What is the Difference Between Gold Vermeil and Gold Plating?

Many people want to buy solid gold jewelry but it can cost too much for some people. This is where alternatives like gold plating and gold vermeil can be useful. But what is the difference between these two?

The difference between gold vermeil and gold plating is the types of metal they are able to cover underneath. Both are a thin layer of gold that cover a less-expensive metal. Gold plating can use any type of metal underneath. Gold vermeil has to use a precious metal underneath, either silver or gold. Both gold vermeil and gold plating are less expensive than solid gold while still looking amazing.

Gold vermeil and gold plating can be good alternatives to purchasing solid gold items. They are not only less expensive, they are also more durable so you don’t have to worry about the jewelry pieces breaking. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between gold vermeil and gold plating to see which is the right choice for you.

What is Gold Plating?

Gold plating is simply the process of adding just a thin layer of gold to another metal, giving that original metal the look of gold. Often the layer of gold is very thin, with it just thick enough to hide all of the exposed surfaces of the other metal. This method would be used in jewelry and other decorations.

This is a popular option in jewelry because it helps it look real, without the high cost of real gold. There is real gold in the plating, so it looks authentic. However, since such a small amount is actually used in the piece and most of it is some other type of metal, you can get jewelry pieces made out of gold plating for a lot cheaper than anything made out of 100% gold.

What is Gold Vermeil?

Gold Vermeil is similar to the gold plating we talked about above in terms of making jewelry more affordable and even in the amount of gold that is used around the piece. The biggest difference though is that vermeil has strict standards it has to meet before enjoying that term. It is also made up entirely of precious metals, both gold and silver are in this term. On the other hand, gold plate will have different levels of gold thickness and can be made out of any type of metal base.

Is Vermeil Real?

Yes, vermeil is real. In fact, the jewelry made out of gold vermeil is often more authentic than anything gold-plated. Gold plated jewelry can use any kind of metal it would like under the gold top layer. This means it could be a ring made out of tungsten or another cheap metal with a little bit of gold on the top.

With vermeil though, there has to be some kind of precious metal underneath to make it fit under this term. It could be something like silver with a small amount of gold top layer to make it look authentic and to lower the price. But it has to be a precious metal, either gold or silver, under the top layer to be considered vermeil.

Differences Between Vermeil and Gold-Plated Jewelry

There are some major differences that show up between gold-plated jewelry and vermeil jewelry. Recognizing these differences can help you choose the right one for your needs. Some differences you may notice include:


The gold-plated jewelry will often cost less than vermeil jewelry. This is because it does not need to have a precious metal underneath it in order to fit under this category. The gold-plated jewelry also does not need to come with a minimum thickness or karat weight. However, if the gold-plated jewelry does have a high karat weight attached to it with a thicker layer of gold, it could prove more valuable than the vermeil. It will depend on the specific piece of jewelry.


While vermeil and gold-plated jewelry are essentially the same thing, the quality of vermeil is technically better. Some gold-plated jewelry will have silver or gold underneath it. This would make it vermeil as well. However, while vermeil has specific requirements to have a precious metal underneath the gold layer, gold-plated jewelry can use anything they would like as the underlying metal, including brass or copper.

What this means is that while gold-plated jewelry has the potential to be higher in quality, on average, the vermeil piece will be of better quality. This is often the same reason that the cost of anything made of vermeil is higher.


The gold-plated jewelry is often the one that will peel off the fastest out of all the options. This is because the layer may be thinner and the base material that is meant to hold it on is not as strong either. Gold vermeil will fade too, but it does last a lot longer.

Options Available

Because it is easier to make the gold-plated jewelry and they are inexpensive, it is often easier to find many gold-plated options compared to gold vermeil. You can still find lots of both options though.

How it looks

Most gold-plated options will be brighter and shinier compared to what you find with vermeil. If you want something that really sparkles and looks amazing, then the gold-plated option is one of the best options for your money. Since the vermeil needs to go over a darker metal like silver to make it more affordable, it will have a little duller look to it, though it still looks really nice.

The Pros and Cons of Vermeil vs Gold-Plated Jewelry

Both of these types of jewelry can look amazing. And they are much more affordable options than purchasing a piece of jewelry made out of real gold. Let’s compare both of these types, the gold-plated and the vermeil, to see how they compare to one another.

The Gold Plating

If you are leaning towards gold-plated jewelry, it is important to compare all of the benefits and negatives that come with it. These include:

The Benefits

  • Affordable: Since the majority of the jewelry piece is made from alloy materials, it is an affordable option to real gold.
  • Durable: When you use solid gold, the material is soft. The more alloy present in the piece of jewelry, the more durable it becomes.
  • Accessible: Finding genuine gold in most areas is hard. Gold-plated jewelry is often more affordable, making it easier for everyone to use.

The Negatives

  • Allergens: Since the base of this jewelry is copper or nickel, it can cause some skin irritation and allergies so be aware of that.
  • Thin coat: The gold coating can start to wear away over time, exposing the base of the material. This can make your jewelry worthless over time.
  • Less valuable: This type of jewelry is less valuable than anything made out of real gold.

The Gold Vermeil

After reading the above, you may find yourself leaning towards gold vermeil for your jewelry. Some of the benefits and negatives of using gold vermeil include:

The Benefits

  • It is cheap to make: While it does cost a little more than the gold-plated, it is still very affordable to go with gold vermeil.
  • Nickel-free: If you are allergic to nickel, you need to avoid jewelry that has this in it. Gold vermeil does not contain nickel at all so it is safe to wear.
  • It is versatile: While the vermeil has a layer of silver or gold, it can be any type of gold you would like to mix it up.

The Negatives

  • Looks a little different than real gold: If you want the real gold look, this one may fall a little bit short of expectations.

Which One is Better?

Overall, if you are looking for the best quality without having to pay full price for a gold piece of jewelry, then the gold vermeil is the best option. It is durable, the gold will not flake off quickly, and it is available at an affordable price. The luster on this one may not last quite as long as some of the gold-plated options, but this will depend on how thick the layer of gold is and what material is underneath. For quality and affordability, the gold vermeil is still the best choice.

Comparison of Each

The best way to see how gold plated jewelry compares to vermeil jewelry is to compare some side by side. Some examples that you can see with gold-plated jewelry include:

To see some examples of vermeil jewelry, look below:

Final Thoughts

Both gold-plated and gold vermeil are great options to add to your jewelry collection. They are a lot less expensive than purchasing real gold jewelry and can look beautiful with any outfit you wear or event that you need to attend.

When it comes to these, the vermeil is often a little higher in quality and will last a little bit longer compared to the gold-plated option. This makes it more expensive though, which is a big reason why you may choose to go with gold-plated rather than with the gold vermeil.

The best way to choose the right one is to find a piece of jewelry that looks good and meets your needs. Both of these are very similar materials and work with the same process, providing you with all of beauty that you need.


Carl A. Jones, GIA GG

Carl A. Jones is a GIA Graduate Gemologist with over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. He is an independent jewelry appraiser. He specializes in determining the value of diamonds and advising consumers on how to buy quality diamond jewelry.

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