When shopping for gold jewelry, you’ll encounter a variety of options available from 10K to 24K gold. Each gold karatage has its pros and cons, and it can be hard to know exactly which one is right for you.
It’s also likely that you already own gold pieces in various karats and want to learn more about their value. The karats of a gold jewelry piece ultimately dictate its value and selling price. But, what exactly does karatage refer to, and what’s the difference between each one? You likely have several questions regarding gold jewelry including…
Fact is, there’s a lot to consider when buying gold jewelry. First of all, when we talk about karats, we’re referring to the percentage of pure gold the jewelry contains.
Let’s start with 24K gold, which is the purest gold available containing 100% gold. Any karat smaller than 24K will decrease in purity. If 24K gold contains 100% gold, or 24 parts of gold, how much would 12K gold have? You guessed it! 50% is right.
As you can see, the karat system is quite straightforward. Still, there are a lot of options for choosing which gold jewelry to buy. With such a varied gold jewelry market, questions often surface.
That’s where we come in! In this complete comparison guide, you’ll learn the value and purity of each gold karatage. Additionally, you’ll know the price range for each karatage and be able to see the differences that occur from 10K gold to 24K gold jewelry.
Read on as we highlight everything you need to know in this full comparison guide of 10K, 12K, 14K, 18K 22K, and 24K gold jewelry.
It’s important to consider what type of jewelry item you’re buying, and which karat is best suited to it. Wouldn’t we all just love to have pure 24K gold? Perhaps, but every magical element has its limitations. For example, while 24K gold is pure gold, it’s also extremely soft and malleable.
These qualities are not conducive to daily wear, which is why jewelers and designers add different metals to the mix to make the gold more durable. The addition of alloys in gold jewelry makes it suitable to wear every day, or for special occasions.
For instance, 24K gold is not ideal for an engagement ring or wedding band as it’s malleability will cause it to change shape and get damaged. Conversely, 12K and 10K gold contain a higher percentage of metal alloys, which strengthens the gold and makes it a great candidate for gold rings. Which leads us to a big factor to consider when buying gold jewelry:
Ready? Let’s break down the great debate of purty vs. durability. While some favor the purity of higher karat gold jewelry like 18k or 24k, others value the strength and durability of 10k or 14k gold.
How do you make the best decision, then? Ultimately, it depends on what type of item you are buying. We talked about engagement rings, which come into contact with plenty of surfaces throughout the day. What about jewelry that isn’t exposed to hard surfaces like earrings and necklaces?
These are the fine jewelry items you’ll want to splurge on for special occasions and luxury accessories. You’ll find 22K and 24K gold jewelry to be more embellished, designer and expensive. Does that mean 24K gold is better than 10K gold? Not at all, it’s simply more pure.
Of course, we have to consider that the lower the purity, the lower the value. It really depends on where your interests and priorities lie. Here’s some general information and tips to consider when buying gold jewelry:
Save 22K and 24K gold pieces for special occasion jewelry
If you want a balance between durability and purity, choose 14K or 18K gold.
14k gold is by far the most popular jewelry choice in the United States
10k gold is the most durable and solid gold jewelry available, but the value is significantly lower than higher purity karatages
Now that we’ve got those details out of the way, let’s examine the key differences between each gold jewelry karat, from 10k to 24k.
Percentage: 41.7% of pure gold. The rest is a mixture of metal alloys including copper, silver, nickel or zinc. 10K gold is the lowest available percentage of pure gold, and anything with a lower percentage cannot be marketed and sold as gold in the United States.
Hallmarks: Hallmarks are stamps which denote gold purity and content. Common 10K gold stamps are 10K, 10KT, or .417 (41.7% pure gold).
Durability: Because 10K gold contains more metal alloy than pure gold, it is an extremely durable metal. The benefit of a high percentage of metal alloys is that 10K gold will retain its shape long term, and be resistant to bending or scratching.
Price: Depending on the item of jewelry you choose to purchase in 10K gold, the prices will vary. The wonderful aspect of 10K gold jewelry is that you can pick up an understated and elegant wedding band for $50-$100. 10K is a budget-friendly gold that lends itself to a variety of styles and designs.
How to wear it: 10k gold is extremely popular and affordable, making it a diverse and accessible jewelry metal. Browse 10k gold styles here.
Percentage: 50% pure gold
Hallmarks: 12K, 12KT, 500 (50% pure gold). Keep in mind that gold-plated 12K jewelry will have a different hallmark to signify that the base metal is not pure gold but another material. These markings will say either 12 GF (12k gold-filled) or 1/20, which means one-twentieth of the jewelry contains pure 12k gold, which is actually only 5%.\
Durability: 12K gold contains half pure gold, and half metal alloys that strengthen it. This means that you’ll get a higher purity than 10k, but still retain intense durability perfect for daily wear. That said, 12K gold jewelry is not as widely available for wedding rings and engagement bands, but is more commonly used in gold necklace chains.
Price: 12K pure gold necklace chains range from $300-$800. 12K gold rings and bands average around $300.00.
How to wear it: 12K gold is popularly used in gold-filled or gold-plated jewelry. What’s important to remember regarding 12K is that the jewelry item might not be pure gold, rather another metal that is plated with a layer of 12K gold.
Percentage: 58.3% pure gold
Hallmarks: 14K, 14KT, and 585 (58.5% pure gold)
Durability: 14K gold is regarded as the perfect balance of durability and gold purity, which is exactly why it’s the most popular gold used for jewelry. The main material used is pure gold, with 10 parts of the mixture containing just enough alloy to strengthen the metal without diluting its purity. These qualities make 14K an ideal choice for fine jewelry and daily wear. That said, 14K gold jewelry will still not be as durable as 10K or 12K gold.
Price: Now that we’re climbing up in purity, the price must be increasing with it, right? You bet. The higher the purity, the larger amount of pure gold content and the more expensive the jewelry will be. So, what does a 14K wedding band cost? That’s what’s great about 14K gold, it’s relatively pure but won’t break the bank. Because 14K gold rings are so incredibly popular, the price truly varies from inexpensive to luxury, as it depends on the setting and embellishments included in the design. To keep it simple, a 14K wedding band costs around $300-$500 USD, depending on the weight.
How to wear it: Most commonly, 14K gold is used for engagement rings with diamond settings and men’s wedding bands. In fact, you’ll find that most engagement rings are 14K gold, which makes for a vast and diverse buyer’s market.
Percentage: 75% pure gold
Hallmarks: 18K, 18KT, and 750 (75% pure gold)
Durability: Now we are getting into optimal purity territory. However, with every positive, there’s a downside. The higher the amount of pure gold, the less durable the jewelry is. Remember that gold is extremely soft, which means that a higher gold content item is going to be more susceptible to bending or even breaking.
Price: Expect to enter a higher price range when shopping for 18K gold jewelry. With 75% pure gold, 18K jewelry is popularly designed with exquisite materials and precious gemstones. Depending on the size, 18K wedding bands range from $400-$1,000.00 USD.
How to wear it: While you can certainly wear 18K gold rings, you’ll have to be more mindful to keep it protected from hard surfaces. That’s why it’s smart to wear 18K gold jewelry for special occasions. You’ll find the most popular
Percentage: 92% pure gold
Hallmarks: 22K, 22KT, and 917 (91.7% pure gold)
Durability: At 92% purity, 22K gold is slightly more durable than 24K gold, but less durable than 18K gold. In this regard, 22K gold is a happy compromise between 18K and 24K, however there is greater market variety for 22K gold jewelry than 24K.
Price: As 22K gold is made of mostly pure gold, expect prices to be in a high range and most designs to be from designer labels like Louis Vuitton or BVLGARI. 22K gold jewelry prices vary from around $800 USD for simple pieces to over $10,000 USD for ornate and embellished designer necklaces and earrings.
How to wear it: 22K gold is not nearly as popular as 14K or 18K gold, but there is still a wide variety of options available as it is considered a luxury item. Most importantly, remember that the higher gold content, the softer and more vulnerable the jewelry is. That’s why it’s recommended to wear 22K jewelry as a necklace or earrings.
Percentage: 99.9% pure gold
Hallmarks: 24k, 24kt, 999 and 999.9 (99.9% pure gold)
Durability: Well, we’ve made it to the top of the line and there’s no way around it: 24K gold is the least durable of them all. Of course, what you lose in strength you gain in purity, as 24K gold is pure, solid gold. Considering these factors, 24K gold jewelry is considered fine jewelry that’s best worn for special events.
Price: You’ll pay a pretty penny for most 24K gold jewelry items. There’s a reason 24K gold jewelry is considered “investment jewelry”: it’s expensive and meant to be preserved delicately over a lifetime. It’s safe to assume you won’t be picking up any new 24K jewelry for under $1,000.00 USD. Of course, there are exceptions, but fine jewelry made from pure gold is going to cost more than 22K, 18K, 14K, 12K and 10K gold.
How to wear it: Save 24K gold jewelry for those magical evenings and special occasions that warrant a black tie dress code. Think weddings, galas, benefits and romantic date nights. Most jewelers advise against wearing 24K gold rings as they can easily come into contact with harder surfaces and bend or scratch. That’s why you’ll notice mostly earrings, necklaces, and pendants available in 24K gold, and often adorned with diamonds or precious gemstones.
There you have it! That’s everything you need to know about the various gold karatages, their unique features, durability and purity. We hope this informative guide and full comparison helps you make the best decision when buying gold jewelry.
Still aren’t quite sure which karatage is right for you? We understand! Sometimes you have to see it to know it’s the one.
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