jewellery, unlike its name suggests, is not actually jewellery “filled” with gold. Rather, it is an alloy which mostly comprises a base metal (usually brass) that has a layer of gold mechanically bonded to it through the application of heat and pressure.
The benefit of gold-filled jewellery is that the bonding process joins the metals together so that the gold doesn’t rub off like plated metals. Additionally, true gold-filled jewellery should contain a minimum of 5% gold or a 3 micron layer of gold, which is much more than standard gold plate and equivalent to high end gold vermeil jewellery.
However, due to the nature of the production process and amount of brass that is usually used, it can sometimes be difficult to repair a gold-filled item. For example, soldering requires high levels of heat to the item which in the case of gold-filled jewellery, can cause the layers to distort or for the brass to melt and mix with the gold.
So in short, gold-filled jewellery can give you an affordable and lasting gold finish, provided it doesn’t need repairing. And also be aware that the bulk of the piece is likely to be made of a base metal such as brass.
Although price should be an indicator, it can be difficult to tell the difference between solid gold, gold vermeil and gold plated jewellery, so it’s always best to check for hallmarks. Here’s what you should look out for:
Solid gold jewellery has fineness stamps which the percentage of parts of pure gold out of 1,000 parts metal. For example 9ct gold will have a stamp of 375 (meaning 37.5% gold), 14ct gold will have a stamp of 583 (meaning it is 58.3% pure gold) and 18ct gold will have a stamp of 750, meaning it is 75% pure gold, etc).
A 925 stamp on your gold jewellery guarantees that the underlying metal is sterling silver. This acts as a guarantee that the piece contains at least 925 parts of pure silver out of 1,000 parts of metal. This however does not guarantee the thickness of the gold plating or the carat level of the gold plate, the seller will need to confirm this. Anything with less than 1.5 microns of 10 carat gold plating, is not gold vermeil. (For example, all Brave Edith jewellery is plated with 2.5 microns of 14K gold and you will find the 925 stamp on the back of our earrings or necklaces or on a small tag attached to the clasp of our necklaces).
Gold plated jewellery is usually marked GP, GEP or HGP (meaning Gold Plate, Gold Electro Plate, Hard Gold Plate respectively). Sometimes these letters also follow the carat level, e.g. “14K GP”, means it is 14 carat gold plated over a base metal. Once again, the seller will need to confirm the actual thickness of the plating.
Gold filled jewellery is usually marked RGP or RG (rolled gold plate). It can also be marked with 1/20, which means it is 5% gold. And as with gold plating, the carat level may also be included, e.g. 1/20 14K RG. In Australia the most common gold stamps found on Gold filled jewellery are 1/20 9ct GF.
If you are still unsure, you can always ask a trained jeweller for a second opinion.
Gold vermeil is made from two precious metals – gold and silver – and so while both metals are tough, precious jewellery requires care to keep them looking their lustrous best.
To prevent tarnishing or damaging the gold layer on your jewellery, the easiest thing to do is to make sure that your gold vermeil earrings or necklaces don’t come into contact with chlorinated water or chemicals. Chemicals in particular, can strip the gold from your jewellery. It is important to put your make up and perfumes on before your jewellery and take your jewellery off before do any cleaning, or before you jump into the shower or pool. We also recommend avoid wearing your jewellery when exercising or sleeping as perspiration also contributes to tarnishing.
To protect your jewellery and help prevent tarnishing when you are not wearing it, it is important to store your jewellery in Brave Edith’s velvet bag and box. We also recommend you take care to store each piece separately and if you place more than one item in your velvet bag, wrap each piece in acid free tissue so it doesn’t tangle or scratch against the other items. If storing your jewellery for longer periods, we suggest you place your jewellery in a zip lock bag with acid free tissue.
We recommend gently cleaning your gold vermeil jewellery on a regular basis with a soft cloth to remove oils and dirt. This will help prevent tarnishing build up on your piece and will help preserve the plating. If your gold is lightly tarnished, it can be brightened up with a polishing cloth.
We recommend using a gold polish cloth such as Town Talk Brilliant Gold Cloth. Do not use paper towel or tissue to clean your jewellery as this will cause scratches. We do not recommend using chemical jewellery dips on gold vermeil as this can remove the gold.
If your gold vermeil jewellery gets dirty, you can clean it with warm soapy water and a soft cloth. Don’t rub it with any abrasive pads and make sure you pat it completely dry.