There has recently been a return to the gold look for fashion styles, but as gold prices soar, there has been a gradual return to various forms of gold plating as a more affordable option. Gold plated, rolled gold and gold vermeil are all terms we now commonly hear in the trade!
Gold plated items are usually made from a base metal, i.e. not sterling silver, with a very thin layer of gold on top. Rolled gold is made when sheets of gold are rolled onto a base metal, creating a thicker layer of gold than gold plate. So, what is gold vermeil?
To qualify as gold vermeil, as opposed to just gold plated, an item must be made from sterling silver, and the plating must be minimum 10ct gold, as well as a certain thickness (2.5 microns). The technique to create gold vermeil originated in France in the mid 1700s, using the dangerous practice of fire gilding; this involved the use of mercury and was stopped in the 1800s after causing many workers to become blind! Nowadays vermeil is created using an electrolytic process.
We are often asked whether gold vermeil will wear off. If it is properly cared for, vermeil will last a long time, and there are many ways to ensure it does not wear off! Avoid swimming, bathing or showering in your jewellery, and ensure it is only cleaned using a soft cloth (machine polishing can be too harsh for this type of jewellery and rub the gold layer away). Vermeil is also more suited to people with sensitive skin and allergies, as it is made from silver and gold, not base metals.