What's the Difference Between 10K, 14K, 18K, & 24K Gold?

Choosing the gold karat weight in your fine jewelry can be confusing. The different numbers of karat refer to the levels of pure gold that are included in the mix. Pure gold is 24 karats and most valuable because it is 100% pure gold. Because pure gold is very soft, jewelry makers add other metals to increase durability. A 10K piece is less valuable because it only contains 41.7% pure gold, but it is much more durable. (See diagram above)

Gold is a soft, yellow, shiny precious metal with a long and varied history. It was worshipped by the ancients, used as money, and is still coveted today across the world. Like silver and platinum, gold is considered precious not only because of its beauty, but because it is durable yet malleable, and because it is relatively unaffected by the elements and can stand the test of time. That’s why we’ve been able to recover beautiful gold artistically created pieces from ancient tombs and shipwrecks while other metals would have rusted or become destroyed.

What's the Difference Between 10K, 14K, 18K, & 24K Gold?

All The Colors Of Gold

Because gold is often mixed with other metals to create a more durable alloy, you can enjoy gold in several different colors. This allows you to select the big diamond engagement ring or other long-lasting piece of jewelry in a color that suits your personality and style. There are three main types of gold color used for jewelry which are created by combining pure gold with other metals.

Yellow Gold = pure gold + silver + copper (classic choice for many types of jewelry)*

Kirk Kara "Pirouetta" Split Shank Twist Diamond Engagement Ring

White Gold = pure gold + white alloy (usually nickel) + Rhodium plating (Rhodium is the world’s most expensive precious metal)*

Rose Gold = pure gold + silver + copper (there are also red and pink variations which contain varying percentages of different metals)*

Barkev's Cushion Halo Split Shank Diamond Engagement Ring

*Please note, depending on the designer some will use different alloys in their metal mixture.

Which Karat Gold Should I Choose?

Bruno Mars may think 24 karats is magic, but a very small percentage of jewelry pieces are offered in 24K gold. It’s too soft and can bend, scratch and break too easily. Whether to choose 10K, 14K, or 18K gold is usually more about your color choice and the use for the piece of jewelry than the desire to purchase more purity of gold. The first choice when purchasing a gold necklace or any fine jewelry is to determine which color you love the most. Whether you are more fond of a sliver color (as in white gold) or a yellow gold color, both are equally as beautiful. However, there are some things to consider regarding the mix of metals and how it may interact with your body chemistry.

White gold is yellow pure gold mixed with nickel and rhodium to make it look white, similar to platinum. Whether you’re buying 14K white gold or 14K yellow or rose gold, the percent of pure gold is the same (58.3%), it is just alloyed with different metals to give it different colors. So the nickel and rhodium plating make your white gold ring look silver and the copper in a rose gold ring give it its color.

Due to the other alloys in the jewelry interacting with your body’s chemistry and with normal wear, your jewelry may turn yellow over time (especially the bottom part of a ring.) This can be fixed with a rhodium plating which will make your silver-like jewelry appear like new. The frequency of this “fix” will depend on how often you wear the jewelry and how quickly it reacts to your body. Jewelry made of newer metals like platinum or palladium will not fade to yellow.

Generally, you should choose the karat weight that you need for durability and that fits your budget. The higher the karat weight, the more expensive, but the less durable. Looks all being equal, the 10K, 14K, and 18K gold choices really come down to price and durability. If you’re purchasing a diamond wedding band or other everyday piece of jewelry, you will want to choose the 10K or 14K gold so that it will hold up and be more resistant to scratches or bending. If you are choosing more of a statement piece for an anniversary gift that will only be worn on special occasions, you may want to invest in 18K gold.

Ask Your Jeweler For Input

Reputable jewelers have experts who can help you decide what karat gold would be best for you. Ben Garelick Jewelers has been helping customers in the Buffalo, New York, area for decades with this and many other questions about purchasing fine diamond jewelry. Whether chatting in person or through their online chat, the folks at Ben Garelick treat customers like family, making sure your jewelry investment fits every need. Have questions now? Reach out to them by phone at (716) 631-1584. Whether you’re looking at an engagement ring or a birthday gift, they look forward to answering any questions you may have.

Contact us today with questions. We're happy to help!


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