At Last Night I Dreamt we’ve begun to think more and more about sustainability and encouraging our customers to invest in forever pieces of jewellery. As such, whilst we are seeing other jewellers and brands bringing in more brass based jewellery brands (essentially, costume jewellery) we’ve decided that we’ll be introducing you to more fine solid gold pieces that will last a life time. That said, in order that there’s something to suit every budget we hold a variety of brands, which mostly specialise in gold vermeil jewellery (still fine jewellery but we’ll explain more below!) We often get asked the difference between solid gold, gold vermeil, gold filled and gold plating.
Gold plated and gold vermeil have subtle differences. Understanding these key differences is essential when choosing the right type of metal for your next piece of jewellery. From the thickness of the gold, to what type of base metal both materials use, we walk you through the pros and cons of each.
What exactly is Gold Plated?
Gold plated refers to jewellery that consists of a thin layer of gold that is applied over the top of another affordable metal, such as brass. The process of gold plating is done through putting the economical metal in a chemical solution that contains gold and then applying an electric current to the piece. The electric current attracts the gold to the base metal, where it reacts leaving a thin gold covering.
Many jewellers will use gold plating as a way to create affordable gold jewellery. As the base metal is less expensive than solid gold, it allows for cheaper production whilst achieving that bold metal look that so many adore. Examples of gold plated jewellery in our Nottingham jewellery shop would be Estella Bartlett and Orelia. Perfect for affordable little gifts and pick me up pieces to treat yourself with. WE are seeing a rise in more expensive brands using brass as a base metal with gold plating. All you need to know as a customer is that in that instance you’re not buying fine jewellery. This should always be made clear by a jeweller or brand. Sometimes if you’re in a jewellery shop you assume it will all be fine jewellery but with the increase in jewellers buying into costume jewellery, it’s worth checking what you’re buying. Don’t be misled. We will also explain at Last Night I Dreamt when a piece is costume jewellery, gold vermeil or solid gold. Transparency is key!
Is Gold Plated Real Gold?
Gold plated jewellery is made of both real gold twinned with a different base metal. Whilst these pieces are not solid gold, the plating itself consists of real gold. However, for a piece to be labelled 'gold plated' the layer of gold must be equal to or greater than 0.5 micron.
Cleaning Gold Plated Jewellery
You may be concerned about tarnishing your gold plated jewellery further by cleaning it. Even so, you should be cleaning your gold plated jewellery from time to time to keep it looking its best. For those with gold plated pieces you need to ensure you're gentle, avoid rubbing, and simply clean in warm soapy water. Here’s how we recommend cleaning your jewellery.
What is Gold Filled?
Unlike vermeil and gold plated jewellery, gold filled jewellery has a much thicker layer of gold over the base metal, sometimes as much as 100% thicker. This makes a big difference in terms of the jewellery’s ability to resist wear and tear long term. Although the base metal is usually brass or another low-end material, it would be hard to tell the difference between “real” gold and a gold filled piece.
What is Gold Vermeil?
Gold vermeil, also known as ‘silver gilt’, whilst similar to gold plating, has some key differences that make it distinctive. Vermeil is a technique originating in the 19th century, where gold was applied to sterling silver. Gold vermeil is also made through the gold plating technique but requires a thicker layer of gold. In this case, the gold layer must be above 2.5 microns. Gold vermeil tends to fall within the fine jewellery category as the base is silver and is often referred to as “demi fine.”
Is Gold Vermeil Real Gold?
Like standard gold plating, gold vermeil is also real gold. Most of our designers use the highest percentage of gold alloy that can be used to make jewellery, this being 18K or 22K. Gold vermeil means you can buy a fine piece of jewellery (not costume) at a much more affordable price than solid gold, which can be prohibitive.
How to Clean Gold Vermeil Jewellery
As with gold plated jewellery, using a toothbrush and a mild soapy detergent gently clean your gold vermeil piece. We also recommend using a gentle polishing cloth on your gold vermeil pieces, ensuring it is clean and dry. Simply rub your piece in one direction, wiping away any dirt.
How Long Does Gold Vermeil Last?
Due to its thicker gold layer, gold vermeil is a durable option for jewellery pieces. Taking proper care of your favourite pieces, like necklaces and bracelets, will ensure your pieces stand the test of time. There are numerous ways to care for your jewellery, from keeping it clean, to keeping it away from liquids, and even storing it in its own pouch rather than thrown in with other pieces. It’s also worth noting that brands like Alex Monroe other a replating service. In that sense, a gold vermeil piece is still a forever piece, if you look after your jewellery and consider replating if needed.
Gold Vermeil vs Gold Plated - The Key Differences
When comparing gold vermeil to gold plated, there are many differences that make the two gold types stand apart.
- Base metal - whilst gold plating can take place on any metal, from copper to brass, gold vermeil has to be on sterling silver. For a sustainable option recycled silver makes an excellent base. Read Libby’s recent blog on sustainability.
- Gold thickness - the second key difference is in the thickness of the metal layer, whilst gold plated has a minimum thickness of 0.5 microns, vermeil has to be a thickness of at least 2.5 microns. When it comes to gold vermeil vs gold plated, gold vermeil is at a minimum 5 times thicker than gold plating.
- Durability - due to its added thickness gold vermeil is far more durable than gold plating. Combining both affordability and quality.
Both gold vermeil and gold plated jewellery have their own unique advantages. For those wanting a higher quality, but still affordable piece that will endure frequent wear for years to come, gold vermeil is the ideal choice. Whether you're looking for earrings or anklets gold vermeil is a wonderful option. Whereas, those who switch up their style more often, may wish to experiment with gold plated jewellery due to its slightly lower price point.
Contrasting gold vermeil vs gold plated displays how gold vermeil is a higher quality material to use in jewellery.
Going for Gold
We have recently launched Alex Monroe’s fine collection at Last Night I Dreamt. We are one of the main UK stockist of Alex Monroe and our Nottingham jewellery shop has just launched his solid gold range. We are in love with the new teeny tiny bumblebee and also the inbetweeny bee. But if the cost of these pieces are prohibitive then Alex Monroe’s iconic original bumblebee is £174 and has 22K gold vermeil. If you’d rather have the original size bumblebee but you’d like it in solid 18K gold that will come in at a hefty £2400 but what a forever piece! We are thrilled to have various designers introducing solid gold pieces into their collection. You can order solid gold pinky rings from us by V by Laura Vann. We are also the only stockist of Rachel Jackson London in Nottingham selling their solid gold earring collection.
What is sold gold?
Solid gold is not pure gold but includes anything higher than 10K. Am I blowing your mind yet? Pure gold would be 24K gold which isn’t the best for jewellery as it’s too soft and the colour is very bright and yellow in tone. At Last Night I Dreamt we are introducing more solid 14K and 18K gold pieces. We believe that buying less but buying well is a principle we should all be moving towards. But we appreciate it comes at a cost! Solid gold is pricey!
Rebecca has been wearing her solid 18K gold R necklace by Jessica de Lotz all summer.