What is a Karat?
The karat amount is the percentage of gold found within a piece of jewelry. The amount of gold found within a piece of fine jewelry directly affects the longevity and appearance of it. When considering the best way to balance these two key factors many considerations must be made. Before you invest in a lasting memory, here is a quick summary of all you need to know about the different levels of gold purity.
Does the Karat matter?
In short, yes it does. To highlight the fine differences between the percentages of gold by way of appearance here are the numbers.
- 24K is 100% pure gold
- 18k is 75% pure gold
- 14k is 58.5% pure gold
- 10k is 41.6% pure gold
What Karat should I use?
Deciding on the karat of a piece of jewelry largely depends on the purpose of the piece. Because gold is a soft metal and prone to scratches having a higher percentage of gold, while stunning, is simply not practical for everyday use. However, if the piece is not for everyday use, the color payoff of the higher karat cannot be beat. Things such as wedding rings, simple bracelets or delicate necklaces are best kept as 10k or 14k. More extravagant pieces have more leniency and you can choose a higher karat such as 18k or 24k for those as the color payoff of the higher quality gold is just spectacular.
What colors does gold come in?
The most classic and recognizable form of gold is yellow gold. This classic, timeless color speaks to those that want their gift to never go out of style. While it is beautiful, it also has the longest lasting color payoff and is the most hypoallergenic friendly type of gold. This color also has many affordable options, that will last a long time, but the purer the gold the richer and deeper the color.
This twist on a classic, is a mixture of gold and platinum. Although it is as equally stunning as the yellow gold, there is just something about this color that really draws in the eye. This shining masterpiece is also much more affordable than yellow gold and will be just as vivid as the day of purchase for a long time afterwards.
The brilliant hue of this playful color features a youthful appearance that is refreshing. The expression of a simple joyful attitude that this color radiates is lovely. This color is also much more affordable and durable than the aforementioned, but might not be for everyone.
This exciting jungle adventure, is a showstopper and is sure to be the talk of the town. If you are the kind that likes to tap into their wild side, this color is sure to please you. Respectively 14k green gold is priced around the same as 14k rose gold because it is a mixture of gold and silver, which could easily fit into anyone's budget.
Know what exactly you are buying: gold plated vs. gold filled
In the jewelry industry, some confusion can occur when sellers are not as transparent as they should be with their buyers. Before you go into any jewelry store looking for gold, be sure to be well versed in the terminology they might use to trip you up.
There are five main types of “gold” that sellers try to push that make a big difference on how affordable something might be.
- Gold plating
- Gold plating over sterling silver
- Gold filled
- Solid gold
- Hollow gold
10k vs 14kThe differences between 10k and 14k are nuanced but necessary, price, purpose, quality, and color are all factors in this decision.
The price of 10k gold is unbeatable; it an economical option for everyday wear. The presence of alloys in the gold makes this karat hard to beat in everyday wear and tear. The other metals also make the color of this gold less lustrous, and some describe it as more of a pale yellow than genuine gold. Another factor to consider is the quality of the metal; almost 20% of the US population has a mild reaction to nickel, a metal commonly used in 10k gold. 14k gold does have a little bit of nickel in it, but not as much as 10k. When buying jewelry for a loved one, always make sure to ask if they have any metal allergies, or your surprise gift might get a lot more surprising.
14k gold is more expensive than 10k per gram, but its lustrous color and purity make it worth the price difference. The color difference between 10k and 14k is highly noticeable. While 10k is more of a pale yellow, 14k has a more vibrant color. 14k is a better choice for people with alloy sensitivities, as about 40% of 10k is gold. 14k has just about 60% of pure gold, which makes it much more allergy-friendly.
18k vs 24k
The differences between 18k and 24k are stark, price, purpose, quality, and color are all factors in this decision.
18k gold has a luxurious, timeless appearance and is a popular choice for engagement rings. While it is considerably more expensive and scratchable, it is the highest quality gold available while still practical. Jewelry made out of this gold is for occasional wear, and with the proper care will last a lifetime. The higher quality of 18k means that the chances of having an allergic reaction are nonexistent. So this is a safe and gorgeous choice for special occasions.
24k gold is stunning. This gold is soft and prone to scratches, but the color pay off is marvelous. Jewelry made out of 24k are treasured family heirlooms, very rarely used. This karat is not a practical choice by any means; it is an indulgence. Luxurious but high maintenance, anyone who receives a gift like this is sure to feel loved.
What is Gold plating?
Gold plating is one of the trickiest types of gold out there. In lower quality jewelry an extremely thin layer of gold is put overtop a ring made of brass or copper. The danger of this is when the layer wears off from use, the copper or brass is exposed and you could have a reaction to it. Even in higher quality jewelry where a thicker layer is applied, the gold will still rub off, but it will not expose the copper or silver underneath for a longer period of time. While affordable, the actual plating has very little gold in it, so the color payoff is next to none. Another thing to note is that there is no federal standard for how thick a gold plating needs to be so you have no idea what you are getting.
What is Gold plating over sterling silver?
This kind of gold is exactly like the regular gold plating except it uses a ring of sterling silver, which is hypoallergenic, so the inner ring is higher quality. But, the gold plating is still prone to coming off with heavy wear.
What is gold filled?
Gold filled rings are those that still have a cheap inner ring but a much thicker plating so it will last for several years. Even so the resale value is not much because it can be difficult to separate the gold from the cheap ring.
What is solid gold?
Solid gold jewelry is the longest lasting, most allergy friendly and the option with the highest resale value. This makes it one of the best choices out there.
What is hollow gold?
Hollow gold is exactly what it sounds like. That being gold shaped into a ring but being hollow inside. You can tell that something is hollow gold by the way it feels lighter than it looks.
What is 10k gold?
10k is 10 out of 24 parts gold. 10k is not the purest, but it is the most affordable and durable. The color of 10k is much duller than 14k, 18k, or 24. Its color could is a faded yellow. Another thing to be aware of is that with the lower percentage of gold, there is a higher percentage of alloys. These alloys could cause allergic reactions.
What is 14k gold?
This metal mixture is much more resilient than higher karats. Retaining more of that classic gold color, and resilience makes this a formidable contender for daily wear jewelry. This karat is an excellent choice for engagement rings and wedding rings.
What is 18k gold?
18k gold is the purest gold that you can use for jewelry while still being within the realm of reason. The 18k's color is gorgeous, and the vibrant yellow makes this the right choice for engagement rings. (wouldn't recommend wedding rings, but it is maintainable with proper care) This karat is not the optimal choice for an active lifestyle, but its beauty is unbeatable.