How do they differ – and which is better?
Isn’t all gold the same? Well, in a word, no.
When you buy gold jewelry, you may automatically assume it is made from pure gold. Contrary to popular belief, though, almost all gold jewelry is made from an alloy combining pure gold with a mixture of other metals.
You will have heard the terms 14 karat, 18 karat and 24 karat gold. What do they mean? Which is the best? Firstly, a definition of the term ‘karat’ is important to understand. Many people confuse the word ‘karat’ with ‘carat’. In fact, ‘karat’ (which is written as k or kt) is a measurement of the purity of the gold in your jewelry. The higher the karat number, the purer the level of gold. 24k gold indicates the highest measurement of the amount of gold present.
The term ‘carat,’ on the other hand, is a unit weight measurement for gemstones. One carat is equivalent to 0.2 grams.
As gold is an internationally traded commodity, and its price fluctuates, the price of a gold setting will also be reflected in its current market value. The higher the purity of the gold used in jewelry, the more expensive it will likely be.
Here are the percentages of gold present in 24k, 18k and 14k jewelry:
- 24K gold consists of 100% gold.
- 18K gold is 18 parts pure gold mixed with 6 parts other metals. Depending its desired color (which could be white gold, yellow gold, or rose gold), this may include nickel, silver, copper, zinc, and palladium. As a percentage, 18K gold is 75% pure gold.
- 14K gold consists of 14 parts pure gold mixed with 10 parts other metal, with the other metals varying based on the gold’s color. As a percentage, the pure gold in a piece of 14K gold jewelry accounts for 58.3% of the total.
You may automatically assume that 24k gold is the best choice for your engagement jewelry. You want the best - and 24k gold is 100% pure gold, after all. 24k gold is free from other impurities and is a highly valued metal, but for everyday wear, 24k gold is not a good choice. Even though it will not degrade or tarnish, 24k gold is very soft and malleable, making it unsuitable for most jewelry – apart from limited use on special occasions. If your expensive lab grown diamond engagement ring is made from 24k gold, you run the risk of scratches, dents, and warp damage after wearing it only a few times.
The answer to making gold stronger, more durable, or even to change its color, is to alloy it with other metals. Pure gold is also more orange in color, instead of the warm gold most people associate with gold, so alloys are also added to improve its color.
Since 24k gold will not stand up to constant wear, let’s compare 14k with 18k gold. Both are commonly used for gold engagement ring and wedding ring settings, and both have their advantages and disadvantages.
18k gold is the purest form of gold that is practical to have in a ring that will be worn every day, such as an engagement ring. It has a near-pure gold appearance and higher perceived status, which is important to many engaged couples, but with the added benefits of alloys to make it stronger and more durable. 18k yellow or 18k rose gold looks also more vibrant than the same gold colors in 14k gold.
However, there are some disadvantages. 18k gold is softer and easier to scratch than 14k gold, so if your bride-to-be has a very active lifestyle, if she plays a lot of sports or works with her hands, an 18k gold ring or pendant might not be the best choice. Lab-created diamond jewelry with 18k gold will also be more expensive than lab-created diamond jewelry made with 14k gold.
14k gold is more affordable because it contains slightly less pure gold. It has a higher percentage of added alloys, so is stronger and hardier than 18k gold, with more resistance to wear and tear. While 14k gold is not as pure as 18k gold, its relatively high pure gold content means that it still has the warmth and rich color that people associate with the look of gold. 14k gold does tend to look slightly duller when compared with 18K gold, however, but generally speaking, it has an attractive color. Most people cannot tell the difference between the two, in all honesty. Some wearers may find they are allergic to 14k gold too, because it isn’t quite as pure as 18k gold, so if you suspect an allergy to silver, zinc, iron, copper, or nickel, you may need to see if 14k gold will be the right choice for you.
14k gold is by far the most popular type of gold for engagement rings, for the reasons given above – durability, beauty, and price. It accounts for roughly 90% of rings sold in the US, UK. and other Western countries, whereas 18k gold tends to be more popular in Asia and the Middle East.
When choosing a gold lab-created diamond engagement ring or other gold jewelry, keep an open mind about the benefits of both 14k and 18k gold before making your final decision. Think about the durability of both, their status, beauty, price differential, and any lifestyle considerations you need to keep in mind – and you will make the right choice for you. Shop Stefano Navi's gold engagement rings here.