24 karat gold, 18 karat gold - you may have come across these terms in the past when you went to a jewellery store, saw it online, or listened to some music. Did you ever wonder what these mean?
The higher the karat, the more expensive it becomes. Why? Because the higher the karat, the more gold there is, but the softer it gets. Yet you may ask, is it only limited to 24 karats? Why is gold not 100% pure all the time? What is the right purity for jewelleries? We'll answer all of these questions in this article.
What are Karats?
Karats define how much gold there is in your jewellery. These are numbers commonly stamped on a piece of gold in the format "xxK" or "xxKT".
This ranges from 0 to 24, making 24 karat gold the purest of all the gold you can buy. The most common gold karat numbers are:
|Number of Gold Karats
|Gold Purity (%)
Pure gold alone is soft and not strong enough for everyday jewellery wear. So, it is commonly alloyed with other metals to increase its durability, commonly copper, silver, zinc, or palladium. Therefore, a mixture of gold and other metals is termed an alloy.
Types of Gold Karat
24 karat gold is pure gold. It is approximately 100% pure gold and is commonly known as "fine gold". Because of its purity, it retains its natural bright yellow color. 24K gold itself is soft and is not used for jewelleries, but is most commonly used as investments such as gold coins or in gold bars.
22 karat gold is 92% pure gold. It has 22 parts of gold and 2 parts other metals. It is still recognizable for its bright yellow color, but not as bright as 24K gold. Although 22K gold is less durable than 18K and 14K gold, it is still durable and can withstand daily wear, which is why it is commonly seen in family heirlooms and occasion wear.
Since 24K gold is rare and can't be worn on to show its beauty, 22K gold jewelleries have spiked in demand and are seen as an investment as well nowadays. This resulted in an increase in value of 22K gold all throughout.
20 karat gold is 83% pure gold with 17% other metals. This makes the alloy even stronger but is still not durable enough for jewelleries that often receive contact, like watches and bracelets. These pieces are commonly used for low-contact jewellery such as luxurious earrings.
18 karat gold is considered the "sweet spot" of gold jewellery wear. It is the most common type of gold used for jewelleries made up of 75% gold and 25% other metals. This provides durability whilst retaining gold's luxurious look. It is strong enough to hold precious gemstones, which is why this is the go-to for dazzling engagement rings and high-quality watches.
16 karat gold is 66% pure gold with a third of it composed of other metals. Although it provides a good balance of durability and gold purity, it is rarely found in new jewellery stores, because modern buyers would opt for the affordability of the 14K gold or the lavishness of the 18K gold. 16K gold jewellery is most commonly found in vintage jewellery stores.
14 karat gold is 58% pure gold making it shine less saturated but has an increased durability. This makes 14K gold a lot more affordable and ideal for high-contact jewellery pieces used every day. It provides a better scratch resistance than previous gold karats mentioned and is preferred by many as well.
12 karat gold is an even split of gold to other metals. 50% gold may be deemed by most as "too little" gold. Because of its increased other metal content, it is too hard to be used for intricate pieces like rings, instead used for chains and simple necklaces.
10 karat gold is 41% gold, making it less than the amount of other metals in the alloy. This very durable alloy is rarely used for fine jewellery. Although its affordability and durability, it still has a pale-yellow shine to display its gold content and is mostly used for affordable earrings.
9 karat gold is the most affordable gold alloy among the rest. It is extremely durable due to its 62% other metal content and only 38% pure gold in it. This makes 9K gold jewellery almost resistant to scratch and commonly causes allergies because of its metal content.
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