Differences between types of gold: 14, 18, 22, or 24 Karat Gold
If you’re not a jewelry connoisseur, it’s easy to be confused by words like ‘karat’ and ‘carat’.
Both are a form of measurement in the jewelry industry, but what’s being measured is very different. Carats are used to describe the weight of diamonds and other precious gemstones. In this case, however, we’ll be delving into the term karat, or the measure of purity when referring to gold, as well as which karat of gold would be best for you.
In its pure form, gold is a very soft metal. It’s too delicate for everyday wear, so it’s often alloyed (or mixed) with other metals such as silver, copper, nickel, and zinc to improve its strength and resilience.
The most common mixtures of gold are 14K, 18K, and 22K, but 14K and 18K are the most ideal for jewelry.
So, which one is the best?
Truthfully, there isn’t a clear answer — it depends. Your decision should be influenced by how often you’ll wear the jewelry, what you’ll be doing when you wear it, the coloring you prefer, and your budget. Gold isn’t a one-size-fits-all accessory and there are a few things to consider.
Here’s a quick guide to understanding the different karats of gold you’ll encounter when shopping for the perfect piece:
24K (100% pure gold)
Being the highest karat of gold, it’s easy to assume that 24K is the “best” gold to buy, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Pure gold can be easily scratched and bent, so it’s impractical for daily wear (yet the most expensive). You wouldn’t want to do housework while wearing a set of 24K bracelets, but if you’re planning on attending a red-carpet event and want to make a statement, it might be another story.
22K (92% gold and 8% alloyed metals)
Even a modest mixture of only 8% alloyed metal makes 22 karat gold a touch stronger and more durable than pure gold. Nevertheless, care will need to be taken with this blend as it’s still the softest form of mixed metal jewelry.
18K (75% gold and 25% alloyed metals)
This is the most traditional mix of gold and other metals. 18K pieces tend to have a deeper yellow tone than 14K. Because of the higher gold content in 18K pieces, it will also yield a higher price than 14K, and is usually a sign of a higher quality piece of jewelry.
14K (58% gold and 42% alloyed metals)
This alloy offers more resistance to wear and tear than either 18K or 22K. It’s ideal for everyday use and is the most popular choice for engagement rings and wedding bands. If you have an active lifestyle (sports, regular exercise, manual labor, etc.), 14K jewelry would be the best option for you.
Buy anything less than 14K and the line between fine jewelry and costume jewelry becomes blurry. In fact, most fine jewelers don’t even carry 12K or 10K. Pieces of jewelry that are 10K or greater should be stamped with an engraved marker indicating its purity, so be cautious if you can’t locate a stamp.