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January 31, 2022

Understanding 10k, 14k, 18k, and 24k Gold karats

Gold jewelry comes in different karats, also known as gold purity or gold fineness. For wedding rings and engagement rings, the most popular gold purity is 14k, while finer pieces of jewelry usually are 18k gold. We seldom see 24k gold, and we barely encounter 10k in high-end jewelry.

Related Read: Is Gold Magnetic?

This article will not only explain the difference between these karats but also help you how to choose the best gold purity for your jewelry, whether for an engagement ring, wedding rings, earrings, and other pieces of jewelry.

Key Takeaway:

  • Gold is extremely soft and malleable. That is why other metals are mixed into it to make it fitter for jewelry. When metals are mixed with gold, it is called gold alloys.
  • Gold purity refers to the ratio between pure gold and other metals (gold alloys). Karat refers to the amount of gold in a gold alloy. The purest form of gold is 24karats (24/24). The next more popular karat is 14k (14/24). 18k gold (18/24) is popular in fine jewelry, while 10k gold is popular in more affordable jewelry.
  • When choosing gold for your jewelry, you need to consider the metal purity, color preference, skin irritation, durability, lifestyle, and budget.
DescriptionPurest form of gold; gold to alloy ratio 24/24Purest form of gold used for jewelry; gold to alloy ratio 18/24Most common karat for wedding rings and engagement rings; gold to alloy ratio 14/24Lowest karat for a gold jewelry; common in fancy jewelries and accessories; gold to alloy ratio 10/24
ProsPurest goldmalleable and durable than 24k gold; has a nice rich color; ideal for people with sensitive skinideal for most jewelry; ideal for everyday wear; perfect balance between affordability and luxurymost affordable gold jewelry; harder and most durable than all other karats
Consnot ideal for jewelry. expensive; can still warp, bend or scratch due to the higher gold contentmay trigger irritation for people with sensitive skin due to higher alloy contentnot ideal for people with sensitive skin; yellow gold has a dull yellow shine;

Things to consider when buying gold jewelry

When choosing gold jewelry, whether it is an engagement ring, wedding ring, earrings, or any other piece, it is important to consider the following:

  • Purity level and durability refer to how much “gold” is in the gold mixture. This mainly affects the durability of the gold but can also affect the color, depending on the alloy mixed.
  • Color – pure gold is bright and appears orange in color. When other metals are mixed, the color changes. The most popular colors for gold are yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold. However, green gold, purple gold, and blue gold are also available.
  • Skin irritation or metal allergies – metal alloys mixed with gold can trigger skin irritation.
  • Price – the higher the carat, the more expensive the gold jewelry is.

Related Read: How Do Jewelers Test Gold?

These four factors are mainly affected by (1) purity level and (2) the metals mixed with gold.

Purity Level: 10K, 14K 18K, and 24K Gold – What Are the Differences?

Pure gold is extremely soft and malleable. Alone, it is tough to make it into jewelry. It will easily bend, get scratched, and get deformed.

Related Read: Investing in Diamonds vs. Gold: Which Choice Is Best?

Because of this property, pure gold is mixed with other metals to make it more durable. Since gold is a precious metal and is considered an expensive commodity, it is important to measure the amount of gold in a gold alloy mix. This is where karat becomes relevant.

Karat refers to the amount of gold in a gold alloy. Pure gold is 24 karats; 24/24 or 99.99%. Therefore, if a gold alloy mix is 13k, there is 13-part gold, 11-part other metals, or 13/24 or 54.17% gold.

Of course, in pieces of jewelry, the most common gold purity levels are 10k (10/24), 14k (14/24), and 18k (18/24). 22k and 24k jewelry exist but are not very common and are expensive.

Common metals with gold are copper, nickel, zinc, or iron; however other precious metals such as platinum can also be used.

TIP: Purity level is also important if you have plans of selling your gold jewelry later on. The higher the purity level, the more money you can get from your it. Market prices and conditions should also be considered before selling your gold jewelry.

Karat vs. Carat

People usually mistook Karat vs. Carat and vice versa. While the origin is the same, it refers to two different measurements in today’s day and age.

Karat is used to measure the purity level of gold in a gold alloy mix. On the other hand, carat is used to measure the weight of precious and semi-precious gemstones (more particularly gold and moissanite).

One karat of gold is measured 1/24 or 4.167% gold. One carat of a diamond is equal to 200mg.

Outside the United States, some countries spell Karat with a “c.” When purchasing jewelry, you must clarify what the term “carat” refers to.

18k Gold

18k gold is equivalent to 75% gold and 25% other metals. This purity level is more popular with fine jewelry and pieces not worn often.

Because of the higher gold content, 18k gold jewelry has a nice and rich yellow tone. The lower alloy content is also less likely to cause skin irritations (especially for sensitive skin).

And because 18k is the “purest” gold you can get in a piece of jewelry, it is softer than other karats; this is not ideal for those with active lifestyles or jobs that require more handwork (such as carpenters, blacksmiths, mechanics).

14k Gold

Another popular gold karat is 14k. 14k gold is 58.33% gold or 14/24. This karat level is the most popular in wedding and engagement rings; reportedly, it makes up 90%.

2-Carat Yellow Gold Cushion Halo diamond Ring
2-Carat Yellow Gold Cushion Halo Diamond Ring

Because of the lower gold content, 14k gold is more affordable yet more durable than 18k gold. This makes it ideal for daily wear for most people.

However, since there is a higher content of other metals, skin irritation, especially for those with sensitive skin, is more common.

10k Gold

10k gold is the lowest purity level a piece of gold jewelry can have and still be called gold. Gold with a 10k mark comprises 41.67% gold (10/24).

Because of the low gold content, 10k jewelry is the most affordable, between 18k and 14k. This makes it more common in fancy jewelry and accessories. Fine jewelry makers do not usually offer 10k gold in their jewelry collection, especially for wedding and engagement rings.

Since 10k gold jewelry has more alloys, it is more likely to cause skin irritation. And because of the lower gold content, 10k yellow gold jewelry has a faint and subdued yellow finish.

Metal Alloy

Apart from the karat, choosing which alloy is mixed is equally important. The metal alloy determines the color of the gold jewelry (yellow gold, white gold, rose gold), its tendency to irritate the skin (copper, nickel, vs. titanium or platinum), and the price of the gold. Jewelry.

For yellow gold rings, the usual alloys used are silver and copper.

14k yellow gold engagement ring diamond gold karat

White alloys are used to turn yellow gold into white for white gold. Since it turns yellow over time, white gold is usually rhodium plated.

10k Rose gold diamond ring

Rose gold, another popular color for gold jewelry, especially gold rings, is silver and copper but in different quantities. Copper content is usually higher for rose gold, giving it that romantic pinkish hue.

For those with sensitive skin or prone to irritation, it is best to use hypoallergenic alloys such as platinum or titanium.

Which Karat Is Best for You?

There is no correct answer to this question as every person has different preferences. The most important this is to find the right balance. While we all love to have an 18k gold ring, it is not ideal for everyday wear. In addition, you can exchange karat for carat, that is, getting a lower gold karat in exchange for a higher diamond carat.

Also, always buy gold jewelry from reputable jewelers like AaLAND. We sell high-quality, fine jewelry sourced from reputable sources. Contact us to see our selection of gold rings and jewelry pieces.

Have a design in mind? Let us help you create that perfect piece!

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