The Difference Between Gold Vermeil and Gold Plating

Let’s get one thing out there: gold is EXPENSIVE. Like, $1,608 per ounce expensive. And in times of political or economic instability the price only gets higher, because when investors are worried, they turn to tangible commodities like precious metals. I guess it’s no surprise that just yesterday, gold soared to its highest price in seven years (thanks, Coronavirus, trade wars and 2020 election). The price of gold is one of many reasons that people are turning to vermeil as an affordable but still luxurious option.

First up, what is gold vermeil?

It’s easy to confuse gold plating for gold vermeil, and many jewelry brands would very much like you to do so, because it keeps their costs low and they can sell you cheap brass jewelry. But gold vermeil is much higher quality and won’t tarnish or flake off like gold plating.

There are two key differences between gold vermeil and gold plating:

  1. The base metal: Gold vermeil legally must be coated on top of solid sterling silver. Gold plating, on the other hand, is just flash-plated on cheap metals like brass.
  1. Gold thickness. Gold vermeil regulations in the United States state that the gold must be at least 2.5 microns thick, making it longer lasting and unlikely to ever rub off. Gold plating, however, is usually less than 1 micron thick. That's why you'll often see the brass coming through after you wear a piece a few times.

Why we chose vermeil over solid gold

To give you an idea of how much one of our pendants would cost to make in solid gold, let’s do a little math:

Each mythology pendant (not including the chain) contains 12 grams of solid sterling silver, which converts to 14 grams of gold because of their different densities. And the gold that jewelers buy isn't sold at the same price that investors can buy it at, because we're buying actual physical gold from wholesalers who need to make a profit. That means we’d need to pay around $850 just in wholesale metal costs at the current gold price. 

Add to that the labor of hand-producing each pendant, the cost of buying and then hand-setting the precious stones, taxes, marketing costs, overhead… you get the point. That’s why a similarly-sized solid gold pendant from somewhere like Foundrae (a brand I absolutely adore but can’t afford) costs around $4,000. 

So, while I love solid gold, I love our customers more, and I want them to be able to afford our pieces. That’s why Common Era makes all of our collections in gold vermeil - it's the closest thing to solid gold, without the price tag.


Some of our pendants after being cast in solid silver, before we set the stones and coat them in gold. Yes, I know they're sitting on toilet paper, but this is what happens when you ask your husband to take a photo.

Bonus round: 'gold tone' jewelry

My personal favorite jewelry scam is ‘gold tone’ jewelry. I’m sure you’ve seen these pieces, usually produced by luxury brands because they know people will pay for the name.

But guess what? There is literally not one molecule of gold in a ‘gold tone’ piece. Gold tone jewelry is GREAT as costume jewelry, but you should never pay over $100 for any gold tone piece (in my opinion, anyway).