It can be quite confusing to purchase items made of gold without fully understanding the differences between karats. Even when speaking to a jeweler or pawnbroker, it’s not always easy to determine what number of karats would be best for your purchase. In fact, if you talk to ten different people, you may well get ten different opinions on what the “best” type of gold is based on the number of karats. So, we’ve created a quick guide to which number of karats is best used for which types of items.
What are Gold Karats?
It may be helpful to start with a definition. Karats refer to how much gold is present per 24 parts of alloy. So 24 karat gold is often referred to as pure gold because if you were to examine 24 parts of the metal, all of them would be gold. In contrast, if you looked at 24 parts of a 10 karat gold alloy, only ten of them would be gold and the remaining 14 would be another type of metal.
Differences between 10, 14, 18, 22, & 24 Karat Gold
- 10 karat gold Because 10 karat gold is very diluted, it can tarnish or blacken when exposed to perspiration or household chemicals. As a result, it is not the best choice for jewelry that is worn every day. It’s also important to note that due to its dilution, 10 karat gold is not considered gold in all countries, which can be an important point if you are looking to resell items.
- 14 karat gold 14 karat gold is a very popular option for everyday-wear jewelry. It is durable and relatively inexpensive as it is not as pure as other karats. While 14 karat gold is an extremely popular choice, it has its detractors due to its level of purity.
- 18 karat gold 18 karat gold is the most popular for jewelry. It has a high enough gold content to be considered desirable while having enough other metal to make it durable and stable. As a result, it can hold gemstones in place without prongs bending or loosening, and can be worn as a part of your daily activities. However, as it is still less durable than 14 karat gold, some would advise you that 14 karat gold is a better option.
- 22 karat gold The most expensive jewelry is often made from 22 karat gold. Because it is 22 parts gold and only 2 parts come from another metal (often silver or copper) it is still quite soft and has to be taken care of very carefully. This may not be the right material for items like wedding rings that are worn regularly. This is also the karat that is used to make gold Krugerrand.
- 24 karat gold While 24 karat gold may sound the most desirable gold, it is found to be too soft for many types of products. In fact, when handled too often or too roughly, gold particles can even rub off on your hands. As a result, you are most likely to only see 24 karat gold used to make gold bars.
Ultimately, there’s much debate as to which is the “best” form of gold. People frequently debate which factor is the most important: purity, durability or color quality. In the end, finding the best gold for your project really comes down to what you’d like to do with it, how often the item will be used, and whether it will come in contact with chemicals, perspiration and other potentially damaging elements.
When all is said and done, rather than trying to choose which gold is universally acknowledged as the “best”, choose the karat that is right for you.