vermeil (gilded silver, silver-gilt) is a base of sterling silver that is coated or plated with a thin layer of gold. Vermeil can be produced by either fire-gilding or electrolysis.
The original fire-gilding process was developed in France in the mid-1700s. Fire-gilding or Wash-gilding is
a process by which an amalgam of gold is applied to metallic surfaces, the mercury being subsequently
volatilized, leaving a film of gold or an amalgam containing mercury. In the preparation of the amalgam the
gold must first be reduced to thin plates or grains, which are heated red hot, and thrown into previously
heated mercury, till it begins to smoke. Upon stirring the mercury with an iron rod, the gold totally
At the end of the 19th century, however, France banned the production of vermeil because
over time artisans developed blindness due to mercury involved in the process. Today, vermeil is safely
produced by electrolysis.
Parcel gilt is an object covered only in part by a gold layer.
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