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Profitability of Gold-Filled Versus Gold Vermeil


#1

Has anyone had experience with selling gold-filled versus gold
vermeil? I am wondering which one might appeal more to the customer.
On the one hand, gold vermeil is gold plated over a precious base –
sterling silver – and on the other hand gold-filled is a thicker
plate over a base metal. On the one hand, gold-filled is said to last
longer because it is a thicker coating, on the other hand, gold
vermeil is a coating over a PRECIOUS metal. I would just hate to have
a customer coming back to me and saying that a lot of the gold had
flaked off an item I had made or was coming off in places. I have
seen how quickly plating can flake off.

In addition to my concerns about which would appeal better to
customers from a marketing point of view, I am also concerned about
pricing. Is it cheaper to just buy goldfill items – or, becuase I
already have and buy a ton of silver – AND because most suppliers
give a discount for buying larger quantities – would it make sense
for me to just buy a large quantity of silver and then plate what I
need to plate on an as needed basis?

Sorry about the long message. Thanks in advance to anyone who can
shed light on this issue.


#2
On the one hand, gold vermeil is gold plated over a precious base
-- sterling silver -- and on the other hand gold-filled is a
thicker plate over a base metal. 

Not quite annabel.

Gold vermeil is indeed gold plating on sterling or fine silver. But
it can be an exceedingly thin “wash”, and still fit. In other words,
gold color without a whole lot of gold metal or value, or durability
in many cases. The term is loosely enough defined that there can be
quite a lot of variation. But you’re safe generally if you just think
of it as sterling in terms of value.

Gold filled, on the other hand, is NOT a thicker PLATE.
electroplating generally produces thin layers, ranging up to thicker
electroplate layers it’s true, but these are still very thin layers,
usually less than a thin foil in thickness… Gold filled is a bonded
laminate, not just an electroplate. Generally, the percentage of the
weight of the item that’s gold is a significant fraction, usually
either 1/20th, or 1/40th. Either way, if you cut through it and etch
it so you can see the gold layer thickness, you’ll find it’s quite
substantial. Thick enough to withstand some degree of polishing, for
example, without wearing through.

While I suppose I’m nitpicking about the nature of the difference,
you need to understand that it’s a fairly substantial difference. Not
just precious silver with a plate, versus base metal with a thicker
plate. It’s a MUCH thicker layer, with the gold being thick enough to
account for much of the value of the resulting metal stock.

Choosing between vermeil and gold fill might also be characterized
as what you want the piece to look like after a few years. Gold fill,
in many cases, will still look about the same. Some types will last
for decades (It depends a lot on the type of item. Chains, if worn,
for example, will grind through the gold layer in the areas between
links where they bear on each other, much faster than the gold will
just wear off the surface of a brooch.

With vermeil, however, depending on how thick the gold was put on,
the item might be showing areas with the sterling showing through
fairly quickly if the thing is used at all. And even if not, over
time, sometimes the gold will slowly dissipate into the silver, so
the color can become paler over time (whether this happens depends on
the methods used to gold plate the silver)

As a result, after some period of wear, the two types of material
will not just BE different, they will LOOK different too.

Hope that helps.
Peter Rowe


#3
Not quite annabel. Gold vermeil is indeed gold plating on sterling
or fine silver. But it can be an exceedingly thin "wash", and still
fit. In other words, gold color without a whole lot of gold metal or
value, or durability in many cases. The term is loosely enough
defined that there can be quite a lot of variation. But you're safe
generally if you just think of it as sterling in terms of value. 

Not quite Peter :slight_smile:

To legally call it vermeil it must have over 2.5 microns of 10K or
better quality gold. That is a very heavy gold plate ( but still as
you noted much thinner than gold fill).

Here is the FTC’s guide for vermeil

  A7 23.5 Misuse of the word "vermeil." 

  (a) It is unfair or deceptive to represent, directly or by
  implication, that an industry product is "vermeil" if such
  mark or description misrepresents the product's true
  composition. 

  (b) An industry product may be described or marked as "vermeil"
  if it consists of a base of sterling silver coated or plated on
  all significant surfaces with gold, or gold alloy of not less
  than 10 karat fineness, that is of substantial thickness7 and a
  minimum thickness throughout equivalent to two and one half (2
  1/2) microns (or approximately 100/1,000,000ths of an inch) of
  fine gold. 

  Note 1 to A7 23.5: It is unfair or deceptive to use the term
  "vermeil" to describe a product in which the sterling silver
  has been covered with a base metal (such as nickel) plated with
  gold unless there is a disclosure that the sterling silver is
  covered with a base metal that is plated with gold. 

  Note 2 to A7 23.5: Exemptions recognized in the assay of gold
  filled, gold overlay, and rolled gold plate industry products
  are listed in the appendix. Regards, 

Jim

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#4
Hope that helps. 

Thanks, Peter, for this explanation. Yes, it does help. From what you
are saying, am I right in believing gold-filled is more valuable? So
would vermeil be cheaper to produce? Thank you.


#5
To legally call it vermeil it must have over 2.5 microns of 10K or
better quality gold. That is a very heavy gold plate 

2.5 microns is 2 1/2 millionths of an inch, or .0000025 in. Don’t
see how that qualifies as “very heavy”. Heat from soldering or just
buffing will remove it.

Jerry in Kodiak


#6
Gold vermeil is indeed gold plating on sterling or fine silver. But
it can be an exceedingly thin "wash", and still fit. In other
words, gold color without.... durability in many cases." 

I’ll second that-- I have learned to entirely stay away from vermeil
in commercial findings and beads. I made some necklaces with vermeil
spacer beads–such a pretty rich yellow when I made them-- but the
gold wash was so thin that just several months later the "gold"
spacers were dingy, yellowish-dark grey (tarnished silver). NOT the
look I was going for, it was a very embarrassing newbie error…to
think I had already sold several of these… (Plus, as a general
rule, I try to never sell anything I don’t know how to pronounce –
“ver-meal”? :slight_smile: )

C. Rose
Houston


#7

Jerry,

2.5 microns is 2 1/2 millionths of an inch, or.0000025 in. Don't
see how that qualifies as "very heavy". Heat from soldering or just
buffing will remove it. 

Micron is shorthand for micro meter 25.4mm in one inch and 1,000
microns in 1mm, so there are 25,400 microns in one inch.

2.5 microns =.0000984" this is still thin but quite a bit more than
2.5 millionths of an inch and quite durable for plating, but still
plating and subject to wear. I am not a fan of plating just pointing
out that Vermeil is supposed to be the top end of gold plating and
is a legal definition for a minimum thickness of 2.5 microns.

Jim

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#8
I have learned to entirely stay away from vermeil in commercial
findings and beads. I made some necklaces with vermeil spacer
beads--such a pretty rich yellow when I made them-- but the gold
wash was so thin that just several months later the "gold" spacers
were dingy, yellowish-dark grey (tarnished silver). 

It sounds like you were mislead by the seller, a gold wash or flash
plating is not vermeil and to represent it as such is deceptive. If
you buy from reputable suppliers Vermeil is a good product. Vermeil
will last longer than lesser grades of plating. But not as long as
gold fill.

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#9
(Plus, as a general rule, I try to never sell anything I don't know
how to pronounce --"ver-meal"? :-) ) 

Although I have heard nearly everyone at trade shows using that
pronunciation, the actual one is “ver-MAY”

James S. Duncan, G.G.
James in SoFL


#10

Hi folks…

To legally call it vermeil it must have over 2.5 microns of 10K or
better quality gold. That is a very heavy gold plate

2.5 microns is 2 1/2 millionths of an inch, or .0000025 in. Don't
see how that qualifies as "very heavy". Heat from soldering or
just buffing will remove it. 

This is FTC stuff…the Guidelines as they are called…

To call something “gold electroplated” it’s supposed to have 1/2
micron or equivalent of fine gold plated on it… 1 micron of 12kt
would also qualify, as would approximately.75 micron of 18K…

For “heavy gold electroplated” the requirement is 2.5 micron of fine
gold or the equivalent…5 micron of 12k would be the equivalent,
for example…

For vermeil, the fineness of the plating cannot be less than 10K,
but it still must satisfy the heavy gold plate requirement…so…if
you’re using 10K, would be about 5.3 micron…

You can find this info (also about gold-filled, etc) at…

This are the 2001 Guidlines…and I saw something somewheres that
there may be some amendments in the offing…laser drilled diamonds
is the thing I saw mentioned…

But the standards for the declaration of precious metal haven’t
changed as far as I can tell…

BTW…in section 23.4, when you get to the definition of
platings…keep scrolling down and you come across the numbers…

Jerry is right, though…plated stuff is is not a candidate for
buffing, and even with things like Sunshine Cloth one best tread
warily…

I imagine soldering temps will just blow it away, too…

Gary W. Bourbonais
A.J.P. (GIA)


#11
.... If you buy from reputable suppliers Vermeil is a good
product. Vermeil will last longer than lesser grades of plating.
But not as long as gold fill. 

Thank you Jim Binnion, point well taken. I got the metal beads in
question (the ones that tarnished so badly) from Taj. The beads were
rather inexpensive which should have tipped me off… but they were
described as vermeil. (In the unlikely case I dare use vermeil
findings/beads again I’ll buy them from Rio or other such
established findings/metals supplier… )

C.Rose
Houston


#12
I got the metal beads in question (the ones that tarnished so badly)
from Taj. The beads were rather inexpensive which should have tipped
me off... but they were described as vermeil. (In the unlikely case
I dare use vermeil findings/beads again I'll buy them from Rio or
other such established findings/metals supplier... ) 

Thank you VERY MUCH for letting us know this. This is why I love this
forum. Had I read your post, I might have bought their vermeil beads.

What I have found in my offline research is that vermeil – real
vermeil that conform to US Government standards – is much more
expensive to plate than regular gold plate. This has helped me a lot
in my thinking about profitability, since plating in my area has
gone sky-high. If anyone knows of any reasonably priced platers in
the New York City area, I would be grateful.