Sterling Silver jewellery with gold plating, known as vermeil, is becoming increasingly popular. This year I am seeing a variety of gold colours being used including yellow, rose, and even white. I know of a few designers that are experimenting with green and purple plating as well. Personally I like vermeil. It makes nice looking jewellery affordable to more people while still providing exceptional margins to a retailer. Silver is a precious metal, so it can be considered to be “fine” jewellery as opposed to costume.So far most of the styles I’ve seen mimic better gold jewellery. That is great. It’s nice to be able to get the look of the good stuff without breaking the bank. But I think there are some untapped design concepts that can make vermeil into an art-form of its own. I have yet to see mixed colours in one piece. With creative masking a designer could incorporate the different colours of gold into a pattern or even a background for coloured gemstones.
Working with silver is inexpensive compared to gold. This is an opportunity to experiment with new designs cast in silver. Adding gold plating not only makes it look like real gold, it then becomes a portfolio of finished designs that can be replicated in any metal the customer desires. Consumers like to touch and feel a jewellery item rather than looking at a drawing or computer rendering. And you can fill several cases for the cost of just a few high end pieces.
This does not come without a bit of controversy. On one forum for jewellery designers there is a heated discussion about the use of vermeil for a designer line. The purists feel that it dilutes the over-all value of better jewellery. Some very successful high-end designers state they only work on single pieces that can bring them thousands of dollars profit. A few others who have embraced vermeil feel that it allows them more creativity while finding a much broader audience due to lower price points.
I feel that both sides have valid arguments. Certainly an artist specializing in very expensive custom designs might want to avoid any low end price-points. But they are the few and the fortunate. Most retail jewellery stores don’t have a steady stream of wealthy clients but instead sell to the average, everyday customer. Vermeil is a perfect match for them.
Gold plating has been around since the days of the Etruscans and is still a popular product today. Whether you love it or hate it, silver vermeil is here to stay. With the economy in a slow recovery, vermeil might be the product line that helps save the holidays.