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Comparing the Different Karats of Gold: 10k, 14k, 18k, and 24k | Linjer Jewelry

Solid gold has been sought-after and cherished throughout history for its beauty and value. But have you ever wondered why some golds are harder, and others more expensive or differently colored… and, of course, what those “Ks” actually mean? Let’s look more closely at the pros and cons of each gold karat type and how to choose the right one for you!

What is a karat?

A karat is a unit of measurement used to indicate the purity of gold alloys. Often abbreviated with a "K" or "kt", karats are a fractional measurement used to denote the ratio or proportion of pure gold to other metals within the alloy, in a total of 24 parts. Pure gold, for example, is 24 karats (24k), which means that 24 out of 24 parts of the metal mixture are 100% gold. (In reality, 24k gold is considered to be 99.9% pure gold). Anything under 24 karats indicates that the gold is mixed with other metals, such as silver, copper or bronze, which helps to make it stronger and more durable.

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What is the difference between karat and carat?

Though they sound exactly the same, karat (often abbreviated as "K" or “kt”) represents the measurement of the purity of gold, while carat (often abbreviated as “C" or “ct”) is a unit of measurement for the weight of gemstones such as diamonds. Karat is a way of conveying the percentage of pure gold in a gold alloy, expressed on a scale of 0 to 24. Carat communicates the weight of a gemstone, with one carat being equal to 0.2 grams— an average-sized diamond—for reference—is about 1.5 carats.

So while the two words sound similar, they are completely different in meaning and usage.

How is gold purity measured?

Gold purity is measured in karats (k), which indicates the percentage of pure gold in a gold alloy.

  • 24k gold is considered pure gold, with a Mohs hardness of 2.5 and with a composition of 99.9% gold and 0.1% other metals.
  • 18k gold is 18/24 or 75% pure gold, and 6/24 or 25% other metals.
  • 14k gold is 14/24 or 58.3% pure gold, and 10/24 or 41.7% other metals.
  • 10k gold is 10/24 or 41.7% pure gold, and 14/24 or 58.3% other metals.

Another way to express gold purity is in fineness, which is expressed as a decimal. For example, 24k gold can be called 0.999 gold because it’s 99.9% pure, while 18k gold is called 0.750 because it is 75% pure.

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What is 10k?

10 of 24 parts pure gold

10k gold is an alloy made by combining 10 parts of pure gold and 14 parts of other metals such as copper, silver, and nickel.

Appearance: Because 10k gold alloy has less than 50% gold content (it contains 41.7% pure gold and 58.3% other metals, such as copper and zinc). This gold alloy has a more “bronze” tone than the deep “yellow” of higher karat gold alloys.

Advantages: Some perks of wearing 10k gold jewelry is that it is relatively affordable compared to higher karat golds. 10k gold is also more durable due to the higher percentage of strong metals in the alloy.

Disadvantages: Its lower gold content means that 10k gold has a slightly lower intrinsic value and is less attractive to those looking for luxury investment. Because 10k gold has a high content of non-gold metals, it is also more prone to tarnishing and provoking skin irritation (depending on the metal alloys used).

Common uses: While it is possible to find an engagement ring or wedding band made from 10k gold, it’s less common. Instead, 10k gold is reserved for daily wear, as it is quite durable, and its lower starting price won’t create an obstacle to building up a collection of 10k pieces. Plus, you’ll feel safer knowing you’re not risking your most highly valued jewelry for everyday use.

What is 14k?

14 of 24 parts pure gold

14k gold is a popular choice for jewelry due to its durability and affordability. It contains 58.3% pure gold and is commonly mixed with metals such as copper, silver, and zinc.

Appearance: Depending on the alloys used, 14k gold can come in a variety of hues - namely, white gold, rose gold and yellow gold. The exact mix of metals used will influence the final color:

  • 14k Yellow Gold: This type of gold has a soft and warm golden tone and is created by mixing 58.3 % pure gold with 41.3% of other metals such as copper and silver.
  • 14k White Gold: This type of gold has a silvery-white appearance and is created by mixing 58.3% pure gold with 41.3% of other white metals such as nickel, silver, or palladium. Read our complete guide on white gold here.
  • 14k Rose Gold: This type of gold has a unique reddish-pink hue and is created by mixing 58.3% pure gold with 41.3% of copper.

Advantages: The addition of these metals gives 14k gold added strength and scratch resistance; it’s slightly more malleable than 10k gold, but also more tarnish-resistant, and much more durable than higher-karat golds.

14k gold is also hypoallergenic, making it safe for those with sensitive skin. Moreover, 14k gold has a friendly price range for those looking to add their first gold pieces to their collection. Overall, 14k gold has the best of both worlds when it comes to gold jewelry.

Disadvantages: Depending on the alloy metals used, 14k gold may not be as resistant to tarnishing as higher-karat golds. 14k gold is also not as intrinsically valuable.

Common uses: 14k gold is commonly used for engagement rings, wedding bands, and other fine jewelry due to its durability and timeless look. Its reasonable price point makes it an excellent option for those looking for high-quality, long-lasting jewelry without breaking the bank.

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What is 18k?

18 of 24 parts pure gold

18k gold, 75% pure gold content, is reserved for delicate fine jewelry due to its high value and soft material.

Appearance: Similar to 14k gold, there are several types of 18k gold, each with a different composition of pure gold and other metals that results in a unique appearance and properties.

  • 18k Yellow Gold: This type of gold has brighter orange-yellow tones which some people may find too strong for their jewelry. It is created by mixing 75% pure gold with 25% of other metals such as copper and silver.
  • 18k White Gold: This type of gold has a white appearance with warmer tones that is sometimes used for fine jewelry. It is made by mixing 75% pure gold with 25% of other white metals such as nickel, silver, or palladium.
  • 18k Rose Gold: This type of gold has a unique reddish-pink hue that is achieved by mixing 75% pure gold with 25% copper.

Advantages: 18k gold contains 75% pure gold, which means that it is more valuable and less likely to fade or tarnish. It’s also highly hypoallergenic and an overall good investment as a luxury item.

Disadvantages: 18k gold’s higher gold content makes it both more susceptible to scratches and more expensive than 14k gold despite its limited durability. 18k gold jewelry is also more restricted in its design options as the metal alloy may not be suitable for intricate and detailed designs that require a high level of durability and strength.

Common uses: Despite this,18k gold is still a solid option for special occasion pieces. It is used for high-end jewelry pieces, particularly in yellow or rose gold.

What is 24k? 

24 of 24 parts pure gold

24k gold is the purest form of gold available, containing 99.9% gold content. It has a distinct bright yellow color and a soft, malleable texture.

Appearance: 24k gold is recognized for its true orange-yellow gold color; there’s nothing subdued about the appearance of 24k gold.

Advantages: One of the main advantages of 24k gold is its high value and rarity; it’s completely corrosion-resistant and holds its value over time, making it a popular choice to invest in.

Disadvantages: 24k gold's high malleability results in scratches, deformation, and an overall short lifespan for jewelry pieces, especially those meant to be worn on a day-to-day basis.

Common uses: 24k gold is commonly used in the creation of bullion coins, bars, and high-end luxury home decor items. 24k's closest relative, 22K gold, may be seen in intricate designs, such as filigree or hand-engraved jewelry.

How many karats is pure gold?

Pure gold is measured at 24 of 24 karats, meaning that it is 99.9% gold with only trace amounts of other metals. This is the paragon of gold purity and the most intrinsically valuable gold metal. However, 24-karat gold is also the softest and most malleable form of gold, making it more susceptible to damage than lower-karat gold alloys. As a result, it is not commonly used in jewelry making.

Which karat gold is best?

There’s no such thing as “the best gold karatage”. We can pretty easily rule out 24k gold for daily wearable jewelry as it is too soft for everyday wear, so it’s better reserved for investment pieces. Lower-karat gold alloys such as 18k, 14k, and 10k—which include other metals such as copper, silver, or palladium—-are ideal materials for jewelry as they offer a balance of durability, beauty, and value.

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Which type of gold is best for jewelry?

The karat count you chose depends on personal preferences like desired appearance, intended use, durability, and budget.

  • 10k gold is a good choice for affordable and durable everyday wear but isn’t as valuable or corrosion-resistant as the higher-karat options.
  • 18k gold is a popular choice for high-end jewelry as it is highly valuable and still durable enough to make jewelry. But, the higher value also comes with a higher price point.
  • 14k gold is more durable and less expensive than 18k gold and offers a great balance between purity, durability, and affordability, making it a popular choice for fine jewelry, often used in engagement rings and other frequently worn pieces.

14k gold can easily be adapted into a variety of colors—such as soft yellow gold, elegant white gold, and darling rose gold.

In the end, the right karat count for you depends on your individual preferences and needs. At Linjer, we love the high-quality and versatility that 14k gold has to offer at prices that will give you true value for money. So, what are you waiting for? Peruse our dazzling curation of Solid 14k Gold Jewelry, and don’t miss our complete guide to 14k gold.

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