June 22, 2020 5 min read

The Different Karats of Gold: A Simple Guide to Gold Jewelry

The basics of the karat system in jewelry are used to measure gold purity. Know all about the different karats of gold with this simple guide to gold jewelry.

Keyword(s): different karats of gold


Throughout history, gold has been admired for its beauty. Gold jewelry is still popular to this day. 

The karat is a term that jewelers use to measure the purity of gold. Pure gold is 24 karat. The karat of gold that is most commonly used in jewelry is 14K, 18K, and 22K, but which karat is best? 

Learn about the different karats of gold and the karat system, in this simple guide to gold jewelry. 

Different Karats of Gold

Pure gold is a very soft metal. It’s too soft for everyday wear. Gold is often mixed with other metals such as copper, nickel, zinc, and silver since it strengthens the metal, and adds resilience allowing it to stand up to wear. 

Gold is measured in troy ounces. One troy ounce of gold weighs 31.1034768 grams. Before we go over the difference between the different karats of gold, it is important to review the karat system. 

You may be asking what are gold karats? A karat is a unit of measurement for gold. The higher the gold karats the more pure the gold is. Lower karats of gold contain less gold. 

In the U.S. 10K is the minimum accepted standard for gold, however, this varies by country. Here is a guide to karats used in gold jewelry. 

24 Karat Gold

Pure gold is 24 karat. Simply put 24K gold does not contain any other trace metals. It is 99.9% pure in its natural form. There is no higher karat of gold. 

Just because this is the purest gold doesn’t mean it is the best gold to buy when purchasing jewelry. Pure gold is easily bent and scratched making it impractical for daily wear. 

If you are attending a special event a 24 karat gold bracelet may look stunning. However, if you plan on doing housework that bracelet is no longer practical. 

Naturally, this pure form of gold is also more expensive compared to lesser karats. Coins, bars, and other investment items are made from 24 karat gold. Electronics and medical devices also use 24 karat gold. Your cell phone contains approximately 0.034 grams of gold making it a goldmine for recycling companies who scrap used phones. 

There is a growing demand for gold in modern society because of the limited supply and few substitutes. 

22 Karat Gold

When gold is mixed with alloyed metals it gains strength. 22K gold is 92% gold and 8% alloyed metals such as silver, nickel, or zinc. And though 22K is stronger than pure gold it is still rather soft so use caution when wearing 22K gold jewelry. 

22K gold jewelry works best when plain. Diamonds or other heavy gemstones can weaken 22K prongs and come loose. 

18 Karat Gold

This is the most traditional mix of gold used for making jewelry. 18K gold is 75% gold and 25% alloyed metals. 18K gold has a deeper color than lower karats of gold and is often much more expensive. 

Studded jewelry is usually made from 18K gold that has been mixed with silver or copper to give it added strength. Oftentimes you will find 18K jewelry stamped with “18K” to help you tell the difference. 

14 Karat Gold

This type of gold is ideal for everyday use. 14K gold is made from 58% gold and 42% alloyed metals. It is ideal in jewelry like engagement rings and wedding bands because it can hold up to daily wear. 

If you regularly engage in sports or manual labor 14K gold is the best jewelry option for you to wear. Anything less than 14K gold becomes tricky. There is a fine line between fine jewelry and costume jewelry. Most jewelers do not carry 12K or 10K gold. 

10 Karat Gold

10K gold is made from 41.7% gold and the remainder is alloyed metals. This type of gold is very sturdy and not too soft. This is the cheapest form of gold because it contains the least amount of gold in the mixture. While it is lower in cost it may not be the best option for your jewelry. 

How to Tell Karats in Gold

Most gold jewelry is stamped with the purity. This is called the hallmark. Authentic gold jewelry is stamped with the hallmark to indicate it’s karatage and gold content. 

If you have a piece of jewelry a jeweler should be able to read the hallmark and determine it the piece is real gold and the karatage. 

Other stamps that are found on gold can indicate whether a piece has been plated with other metals. Pieces stamped with “GE” indicate if it is plated with other metals. GE stands for gold electroplate.

Gold plated jewelry is often made from a brass base. It has a certain thickness of gold that has been deposited on the base giving it a gold appearance. 

A simple home test can also be performed to tell if your gold is real. Simply drop your gold jewelry into a sink filled with water. Gold is a heavy metal and it should sink straight to the bottom. If it floats it is likely to be fake gold. 

Which Karat is the Best? 

There isn’t one answer to which karat of gold is the best for your jewelry. When selecting a type of gold keep in mind how much it will be worn, your skin’s sensitivity to different metals, your activity level, career, and taste. 

Everyone will have a different opinion on which karat of gold is best. 14K gold provides a nice combination of color, affordability, and durability. That’s why it is often used in wedding rings and other fine jewelry. 

18K gold can also be a fine choice but the wearer will need to be more careful when wearing it. If you prefer something bit more luxurious and you will not wear it daily 18K gold is an excellent choice.  

Be cautious of 10K gold. This type of gold isn’t typically used in engagement rings or wedding bands. The vast majority of reputable jewelers do not offer 10K gold engagement rings.

Gold Karats Explained

This simple guide was created to help explain the different karats of gold. Shop comfortably now that you know what are the karats of gold. 

If you are looking for a special piece of jewelry for your self of a loved one contact Mylo Designs. We’ve been selling fine jewelry for over 20 years and have hundreds of high-quality luxury pieces at affordable prices.