Buying Vermeil Jewelry and Components:
By Pam Thien
How do you buy gold vermeil jewelry and not be disappointed that the gold has faded only three days after you left great feedback for the seller?
Purchasing Gold Vermeil or any type of gold plated jewelry is not easy when all you see is a picture. When buying Vermeil products (weather new or vintage) online, it's important to gain as much knowledge on what you are purchasing as possible before taking the plunge. This guilde aims to help you distinguish between the different types of gold plating and how to make smart decisions.
First of all - What is 'Vermeil'?
Pronounced 'Ver-May', the Trade Standard for vermeil is a piece consisting of at least 92.5% silver (sterling silver is 92.5% and fine silver is 99.9%) coated with at least 2.5 microns (that's 1/1000 of a millimeter) of gold - to ensure quality, the gold should be no less than 14K. The higher the gold content the better.
A lot of sites and eBay listings do not write how many microns their gold vermeil items are. Remember that this makes a lot of difference in the long run.
Secondly, there are two distinct types of 'electro plating' - the basis of vermeil items.
1.) Flash Plating - (0.25 micron or less) where gold is merely dipped into the electroplating solution for a short period of time. This method may also be called 'color plating' as so little gold ends up coating the piece. The gold will wear off within weeks.
Flash Plated pieces are not vermeil, but are easily mistakened for vermeil (that is until you wear it regularly).
2.) Micron Plating - (1 micron or more) this is where the thickness of the gold is actually measured. This is the standard for plating watches and vermeil jewelry. The piece is placed in the solution for a very long time (sometimes even days - depending on thickness).
2.5 microns - minimal for vermeil jewelry
5.0 microns - standard for watches
For colors, micron plating is much more standardized and reliable. Micron plating can have different colors - 14K, 18K, 24K, 32K (Yellow Gold), Pink Gold, and other tones depending on solution. European standards are very strict about the vermeil coloration of their jewelry. Some colors are not available for Flash Plating - and flash plating gold in different colors is also not as popular.
How Do I Buy?
Look for a reputable buyer. If you're shopping online, look for sites that list the number of microns. Also check seller feedback if you're buying from eBay. It's true that gold usually fade right after you give great feedback (Murphy's Law), but there's always a chance that some discerning buyer waited a few days to test out the gold.
The next step to looking at genuine vermeil items - the kind that will not fail you - is pricing. If the price of the vermeil item is very close to the price of its sterling or un-plated counterpart, then it is most certainly not vermeil.
Keep in mind, that a charm of 10 x 10 milimeters or about 1/2 of an inch in diameter can cost approximately $10 - $15 to vermeil (plated at 2.5 microns) in the United States. The prices might be 1/3 to 1/2 that in smaller countries. Consider this 'price is right' rule: 'You get what you pay for'.
This rule is not always true, but is worth considering: sellers that offer gold in more than one color (hamilton gold, pink gold, yellow gold, etc.) is more likely to be selling genuine vermeil.
Talk to the seller. Ask about micron gold, 'Hamilton Gold', or have them humor you a little about gold plating - it couldn't hurt. If you end up talking to a good seller, you will probably learn a new tip or two and if the seller doesn't know what they're talking about, then you would have been glad you decided to email and did not have to waste any more time and money than necessary.