At GQ Recommends, we pride ourselves on fielding fashion-related queries of of all shapes and sizes. But the difference between gold vermeil jewelry and its capital-G counterpart stumped us—at least temporarily. Sure, we’d seen the term thrown around haphazardly in the accessories aisle attached to glitzy bracelets or gleaming signet rings and thought, huh, seems interesting. But we weren’t quite sure what differentiated vermeil from jewelry that’s merely gold-plated or gold-filled—let alone what contributed to the category’s enticingly approachable price.
Four Gold Vermeil Pieces We’re Eyeing
We’re Guessing You Have Some Questions
So if you navigated here looking for answers to those exact head-scratchers, we’ve got fantastic news: to help suss them out, we called up a couple of jewelry experts to weigh in on everything you need to know. And the good news doesn’t end there. Turns out, gold vermeil is just the industry term for jewelry crafted from a thick layer of gold sealed to a sterling silver base, and though that gilded exterior is a bit more precious than the purer stuff, with the proper care, it can hold up equally well.
Got a hankering for gold you’re trying to square against an exhaustingly itemized monthly budget? Looking for a last-minute Valentine’s Day gift for your famously snobby significant other? Just need a little pick-me-up to help you make it through the week? If you answered a sad, weary ‘yes’ to any of the above, you could do a lot worse than starting here.
The Raddest Gold Vermeil Necklaces
In the GQ neck of the woods, we tend to think of the simple gold chain as a secret ingredient to bigger fits: add one to the recipe, and your blandest outfits start looking exquisite. Keep it classic with a streamlined cable chain or mix it up with interlocking pendants that pack double the punch.
The Raddest Gold Vermeil Rings
Sometimes, of course, you just want to let your hands do the talking. (Ask your Italian friends what we mean.) It’s tough to go wrong with a simple, elegant gold vermeil band, but if you’re chasing jewelry with a little more famous-guy energy go big on color-blocking or rough, foiled edges.
The Raddest Gold Vermeil Bracelets
From discreet clip bracelets to big-boss rope bracelets, adding some gilded wristwear to your accessories rotation is easier—and more affordable—than ever when gold vermeil is involved.
The Raddest Gold Vermeil Earrings
Dangly pearl earrings are cool and all, but at this point, every fella south of Canal Street has cottoned on to their appeal. Instead, adorn your lobes with a gold vermeil huggie, or go straight for the wilder stuff, like a funky geometric riff that straddles the hoop-stud divide with flair.
We’re Guessing You Have Some Questions
Okay, is gold vermeil real gold?
You’ve probably heard the saying “you get what you pay for”—and more often than not, that’s true. So if gold vermeil is so much cheaper than its capital-G counterparts, there’s got to be a catch, right? Kind of. “Gold vermeil jewelry is real gold,” says Jake Alfonzo, a custom design specialist and jeweler at Brooklyn-based Fitzgerald Jewelry. “It’s just not solid gold.” When you see ‘vermeil’ in a product listing, it “indicates a precious metal base, usually sterling silver,” Alfonzo says, “with an extra-thick plating of solid gold that is required to be at least 2.5 microns thick.”
Hmmm. Is gold vermeil the same as gold-plated?
In the jewelry space, gold takes many forms—solid gold jewelry, gold-filled jewelry, gold-bonded jewelry. That variety can feel like an elaborate marketing ruse to get you to pay more for a shoddier product. That’s not always the case. “Bonding and plating are two different ways of attaching gold to a base metal,” says Justine Lancon, Mejuri’s Chief Creative Officer. “The difference lies in the micron thickness and process. Vermeil uses 2.5 micron thickness, whereas gold-filled [jewelry] requires the product to be 1/20th of its weight in gold—usually leading to a much thicker gold layer.”
As Lancon and Alfonzo point out, the base metal is also a point of differentiation. Gold-bonded and gold-filled jewelry can be crafted from metals like brass or bronze; vermeil refers exclusively to jewelry that uses sterling silver, a benchmark of quality in and of itself, as the base.
Go figure! How do I take care of the stuff once I’ve bought it?
To keep gold vermeil in prime condition, check its quality before you buy. “If a piece is very visibly not polished well—common signs include wobbliness or holes found throughout the metal—that typically indicates that the base silver is exposed, leading to a much quicker tarnish,” says Lancon.
Once you’ve determined you’re getting the best bang for your buck, make sure to keep liquids at bay; unlike with pure gold, they can cause gold vermeil to tarnish prematurely. “All plated finishes will slowly scratch and rub off, and it’s the metals underneath that tarnish, oxidize, and corrode,” Alfonzo says. “So once you break through the vermeil or plated surface and expose the metals underneath they’re going to start reacting to their environment, especially things like colognes, cosmetics, body chemistry, and even water. ”In other words: Take the jewelry off before you hit the shower or the gym.
If your jewelry is looking a little worse for wear, Alfonzo recommends sprucing it up using a mild soap and then drying it with a soft cloth. Skip polishes and heavy disinfectants; they can be abrasive and scratch—or even tarnish—the exterior gold layer.