At the end of 2019, we started using a LOT more gold in our designs and a lot less silver. Then, a few months later, the pandemic hit and the price of gold sky-rocketed.
That was when we looked at the biggest online jewellery stores in the UK to see how they were handling the rising costs. The answer was simple – most of the items they’re selling are gold-plated. We wondered if we should do that too, so we could pass the savings on to our customers. We spent months investigating and came to the conclusion that we didn’t want to do that. And here’s why you shouldn’t either.
1. It’s Not Good Value For Money
Most of the stores we checked out charge, what you would consider to be, a reasonable price for gold rings. But they’re not gold. They’re sterling silver plated with a thin layer of 18ct gold. Next time you’re looking at one of these pieces, ask yourself if you’d pay that price for a sterling silver version of the piece – because that’s what you’re getting. A lot of these stores say their jewellery is ‘vermeil’ rather than plated, which brings us to the next problem.
2. Vermeil Is Not A Standard In The UK
Typical gold plate is around 0.5 microns thick over base metal or silver. According to US standards, vermeil is sterling or fine silver, plated with a layer of 18ct gold no thinner than 2.5 microns – 5 times thicker than just a plated piece. But, as the title says, that’s a US standard. Vermeil doesn’t have a legal definition in the UK. It’s also a little tricky to pull off and requires some maths to tell you how long to plate an item to get the desired thickness. That’s why plating is a specialist skill – like gem setting or bench work.
3. It Doesn’t Look As Good
Ok, this one is my opinion. While investigating vermeil options, we sent different pieces to different specialist plating companies. The best result we had was still a kind of radioactive orange. It didn’t have that lovely, buttery yellow you associate with 18ct Gold. This picture is of one of our constellation necklaces. The left one is 9ct gold. The right one is plated 3 microns thick – thicker than vermeil standard. Which one looks more natural to you?
4. It Wears Off
Anyone who’s bought a white gold ring plated with rhodium knows this one. In order to maintain that beautiful white shine, your ring needs to be replated every 2-3 years. Vermeil is thicker plating, but will eventually wear through to the silver. While we were investigating the bigger online stores, we saw stories on their social media accounts of people waking up in the morning to find the plating had rubbed off their ring or necklace. They generally weren’t happy.
5. It Isn’t Exactly Environmentally Friendly
Traditional plating uses quite a few nasty chemicals, including cyanide! These have to be disposed of in a careful manner so as not to pollute the environment. If you’re the proud owner of jewellery that needs to be replated every few years – think how much pollution is being needlessly generated just to maintain that shine.
So What Are We Doing About It?
We’re still left with the task of making beautiful jewellery for you at an affordable price. But we think we’ve got it covered.
- Instead of Sterling Silver, we now use Argentium – a purer form of silver that shines whiter and brighter than platinum, and is 7 times more tarnish-resistant than Sterling.
- Wherever possible, we use White Gold that’s alloyed with Palladium. You still get that beautiful shine, but without plating.
- We redesigned some of our range, minimising the weight of gold used, but keeping the look and elegance that you demand in your Circinn jewellery.
Check out some of our reworked designs. Unlike the plated facades you’ll find in other online jewellery stores, they’re the real deal!