What is a gold karat, and what does it mean when your gold jewelry is 10K, 14K, 18K or 24K. What do all the 14K stamps and 18K stamps on your gold jewelry actually mean? Well for starters there are a couple things we need to define before we answer this actually pretty easy question.
For starters what is a “K”? We’re not talking special k, this isn’t a cereal! In this case, “K” stands for Karat, not to be confused with karat abbreviated “ct” where the words originally originated from back around the sixteenth century. Karat is just a unit of measure for purity.
Example: A woman is said to be 24K! What does that mean? It means she is one hundred percent pure! If we said somebody was 12K we would be saying they are only 50% pure!
You see when gold is mixed it comes out one hundred percent pure 24K.
One of the reasons it’s believed that the number 24 was used versus let’s just say one hundred (which would’ve made this a whole lot simpler) was the use of allocating twenty-four hours in one complete day. So a whole day has twenty-four hours a whole pure quality of gold has twenty hours parts being all gold.
Here’s the catch, gold when its pure is pretty soft, in fact very soft and doesn’t hold up very well to wear and tear. Think dog here. Most of the time a dog that is a “mutt” (mixed breed) is tougher than the pure breed.
If you attempt to use practically any product without cutting it with a hardener the product falls apart. Try making a hamburger patty without a little egg or little bread crumbs! The party will crumble the minute it hits the grill!
The easiest way to know the amount of pure metal in your ring is to look at the stamp that is on the ring and divide by twenty-four. Here is a gold purity chart to help:
24K / 24 =100% pure
18K / 24 = 75% pure
14K / 24 = 58.33% pure
10K / 24 = 41.66% pure
The question, of course, is which is the best to buy? Well, it depends on your lifestyle; if you are tough on jewelry 14K (which is mixed with copper, nickel, zinc, and other hardeners) can take a beating.
If you want a more valuable piece of jewelry then up the karat weight! 18K or in some parts of the world 22K!
But know that you have to be more gentle with it since purity always needs more care!
Another question I get asked a lot is about white gold vs. yellow gold. Is one better than the other? Again it depends on our goal. One, white, gold is typically cut with only nickel, zinc, or in some cases palladium.
These are much tougher hardeners than copper which is mixed with yellow gold.
So if the goal is tough? White gold wins! Now always white metal is the color of choice because of the light it enhances the beauty of diamonds where yellow gold can cast a yellow tint on the rocks. I hope that clarifies a few of the questions regarding 10K, 14K, 18K and 24k gold jewelry!