First things first, it’s best to understand what you’re cleaning before you dive in. When it comes to gold jewelry it can come in a few different forms and the terms may not all be familiar. So, let’s do a quick breakdown to help explain.
What is Gold Vermeil Jewelry?
Vermeil in and of itself is a technical term that indicates a very specific quality. The standards of which must be upheld to legally use the word vermeil. Gold vermeil pieces are the highest quality of plated jewelry. The thickness requirement of the solid gold layer that must bond over a base metal of sterling silver only must be at least 2.5 microns thick. For comparison, there are no requirements for standard plated jewelry and they can be a very thin layer possible also known as flash plating.
The biggest advantages of a gold vermeil jewelry collection are that you get really beautiful and lasting quality due to that thick layer of gold, the base metal is always sterling silver so it's great for sensitive skin and has natural anti-tarnish properties, and it's much more affordable than solid gold pieces. I like to think of it as the business class of golds. With proper care, it'll last you a lifetime, and I call that a win-win.
The Other Types of Gold Jewelry out there -
- Solid Gold Jewelry means that the pieces contain at least 41.6% gold. The higher the karat, the softer the gold. So 24k gold contains a higher percentage of gold but is softer and less durable than 9k gold which contains less gold and more copper and silver. Pure gold cannot be used for jewelry as it is such a soft metal in its pure form. So even though we say "solid gold" or "real gold" when it comes to jewelry all gold is an alloy, meaning a mixture.
- Gold-Filled Jewelry, also called "gold fill" is an inexpensive type of metal created by a layer of gold that is mechanically pressure bonded over a brass base metal. Here, the gold must be 5% of the total composition, so the base is almost all of it making up 95% brass and 5% is the outer layer of gold.
- Gold Plated Jewelry is very commonly used in fashion or costume jewelry as the most inexpensive plating option. Any base metal can be used but it's almost always done with brass and there are no thickness requirements for the amount of gold plating. It's the only type of gold where you won't know exactly what you're getting unless the maker specifies.
If you’d like a deeper dive into the different types of gold check out our article "What Is Gold Vermeil And Why Is It So Great"
How to Clean Gold Vermeil Jewelry
For Routine Care:
The best method to clean your vermeil jewelry is simply by gently rubbing and polishing with a soft cloth or microfiber cloth (like a sunglass cloth.) We recommend avoiding using a jewelry polishing cloth or silver cloth unless they specifically say “un-treated” otherwise they often contain polishing agents and chemicals meant for silver, not gold, and these will be too harsh for your gold vermeil jewelry and can cause premature wear-down.
Always make sure you're using a clean cloth, (think soft and nonabrasive cloth) free of any lint that can get stuck in settings and prongs. You'll be surprised by how much your pieces will shine and polish back up to their original sparkle by gently rubbing alone and removing daily grime build-up.
Please take special care when cleaning chains, gemstones, and pearls. Our fingers possess greater strength than we realize when applying pressure on small and hard-to-reach areas.
For Deep Cleaning:
To deep clean your vermeil jewelry use good old soft liquid soap and water. You’ll want to use lukewarm water, not hot, and basic liquid soap (dish soap like dawn is a great option). Despite what you might read elsewhere, it’s best to avoid completely submerging your jewelry into soapy water. Instead, wet a soft, lint-free cloth into a bowl or sink of warm water with a small amount of soap dissolved in it and gently rub your jewelry clean. Do not use a brush on vermeil (or any plated jewelry) even if it's a soft bristle brush as this can still be too abrasive to the gold plating and it's better just not to risk any unnecessary damage.
After you’re done cleaning your jewelry, rinse your pieces by using another cloth dipped in plain water only. Gently pat dry afterward.
How Do I Remove Tarnish from Gold Vermeil?
The beauty of vermeil is that it rarely tarnishes. Occasionally if it does though, and this usually happens when it's exposed to moist air or a chemical it doesn't like for too long it will appear as a brown or dark spot and it's super easy to remove. Simply gently rub with a soft clean cloth and it should clear it right up! Yay for vermeil!
If you're seeing a grey filmy, scaly-like substance, that means your jewelry piece is not vermeil and has a brass base. Brass is what can grow that kind of reactive tarnish scale which can only be removed by buffing (which also means you're removing your outer layer of gold, so take extreme caution.)
Can I use an Ultrasonic Cleaner on Gold Vermeil?
No. Because vermeil is a type of plating that is bonded using electro currents the ultrasonic waves can be disruptive to the bonding. You shouldn't use an ultrasonic cleaner on plated jewelry of any kind. But we do love them for solid gold jewelry and sterling silver jewelry. (But also, don't use on your silver jewelry if it has rhodium plating.) All of our sterling silver jewelry is pure silver, with no plating.
How to get the most out of your Gold Vermeil Jewelry
Like most things in life, the better you care for something, the longer it lasts, and the same goes for your vermeil jewelry.
Avoid harsh chemicals. This one is easy, and one of the most common mistakes. Try to not apply body lotion, perfume, hairspray, and especially hand sanitizer while wearing your jewelry. The chemicals can interact with the metals and they just do not like each other.
Simple fix; just finish off your getting ready routine by adding your jewelry at the end and slip off rings before using hand sanitizer.
Chemicals in general are a no-no, so that also includes cleaning products and pools. Gloves are your friend for more reason than one while cleaning, and just save the jewels for your newly sun-kissed skin after the swim.
Try your best to make it a habit of slipping off your rings when washing your hands, I know this is a tough one, and no judgment if you don’t, but it does help longevity. While the soap is not going to hurt anything, it can build up a residue, and gemstones particularly do not like extreme temperature changes.
Lastly, you should always store your jewelry in its jewelry box or another airtight container. This helps two things: keeps the air out and dryness in and keeps them safe from hitting other jewelry or objects and getting scratched or tangled.
For do's and don'ts on other metals check out our care guide here.
Does Gold Vermeil Wear Off?
The beauty of gold vermeil is its thickness resulting in longevity and also its sterling silver base metal. Gold vermeil is not solid, so with abrasion and exposure to chemicals, air pollutants, etc it can wear down over time. If you're a little rougher with your jewelry wear, your likely worst-case scenario is going to be eventually wearing down parts of the gold layer and making some sterling silver underneath visible. Or, developing a whiter gold appearance if silver shines through in a few high-impact areas. To me, that's still a beautiful look and precious piece of jewelry. And because of the sterling silver base, it will only lighten where worn down as opposed to plated brass jewelry that can turn dark and tarnished when exposed.
How do you Restore Gold Vermeil?
If too much wear down happens on a beloved piece of jewelry that you'd like restored you can have it re-plated by a professional jeweler. Just specify you want vermeil, 2.5 -3 microns of your choice of karat, yellow gold, or rose gold.
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