When you’re out shopping for gold jewelry, are you confused by what the “k” means? What about the number before it?
The “k” stands for karat. The most common forms of gold jewelry come in 14 karats, 18 karats, and 24 karats, though there are also options that are lower and higher.
But what is a karat anyway? What does it mean when it comes to gold purity and gold quality? Does it have any impact on the appearance of the gold or how it reacts to the skin?
We have some of the answers for you so you know what to look for next time you’re jewelry shopping. Keep reading to learn more.
What Are Karats?
Karats refer to the type of gold being used and the purity of the gold.
When a piece of jewelry has a higher karat number, that means that the ratio of gold to other metals is higher. Gold jewelry isn’t usually pure gold; it would be too soft. Instead, it’s mixed with other metals.
It’s common to mix gold with copper, silver, palladium, and nickel (though this is getting less common over time as nickel is reactive).
This means that 24 karat gold would be “more gold” than 10 karat gold. There are pros and cons to this and jewelry manufacturers take this into account when they’re making their products.
How Is Gold Purity Measured?
You can determine the approximate amount of gold in your jewelry by looking at the karats.
Because 24 karat is the highest, you’re looking at quantities in fractions of 24. This means that 14k gold is 14 out of 24. Using basic math, you can determine that that means that just over 58% of your piece of jewelry is gold while the rest consists of other metals.
You can do this with every karat. 18k gold is 75% gold. 12k gold is 50% gold. It goes on in that way from 9 karats to 24 karats.
Why Does It Matter?
So why does gold purity matter?
Well, pure gold, as we mentioned, is too soft for many kinds of jewelry. Piercing jewelry, for example, isn’t common in 24 karat gold.
If you like different shades of gold, like rose gold or white gold, you can’t have 24 karat gold (so if someone is advertising 24k rose gold, they’re lying). These pieces have to be mixed with another kind of metal to get their colors.
Gold with 14 karats (like the gold jewelry tends to be sturdy enough for most kinds of jewelry while still being non-reactive. Many people who think that they have gold allergies instead have allergies to something that the gold was combined with. Gold with 14 karats has enough purity to fix this problem for most people.
Time to Go Jewelry Shopping
Now that you know what to look for in terms of gold purity and quality, it’s time to hit the jewelry store to find the next sparkly piece for you or your loved one.
We love 14 karat gold for its versatility, but what’s your favorite?
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