What Does Karat Mean? All About Gold Jewelry
The GLD Shop is one of the leading brands for gold jewelry today. We love working with gold because of the variety of materials we can use to craft both timeless and forward thinking creative pieces of gold jewelry. One of the most important things to know when shopping for gold jewelry is what “karats” mean and the karat grading system. Gold is always offered in different karats. Many people see jewelry labeled as “14k gold” or “18k gold” (for example) without knowing what this actually means. In this article you will learn what karats mean and why this is essential to learning about gold jewelry.
What Does Karat Mean?
A karat is a unit of measuring the fineness or purity of gold. The higher the number in front of the word “karat” in reference to jewelry, means that the gold jewelry has a high percentage of pure gold. The karat measurement of pure gold is determined against any other alloys or mixed metals in the gold material. A karat is measured by fractions on a scale of 0 to 24. For example, 14k gold is 14/24 parts gold. The 14 parts convert to 58.3% pure gold. The other percentage is made up of mixed metals. This is why karats of gold are expressed as 10k, 14k, 18k and 24k. Outside the United States, karat may be spelled “carat,” which does not refer to the carats of diamond weight. If you see “carat” being used to describe gold jewelry, again that refers to the fineness or purity of gold measurement. If you are looking for diamonds (not gold jewelry) then the term “carat” will be used to describe the weight fo the diamond gemstone. So now that you know the basics for gold purity measurements, let’s get into which karat is pure gold.
What Karat is Pure Gold?
If you’re a lover of gold and interested in building a high quality collection of jewelry, your first thought may be if pure gold is how many carats, where can I buy this and what will it cost? The answer is tricky. 24 karat gold is the purest karat of gold you can buy, since it is made of 100% pure gold. No other mixed metals are found in 24k gold. This is why karats are measured on a scale out of 24, since 24 is the pure gold standard amount. However, 24 karat gold isn’t often used to make jewelry because of its softness and delicacy. 24k gold doesn’t have any alloys or other mixed metals, which makes it an impractical material to craft jewelry. This is why when crafting jewelry it’s important to have other alloys and mixed metals combined.This is what creates the durability of gold jewelry, making it long lasting and resistant to tarnishing. Here’s a brief history lesson about the backstory of this karat grading system. In medieval times, the purest gold coin produced was known as a mark. This mark coin weighed 24 karats. It was quickly discovered that the material of the mark was extremely soft and delicate. This was how 24 karat gold was discovered as 100% pure gold. 24 karat gold is 100% pure gold, and that is what karat is pure gold. In our article specifically about 24k gold, we provide more information about what 24k gold is, and why it is the purest karat of gold.
What Karat Gold Is the best?
To answer the question what karat gold is the best, we can provide a few key factors to help answer this question. The great thing about buying gold jewelry, is that gold is offered in a variety of karats. This karat variety is great because it provides options for the customer to consider; price, color, and strength. As a general rule, the lower the karat count in gold the more durable and hard the piece of jewelry will be. 10k gold for example is legally the lowest karat of gold you can sell in the United States and other countries, while still being considered real gold. 10k gold has 41.7% pure gold, making the majority of its make up mixed metals. The purity of gold is low, but the mixed metals create more durability, strength, and hardness. 10k gold does not bend or scratch easily. A lower karat count will also be less expensive as opposed to gold jewelry with higher karat counts. If you’re a price conscious buyer not looking to spend a lot of money on gold jewelry, but you want to make sure your gold jewelry is long lasting, 10k gold and 14k gold are durable and long lasting. If you want to purchase a piece of gold jewelry you don’t intend to wear everyday, and your criteria is motivated towards what karat is the best, than 18k gold is the better jewelry option. 18k gold has 75% pure gold in its mixture, and 25% alloys and mixed metals. 18k gold jewelry shouldn’t be worn everyday, and most 18k gold jewelry pieces are meant for special occasions.
Symbols on Gold Jewlery
We made a quick cheat sheet below to reference what symbols on gold jewelry mean. This is important because these symbols on gold jewelry are a way to authentic the gold jewelry, and they are purity markings for the gold purity measurements. These symbols are known as “hallmarks.” Depending on the jeweler, you can find symbols of gold expressed with letters or numbers. If your gold jewelry is stamped with letters, like ‘kt” that refers to the karat. If your gold jewelry is stamped with numbers (no letters) those numbers signify the purity of gold percentage. For example, 18k gold uses 75% pure gold in its mixture. Therefore, the number stamp will be “750” or .”750.”
24k Gold: 24k, 24kt, 990, 999 (24k gold is technically 99.9% pure gold, but is universally regarded as 100% pure gold.)
- 18k Gold: 18k, 18kt, 750, .750
- 14k Gold: 14k, 14kt, 585
- 10k Gold: 10k, 10kt, 417, .417