We all know quality jewelry when we see it – the cheap, gold-look costume jewelry found in accessories stores just can’t compare. It shines, has a weight to it, and elevates even the simplest of outfits.
But not all high-quality jewelry is made equal. The stones and metals used severely affect the overall value, so how do you decide what to buy, beyond simply looking at your budget? Should you stretch for a higher karat or not? Read on to learn the differences between gold karats.
Why is gold all different karats?
Gold, in its pure form, is a very soft metal. It scratches easily and isn’t suitable for daily wear. To create quality jewelry that is just as wearable as it is beautiful, jewelers create alloys (mixes of metals) and add it to gold to give it more strength.
What’s the difference between the different gold karats?
The different karats describe how pure the gold is. It breaks down like this:
- 24K contains 100% gold
- 22K contains 91.7% gold and 9.3% alloy
- 18K contains 75% gold and 25% alloy
- 14K contains 58.3% gold and 41.7% alloy
- 12K contains 50% gold and 50% alloy
- 10K contains 41.7% gold and 59.3% alloy
It’s essentially how many parts out of 24 are made of gold – 24K is pure gold, while 12K is only 50% gold (because it’s half of 24).
How do you tell the difference?
The truth is, you can’t always tell the difference just by looking at a piece, unless you’re a jeweler or collector. In most cases, you’ll need to look for the engraving on the piece that will indicate what karat it is. 24K has a strong yellow tone, while 10K has a much more typically “gold” tone. Similarly, rose gold will be pinker in hue the higher the karat.
Is a higher karat always better?
No, not always. For one thing, certain shades of gold won’t compliment a gemstone as well as another shade, and so sometimes it’s better to choose a lower or higher karat based on the design.
The next thing to consider is how often you plan to wear the piece. You can wear 24K gold daily, but if you’re purchasing a ring for daily wear, you’re going to have to take it to a jeweler for maintenance regularly. You’ll be much better off buying 14K, as it will withstand the hardships of daily wear, including playing sports or working out. If you’re buying a gold bracelet or necklace for daily wear, again, a lower karat will be better, because it’s more durable.
Which karat is the most popular?
For durability, appearance, and value, most people choose 14K gold. 90% of couples in the US choose to buy their wedding bands in 14K gold, though 18K and above is more popular in Europe and Asia for wedding bands.
It’s tempting to think the purer the better, but it’s worth keeping in mind that the purer it is, the more difficult it will be to keep it looking its best. Even 18K gold can scratch easily, so it’s not often worth the added expense of purer gold unless you’re someone who reacts easily to alloys.
14K gold has the most versatile shade of gold because it’s not too yellow. It also has a high level of purity with a high enough level of alloyed metals that it doesn’t break or tarnish easily.
10K gold is where you’ll start to see the quality dip, as though it is more affordable, you’ve lost a lot of the rich yellow color – it’s much closer to champagne. It’s also much more likely to trigger allergic reactions because it’s over 50% alloyed metals.
Which should I choose?
Which you decide to purchase is an entirely personal decision, but for most people, 14K gold will be the answer. It simply offers the best quality and color for the level of durability, with a more affordable price point.
To explore our range of 14K gold jewelry, click here.