What is Silver Gilt?

Updated April 17, 2017

Silver gilt is also known as gilded silver or "vermeil." Silver gilding is the act of layering gold over an item that is made of silver, making it visually indistinguishable from solid gold.


Silver gilt is most commonly used on large sculptures. This makes the item cheaper to produce, lighter to carry and more durable over time. Most large sporting trophies are silver gilt, and Olympic gold medals have been silver gilt since 1912.


The technique of silver gilding was first mentioned in Homer's Odyssey. Writings by Herodotus describe the Egyptians using silver gilt and the gilding process on other metals. Silver gilt was most popular in European countries--Queen Victoria's crown was silver gilt. In China, silver gilding was practised, but was not as popular as bronze gilding.


Silver gilt was originally applied by "overlaying," or hammering on the gold foil or gold leaf. The layer of gold applied in ancient times was ten times thicker than the layers applied today. Modern silver gilding requires a sheet of gold leaf that is semi-transparent and thinner than a piece of paper. The silver gilt is applied using electroplating.

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About the Author

Karen Malzeke-McDonald is both an illustrator and writer in the children's publishing market. She has an A.A.S in art and advertising from The Art Institute of Dallas and a B.A. in art history and studio art with a minor in English literature from Hollins College. Malzeke-McDonald has enjoyed many career challenges, from designing a nationally licensed character to creating and marketing new businesses.