Gold Plated vs. Vermeil Beads – 5 Differences You May Not Know
When you are shopping for metal beads, chains or findings, there is a vast selection of products to choose from. Metals come in many different colors and forms, and they can be a bit mystifying to even the most experienced jewelry designers. If you are in the market for gold-colored jewelry-making supplies, such as beads, you will likely come across two distinct options: gold plated beads and vermeil beads.
At first glance, these two materials look quite similar. And to make matters even more confusing, gold plated beads and vermeil beads are frequently compared to one another because of their similarities. While they are quite similar in certain respects, they also have their fair share of differences. If you are searching for the perfect metals to use in your own jewelry designs, keep reading to discover some important differences between gold plated and vermeil beads that you may not know.
What Are Gold Plated Beads?
Before we jump into their differences, we would like to explain what each type of bead is. Gold plated beads are those that have been coated in a thin layer of genuine gold. Twenty-two karat gold is commonly used to plate copper or other base metals. However, lower-quality gold can be used, as well. When you purchase ones that are plated using high-quality gold, these beads have the same beauty and luster as solid 14K or 18K gold at a fraction of the cost. At Beads of Cambay, we offer various gold plated copper beads that are just as stunning as our solid gold pieces, but are much more affordable.
What Are Vermeil Beads?
While nearly any non-gold metal can be used in the core of gold plated beads, vermeil (pronounced ver-may) beads must have cores that are made of silver. In order to be classified as vermeil, the piece needs to be coated with a layer of gold that is at least 10K in purity and measures no less than 2.5 microns in thickness. While industry standards only dictate that the gold must be just 10 karats, many pieces are made using 14K, 18K, 22K or even 24K gold. Manufacturers also commonly apply thicker layers of gold than the minimum amount required.
Key Differences Between Gold Plated and Vermeil Beads
They may look similar at first glance, and both options serve as alternatives to solid gold, but there are several differences between gold plated beads and vermeil beads that you should be aware of prior to making a purchase.
The primary difference between these two types of beads is, of course, their core metals. If you purchase vermeil beads, you will always be buying beads that are made of silver and coated in a layer of gold. If the silver contains any other metals, the manufacturer is required to disclose such information to the buyer.
With gold plated beads, however, you might not always know what you are getting. When you buy from a reputable seller, such as Beads of Cambay, you can rest assured knowing that high-quality copper will form the base of your beads. When buying from less scrupulous companies, however, you may end up buying pieces with low-quality base metals. This can, of course, be problematic for numerous reasons. Certain metals can lack durability or cause skin sensitivities.
There are no regulations regarding what types of metals need to be used when making gold plated jewelry and accessories, so if you choose to use these beads in your designs, it is important to purchase them from a trusted distributor. Also, keep in mind that if the price on gold plated beads, chain or other supplies seems too good to be true, the seller is probably offering products that were made with an inferior metal.
In the United States, vermeil beads need to have a gold coating that is at least 2.5 microns–or 0.0025 millimeters–thick. This ensures that the coating is thick enough to offer substantial durability. It also lets buyers know that each piece contains a certain amount of genuine gold.
Such requirements do not exist for gold plated beads and jewelry. Manufacturers can make the plating as thick as they choose. This can have a negative impact on both the quality and value of the jewelry. Again, for this reason, it is important to only buy gold plated beads and jewelry-making materials from reputable sellers to ensure that the pieces you buy are of the highest quality.
As you can probably guess, vermeil beads tend to be more expensive than their gold plated counterparts. Because vermeil beads must be made with silver cores, they have a greater value than those that are made with lower-quality metals. The need to use thicker gold plating also drives up the value.
Keep in mind, however, that there are several factors that must be taken into consideration when pricing both of these types of jewelry. Gold plated beads that are made with higher karat gold plating and a high-quality base metal may be more expensive than vermeil ones coated with the minimum 10K gold.
The thickness of the plating has a direct impact on the price, too. Pieces that are thinly plated cost less than those with thicker plating. While this can be a good way to save money, keep in mind that pieces with very thin plating are not always the best option in terms of quality. The thinner the plating, the more likely it is to wear off quickly. If you want to create gold pieces that will maintain their luster and beauty for an extended period of time, beads that have a thick plating are the way to go. And when you choose vermeil beads, you know that each piece will be coated in at least 2.5 microns of genuine gold.
In terms of durability, vermeil and gold plated beads each have their own benefits and drawbacks. Solid sterling silver is a relatively soft metal, as is gold, so vermeil beads may be easy to dent or bend. If the silver contains other metals to improve strength, however, this problem is eliminated.
Sometimes, the metals used in gold plated jewelry are stronger, but sometimes they aren’t. If you are unaware of the base metal that is used in a particular piece, you have no real way of determining how durable it will be.
The gold plating has a huge impact on whether the surface of each bead is easily scratchable. Higher karats may be seen as more desirable because they are purer. Unfortunately, though, higher-karat gold is softer and easier to scratch. The thickness matters, too, of course. Thin gold plating will likely wear off quickly to expose the base metal. If it is thicker, however, it will usually last longer.
Because there are so many different variables to consider, there is no clear “winner” in terms of which option is more durable. When purchasing vermeil beads or gold plated beads, pay close attention to the base metals, the karat of the gold plating and the thickness of the plating to find the option that is best suited to your needs.
An important difference between gold plated and vermeil beads is their wearability for people with skin sensitivities. Many people are unable to wear low-quality gold plated jewelry because of the base metals used to create the pieces. When subpar metals–such as nickel or cobalt–are used as the core of a bead or a piece of jewelry, they can cause allergic reactions. These metals are most commonly found in low-quality beads and jewelry-making supplies, so it’s smart to always use quality materials from trusted sellers.
While it is possible to develop an allergy to any metal, vermeil beads and jewelry tend to be better for people with sensitive skin than their gold plated counterparts. Sterling silver and yellow gold are unlikely to cause reactions. If you do choose to work with gold plated jewelry, make sure the base metal is copper or stainless steel as these materials are also unlikely to cause reactions.
Caring for Vermeil or Gold Plated Beads
Despite their differences, the process for caring for vermeil and gold plated beads is the same. To extend the life and beauty of your jewelry, avoid wearing it when showering, washing your hands, swimming or using harsh cleaning products. It’s also smart to avoid wearing vermeil and gold plated jewelry when exercising, and you shouldn’t put it on until after you’ve applied any lotions, perfumes or hairspray when getting ready in the morning.
To clean these beads, buff gently using a soft, dry microfiber cloth or a cloth made from 100 percent cotton. Never use jewelry cleaner on your gold plated or vermeil beads as it could cause irreparable damage.
When not in use, store each piece individually in an airtight bag. This will help prevent scratches while in storage and keep tarnish at bay.
The Bottom Line: Which Is Better?
When it comes to determining whether vermeil or gold plated beads are the better option, there is no clear cut winner. Both options make it possible to enjoy the beauty of gold at a fraction of the price of solid gold. And when you purchase high-quality pieces, they are indiscernible from the “real” thing because they are coated in a nice layer of genuine gold.
In terms of longevity, multiple factors must be taken into consideration. High-quality gold plated beads can be just as durable as vermeil ones. Subpar gold plated jewelry, however, could lose its plating quickly or easily become damaged in other ways.
In the end, what matters most is quality. Whether you are designing jewelry for yourself, to give to loved ones as gifts or for your own jewelry-making business, you need beads and other materials that are as durable as they are beautiful. When shopping for vermeil or gold plated beads, choose reputable distributors, such as Beads of Cambay. In doing so, you can be confident that the supplies you are purchasing are of the highest quality and will live up to your expectations. Be careful when shopping and know that “cheap” gold plated jewelry is unlikely to last for a long time and may be made with core metals that can cause skin sensitivities.
At Beads of Cambay, we have the high-quality gold plated beads and vermeil beads you need for your next jewelry-making project. We stand behind our products, and your satisfaction is 100 percent guaranteed. Whichever option you choose for your own designs, you can rest assured knowing that the supplies you purchase from us will withstand the test of time and look incredible for years to come with proper care.