Wondering what the differences are between 10K, 14K, 18K, and 24K gold?
Perfect you're in the right place!
In this LearningJewelry.com guide you can expect to learn:
- Karat vs Carat, What’s The Difference?
- Differences Between 10k vs 14k vs 18k vs 24k yellow gold jewelry?
- Pros and Cons of Each
For centuries, yellow gold has been a symbol of versatility, radiance, and natural beauty.
It is obvious we can only see these qualities through the naked eye.
But what if I told you there are half golds that actually look like the purest types of gold? So, how would you define the two if, for instance, you want to buy a nice gold engagement ring for her?
It’s all in the finer details.
The fineness of gold is measured in karats (note the ‘k’) and it’s always marked in any genuine piece of gold jewelry. You’ll see numbers like 10k, 18k, and 24k. Picking out the right gold jewelry piece needs a good understanding of its purity and other aspects like durability and lifestyle needs.
That being said, we need to dig deeper into the gold’s measure of purity and see how they compare against each other. It’s going to be confusing at first but I’m sure you’ll get a hang of it once I walk you through.
Let's unravel why Bruno thinks the 24k gold is magic!
Karat vs Carat, What’s The Difference?
Even though the two names sound the same, carat and karat have a huge distinction. Carat (abbreviated as ct.) is an internationally recognized method of weighing any stone, from diamonds to gemstones. One carat is equal to 0.200 grams.
Karat refers to the level of purity of gold in an alloy. 24k is the purest form of gold, has a bright yellow color and about 99 percent gold. In simpler terms, pure gold is 24 parts gold. By comparison, 12-karat gold is 12 out of 24 parts of gold.
What Are The Differences Between 10k vs 14k vs 18k vs 24k yellow gold jewelry?
As hinted earlier 24k gold has the highest purity and logically will make up about 100% gold. But, if indeed it’s the best of the best why don’t we see 24k gold being advertised all over?
The answer is simple.
24k gold is not easy to mold and even after successfully coming into shape, the metal is soft and prone to scratching. Gold is a naturally soft metal and scuffs can be seen as early as after one week of daily wear. Jewelers often mix gold with other metals to increase properties such as durability, strength, and shine.
As such white gold is made by adding up palladium to yellow gold while in rose gold, copper and a mixture of silver metal are added. Rhodium plating is also used in some cases to form black gold.
42% gold - 58% filler metals
Common in North America
58% gold - 42% filler metals
Common in America and Europe
75% gold - 25% filler metals
Common in Italy and Portugal
87% gold - 13% filler metals
Common in India and Arab countries (‘Asian Gold)
99% gold - 0.1% filler metals
Common in Chinese Jewelry
As you can see, the number of karats in gold is a piece of very vital information to anyone willing to buy fine jewelry.
However, you may find certain gold rings marked with 3 digit numbers alongside the karat stamp. This is actually a European way of marking jewelry as the numbers indicate the alloy content.
An 18K gold will be marked 750 to show 75% gold content, 14k gold marked 585 to show 58.5% gold, and 417 marked on 10K gold to indicate 41.7% gold.
You can also find a two letter combination in some countries. In North America, gold jewelry can be stamped 18kt to mean 18K or 18-karat gold.
Pros And Cons of 10 Karat Gold?
10 karats is the likely lowest amount of purity that defines “gold” in the United States. 10K gold has less than half the composition of gold and about 58% is composed of silver and copper. As expected, it is the least costly but probably the most durable tier of gold purity.
Though its price point is inviting, 10K gold is not so common among jewelers. Shops like James Allen prefer starting their inventories from 14K gold pieces. This is because 10K gold is relatively dull and not sellable. People love the bling factor in jewelry and 10k gold pieces don’t make the cut in terms of gold color.
But, that shouldn’t stop you from buying this piece. 10K gold is known to be the hardest gold alloy, and resistant to scuffs and scratches. The one setback with 10K gold has to be its irritability with hypoallergenic people. If you’re allergic to zinc, copper, iron, or silver, you may experience skin irritation after a long period of time.
- Dull appearance
- Susceptible to nickel allergies
Pros And Cons of 14 Karat Gold?
When shopping for jewelry like wedding bands and engagement rings, you can’t fail to notice the dominance of 14K gold. It is America’s best choice of jewelry, sold in every state of the country. But why the hype?
14K gold is about 58% gold and jewelers find it a perfect balance of both worlds. Unless with a trained eye, the precious metal looks exactly the same as a piece of 18K gold jewelry. Also, when compared to 14K gold to 18K gold, the former has higher durability and will not easily show signs of wear.
- Durable than 18K gold
- Relatively cheaper (great value for money)
- Possible allergic reactions
Pros And Cons of 18 Karat Gold?
As we move up gold’s purity, its color seems to get brighter and brighter.
18K gold has 75% pure gold and the rest (25%) is for filler metals. In the jewelry market, this is notably the highest karatage of wearable gold.
It’s a little softer than 10K or 14K gold, but can be worn with proper care and maintenance.
- Best value for money
- Easy to scratch
Pros And Cons of 24 Karat Gold?
Ah, finally we get to the creme de la creme of gold jewelry pieces!
24K is the purest form of gold you can get out there. It also means that there is no amount of gold that is 25K or 28K! Pure gold dazzles in a bright yellow, distinctive hue. Generally, it is the most expensive and due to its soft nature, it is used in other industrial applications like electronic devices.
24K gold is also used in bullion and gold bars and most people buy them as an investment. Honestly, 24K gold jewelry is a needle in a haystack kind of rare. Even if you find one, you’ll need to keep a close eye to avoid scratching the surface.
But if you really need one, you’ll definitely get it. Just remember to keep this important tip in mind
If it's an engagement ring, you should watch out for gemstones with more than 6Mohs. Certain ring settings will make it easier to add scuff marks on the gold.
For instance, it is not advisable to have a diamond engagement ring with 24K gold as the base metal. Of course, you don’t want your 24K gold ring to be ruined by a tiny stone.
- High-quality gold
- Can be bought as an investment
- Likely malleable and can't make jewelry
- A little pricey
Which Should You Buy?
In a realm where 24K is considered magic, we should consider how we go about buying gold jewelry. For instance, I’d write off 24k in any of my lists- it's too malleable and will scratch easily.
Going down to 10K, 14K, or 18K gold, you’ll need to make choices based on color or usage rather than just tipping the purity scale. We can place these considerations into either budget or lifestyle.
When looking for solid gold, imagine how your lifestyle would fit into wearing gold jewelry. Ask yourself these questions first;
- Do you work intensively?
- Are you frequently involved in outdoor activities?
- Are you hypoallergenic?
- Will you wear it every day?
Answering these questions will give you a rough idea of which type of gold jewelry to choose from. 10K gold is cheaper than 14K or 18K, but if you do manual work then the former would be a perfect choice. 18K gold can easily tarnish due to daily wear.
But then again, if you’re hypoallergenic, you’d have to dig deeper into your pockets and go for the higher karat gold pieces. Special occasions like weddings often require careful considerations while choosing jewelry like diamond rings and necklaces.So it is better to consider a gold metal that looks the part!
Currently, almost 90% of Americans prefer 14K gold to any other type. This is because a 14K gold wedding ring can last for decades and a few repair trips. It is also sturdy enough to withstand everyday use.
Finally, it goes without saying that you are the one paying for your jewelry and budget is everything. Choose gold jewelry that would not leave you bankrupt.
Moneywise, the higher the number of gold karats the higher the price tag, but the less durable. Simply put, at any point of sale in any piece of jewelry, you have to compromise either durability or brilliance.