24K vs 18K vs 14K Gold: Which Karat Is "Better?"

Author Andrew Johnson
Date Jul 3, 2016

24K vs 18K vs 14K Gold: Which Karat Is

If you're trying to figure out the "best" type of gold jewelry to buy, the answer isn't as simple as it seems. Similar to the way diamonds are measured by the four C's, gold is measured in karats. This unit of measurement tells us the percentage of gold in a piece.

Gold's prominence in the world of fine jewelry is second to none. However, pure gold is often combined with additional metals like silver, copper, nickel, and zinc that provide the naturally soft gold with the strength necessary to craft earrings, bracelets, necklaces, etc.18K and 14K are the types of gold most commonly seen in jewelry.

The karat amount accounts for not only gold's prestige and price, but coloring as well. That being said, determining the best karat gold for you is dependent on much more than gold purity and price. To answer this question, you must consider the type of jewelry, how often you will wear it,what you'll be doing when you wear it, coloring, and much more.

24K vs 18K vs 14K vs 10K? Here are the main differences you should understand before making any buying decisions:

1) 24K Gold

GURHAN 24K Yellow Gold Lush Tassel NecklaceGold Bars

Also known as "The Gold Standard" 24K is 100% pure gold. While many may initially think this makes 24K the "best" gold to buy, that isn't necessarily the case. This karat amount is the 100% gold, thereby making it the most prestigious and expensive; however, as any jeweler will tell you, it's very rare you'll find jewelry made out of 24K. This is because pure gold is very soft and tends to scratch and bend easily making it impractical for daily wear in most cases. There are some gold jewelry makers who have mastered techniques to make 24K gold more rigid but it is very labor intensive and rare to find relative to other gold alloys. More often, this karat amount is used in investing (those notorious gold bars you see in movies), decorating, electronics, and medical devices.

2) 22K Gold

22K is 91.67% pure gold, leaving the remaining 8% comprised of a mixture of other alloys. The addition of these other metals makes the gold just durable enough to be used in making jewelry. Pure gold has the distinctly bright golden yellow color many imagine when they hear the word "gold," and this coloring is one of the things that sets 24K and 22K apart from the softer coloring of lesser karats.

3) 18K Gold

Bicego 18K Yellow Gold Bicego 18K White Gold PendantJohn Hardy 18K Yellow Gold Classic Chain Earrings

18K gold (which is 75% gold) is the most traditional mix of gold and other alloys, and it lends itself to making beautiful jewelry. This karat amount is less expensive than 24K and 22K but is very commonly used in fine jewelry making. Its coloring is a softer yellow than higher karats, but the deep golden tone is desirable in comparison to 14K and 10K coloring. You can tell when a piece is made of 18K gold by the "18K, 18Kt, 18k, 750, or 0.75" stamp that symbolizes the 75% gold contained in the jewelry.

4) 14K Gold

Henri Daussi 14K Rose Gold Eternity Band Dassi 18K Two-Tone Diamond Ring

The most common type of gold used in jewelry in the U.S. is 14K and it was created to make a gold piece more affordable, at the expense of having less gold. This karat amount contains 58.3% gold, and similar to 18K, its strength is a good fit for rings and bracelets to necklaces and earrings. 14K was selected for a simple reason though... it is because it is just over half gold. In addition to less gold and a smaller price, 14K tends to have less of a strong yellow color relative to 18K or higher.

5) 12K & 10K Gold

Lower karat amounts like 12K (50% gold) and 10K (41.7%) create jewelry that is somewhere between fine jewelry and costume jewelry. That is why most fine jewelers do not carry 12K or 10K. Sure it is durable but it has less inherent value since is 50% gold or less. If you tend to work with your hands or have a very active lifestyle, you could consider this karat amount for a rugged, casual piece of jewelry.

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