Biggest Differences between 14K, 18K, and 24K Gold!
"Gold opens all locks, no lock will hold against the power of gold”- George Herbert
Shopping for a nice fine gold jewelry piece? Well, before you buy there’s something you should know! There’s more to picking out the perfect ring than just choosing a pretty diamond and setting. The type of gold used in a piece of jewelry has a huge impact on the aesthetics, feel and durability.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no single type of gold used for all gold jewelry. The type of gold used for rings, bracelets, watches and other fine jewelry is rarely 100% pure gold. Instead, it comes in a variety of different purity levels. The more common purity levels of gold are 10k (karat), 14k, 18k and 24k. Each level of gold purity offers its own range of advantages and disadvantages.This can range anywhere from durability to the risk of certain levels of gold contributing to skin irritation.
Is Gold Jewelry Pure gold?
Pure gold (AKA: 24k gold) is gold that hasn’t been mixed with any other metals. Pure gold isn’t really used in a lot of wearable jewelry for a few reasons.
- First, it’s extremely soft. This causes the jewelry to be very malleable, making it a poor metal for jewelry that needs to retain its shape. Pure gold jewelry also scratches easily, meaning it doesn’t take long for it to become scuffed and unattractive.
- Second, it’s very bright. Pure gold is much brighter and more orange in color than what most people associate with the gold used in jewelry. As a result, it typically isn’t a desired metal for rings, watches and other gold jewelry.
- Third, it’s incredibly expensive. Pure gold contains almost twice as much gold as 14k gold (the most popular type of gold used for jewelry in the US).This means it costs much more to produce jewelry using pure gold.
Because of these factors, it’s become uncommon for 24k gold to be used in engagement rings and other types of wearable jewelry in the United States and other Western countries. This doesn’t mean that 24k gold doesn’t have its place though. 24k gold tends to be more popular in China and other Eastern markets. For example, traditional Chinese wedding jewelry such as bangle sand gold bars usually just a collectible item.
The Real Difference between 10k, 14k, 18k, and 24k gold
The purity of gold within a jewelry piece is categorized using the karat system. It’s essentially a ratio of pure gold to other alloys. These ratios have been categorized as 10k, 14k, 18k, and 24k gold. Each type of gold has a different purity level. For example: 10k gold is only 41.7% pure. 14k gold, which is the most popular type of gold for jewelry, is only 58.5% pure.
KARAT VS. CARAT: HOW GOLD PURITY IS MEASURED
Pure gold is 24 karat, meaning that 24 out of 24 parts of the metal are gold. Although the terms sound familiar, the karat (k) system used to measure the purity of gold is different from the carat (c) unit of mass that’s used to weigh diamonds.
European Fineness Numbers:
If you’ve ever bought European jewelry, you may have noticed something different about the way they categorize gold purity levels. Instead of the karat system, Europeans numbered their gold purity ratios 417, 585, 750, and 999. This has been referred to as the “fineness” of a gold jewelry piece. Here is how these numbers are calculated and what they mean:
Solid gold is represented by 24K, this is 100% gold. Thus, 10K means we take 10-parts out of 24-parts of pure gold, 10/24 which gives us the decimal value .417. We take this number and multiply it by 100 to get the percent. So, .417 X 100 = 41.7% gold.
- US 10K = 10/24 = .417 >> EUR 417 marking means 417 out of 1000>> % 41.7
- US 14K = 14/24 = .585 >> EUR 585 marking means 585 out of 1000 >> % 58.5
- US 18K = 18/24 = .750 >> EUR 750 marking means 750 out of 1000 >> % 75
What is 10K gold?
10K gold jewelry means that the item was made up of an alloy that contains 41.7% pure
Gold. This means that the remaining 58.3% is made from other metals (copper, zinc, silver or nickel). Pure, solid gold tends to bend and scratch very easily. So, since 10K gold has mostly alloy in it, it’s more durable (less soft) than 14K gold. Furthermore, 10K in price comparison to 14K gold jewelry, doesn’t differ too much. Thus, we recommend buying 14K gold vs.10K gold when it comes to purchasing fine gold jewelry. It’s really a happy medium between price, quality, and looking classy.
What is 14K gold?
14K gold jewelry means that the item made up of an alloy containing 58.3% pure gold. This means the remaining 41.7% consists of metals like copper, zinc, silver, and nickel. This blend is the most widespread and popular alloy for making fine jewelry. It’s more durable and affordable than jewelry classified in an 18K or 24K class. This explains why 14K jewelry is the most popular blend -- especially for engagement rings.
Interesting fact: Although the difference is hard to detect with an untrained eye, 10K gold looks slightly more pale than 14K gold jewelry.
What is 18K gold?
For those with a deeper pocket and finer taste for luxury, an 18K gold jewelry piece is a great option. 18K jewelry has a higher percentage of pure gold -- 75%. The remaining 25% of the alloy is a mixture of silver, copper, zinc or nickel. It’s softer than 14K gold, so you want to be careful. Wearing it on occasion and proper maintenance will make your fine gold jewelry last a lifetime.
Please refer to our jewelry care recommendations to learn about proper finejewelry maintenance.
What is 24K gold?
This is as good as it gets, 100% pure gold. Although it sounds amazing, it’s not really a practical choice of jewelry to wear often. 24K gold is soft and can easily be scratched, bent, and worn out for everyday use. Although that is a downside, some people prefer having their jewelry crafted out of 24K. This is usually for investment purposes or satisfying the lust for luxury and elegance. Back in the day, only Kings and Queens would wear fine jewelry made out of solid gold. Today though, you can unleash that inner King/Queen much easier. Just search through G&D’s fine gold jewelry selection to find the perfect piece.
Which Karat of Gold is best?
There’s no “best’ type of gold for everyone. When you’re choosing the gold for an engagement ring or other jewelry, it’s important to keep factors such as you or your partner’s skin sensitivity, career, activity level and aesthetic taste in mind. 10k gold is usually durable and inexpensive. However, the price doesn’t differ much from a 14k gold piece so it’s recommended to opt for 14k. In addition, 14k is the most popular blend for rings and general jewelry pieces. If you have a deeper pocket and don’t plan to wear your jewelry every day, then an 18k piece may be a good option for you. It really comes down to preference. Although the prices may vary greatly between karats, one thing for sure is you don’t have to have a million bucks to look and feel like a million bucks anymore.