What’s the difference between 14K, 18K, and 24K Gold Jewelry. Which is better?

You want to buy a gift for someone very special. Maybe to mark a special occasion? Or just to say “I love you”. What better than a beautiful piece of gold jewelry? But the variety of gold jewelry is bewildering. What is the difference between all these Karats? 24K, 22K, 18K, 16K, 10K? So may options. Which one is best? Well, continue on as I explain all the differences.

What is 24 Karat Gold?

24 Karat gold is 99.9% pure gold. This is the most expensive. It is the purest type of gold. “Karat” is noted by an upper case K. It’s also acceptable to spell it “Carat”. When pure gold is mixed with other metals it becomes 14K, 18K  and other Karats. The Karats depend on the other metals mixed with the liquid gold.

Where did the term Karat come from? Karat or Carat?

The term “karat” is used purely in North America. It refers to the purity of gold. The purity or fineness of gold is measured in Karats. Karats range from 0 to 24 (pure gold).

The word “Carat” is used in many other parts of the world. but is a unit measurement for gold and precious stones. “Carat” evolved in Cyprus, an island in the eastern Mediterranean. Merchants long ago used Carob seeds to weigh gold and gemstones. Each seed weighs 200mg. This where the term “carat” comes from.

Carat became an international term used by jewelers in 1907. But it means something very different in North America. “Karat” means “purity of gold”.

Why is pure gold not used?

24k gold is 99.9% pure gold. This sounds wonderful, but pure gold is very expensive. It’s not a practical choice for making jewelry. Why? Because pure gold is not a hard and resistant metal. Pure gold looks gorgeous. It is very easy for the jeweler to work with. But it is totally impractical for use to make jewelry. Pure gold can not stand up to normal wear and tear. It’s too soft. The jewelry could quickly become misshapen and could break.

So gold is usually mixed with other metals. This makes it harder and more durable. Common metals include silver, nickel, zinc, and palladium. The amount mixed is how they get the different karat golds. The amount of gold decreases. The amount of other metals mixed with the gold increases. The strength of the gold improves, But sadly the gorgeous color of the gold dulls too.

How are other colored golds created? Well, the secret to the color of the gold is which other metals are added to the pure gold.  For example, rose gold is created by mixing copper into pure gold and the trending red gold contains a higher proportion of copper. White gold is the popular alternative to yellow gold and is created by mixing silver, manganese, and palladium into pure gold – with stunning results!

Looking for the best gold testers? We reviewed the top 5 gold testers here.

Introducing 22K Gold. What the heck is 22K Gold?

22K gold is a beautiful gold contains 91.67% pure gold. The remaining 8.33% consists of the other metals. 22K gold is still not a strong gold. So it is made into plain pieces of gold jewelry. It is not very resilient. It can wear badly and scratch.

22K gold is usually not strong enough to support diamonds. The claws holding the stones get worn quickly. So, the use of 22K gold is rather restricted.

What is 18K Gold?

Popular with jewelry craftsmen, 18K gold is actually 75% pure gold. 18K gold is often marked with the stamp 0.75.

18K gold is not as bright as purer golds. It has good strength. It a popular choice for creating beautiful jewelry. 18K gold is more durable and scratches less easily than pure gold.

The main way to tell 18K gold and 24K gold apart is by the color. The purer gold has a more intense color. 18K is a softer yellow but still has a deep golden tone. 18K gold can vary in color due to the other metals it is mixed with.

Go more in-depth about 18K gold here: What is 18-Karat Gold?

What is 14K Gold?

14K gold is the most common gold. It’s used for making jewelry. It is a harder, more durable gold. 14k gold is 58.33% pure gold with a mix of other metals. Gold is a popular choice for jewelry. It is strong and lasts long. It is only half pure gold. So it has a cheaper price tag. The color of 14K gold varies. The colors vary based on the metals mixed in. 14K gold can have a hint of rose. 14K gold is used to make rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings.

At the end of the day, the choice of 14K and 18K gold jewelry is yours. Think about the type of gold before you buy it. It affects the final price you pay. It affects the strength of gold jewelry. How often will you wear the jewelry? What will you be doing while you are wearing it?

Do you want to buy a piece of jewelry to wear on special occasions? Buy 18K or 22K gold.

Do you want to buy jewelry for everyday wear? Buy 14K or 10K gold. It is far stronger. It will cheaper too. So you can buy earrings to match too!

Carl A. Jones, GIA GG

Carl A. Jones is a GIA Graduate Gemologist with over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. He is an independent jewelry appraiser. He specializes in determining the value of diamonds and advising consumers on how to buy quality diamond jewelry.

You May Also Like