Vermeil (also known as gold-leaf or gilt) is a thin layer of gold applied to the surface of silver or bronze. It is considered a precious metal.
The Incas were the first to develop gilding techniques, which are numerous. Although gold and silver-leaf was mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey in the fourth century B.C., the technique was dependent on mercury, which is toxic, and eventually died out.
Today, electrolysis is used to produce vermeil safely. However, it has not enjoyed much popularity until recently when the rising price of gold has made vermeil an attractive alternative.
As a precious metal, vermeil has a hallmark and is subject to customs regulations. In France, vermeil must have a sterling base and be plated with at least 5 microns of 18-karat gold. In the US, the minimum quality of the gold plating is 2.5 microns of 14-karat gold. Canadian vermeil must consist of at least 92.5% silver and at least 10 microns of gold plate.
Generally, large objects that seem to be made of gold, like sports trophies for example, are actually vermeil. Gilding reduces the need for cleaning and therefore the risk of damaging the jewellery.
Moreover, it is made two hypoallergenic metals, gold and silver, so it is less likely to cause an allergic reaction.
Vermeil is often used by WHITE bIRD designer Charlotte Chesnais, who makes elegant and avant-garde jewelry, Stephanie Schneider also use it with fabrics and Arielle de Pinto discovered a way to turn the chain into fabric and realized the technique could be endlessly manipulated, without compromising the weighted, nearly liquid quality of the work.
Vermeil jewellery must be carefully maintained for the gold plating wears away over time. It should be stored in individual pouches to avoid friction that can damage the gold surface layer. To clean it, use a sponge soaked in soapy water and then rinse in clean water and dry with a soft cloth. It is not recommended to clean vermeil jewellery too often.
Photo credits : Stephanie Schneider