Willyn Villarica Jewelry

Gold Purity: How is Gold Measured?

For today’s post, I’ll be talking about gold and its unit of measure, the karat.

You’ve probably seen descriptions of jewelry that say made with 14k, 16k, and 18k gold, but what exactly does this mean? And if you’re a first-time jewelry buyer, you’ve also most probably come across the term “carat” and wondered whether this was the same as karat. Or is it a mere spelling difference? I’ll tell you more about it here.

Karat vs. Carat: What’s the Difference?

Actually, these two terms are not interchangeable as they measure two very different qualities/aspects of jewelry.

A carat is used to determine a precious stone’s weight. One carat is equivalent to 200 milligrams or .2 grams. You can see this in jewelry shops indicated as “ct,” which is related to the size of the gem. Jewelry becomes more expensive as the size of the gem gets bigger. The bigger the rock, the more valuable it is likely to be.

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Karat, on the other hand, is used to measure the purity of gold. It scales from 0 to 24, which means the higher the number, the less additional metal is added to the gold. Pure gold jewelry, or those that are 24K, have no additional alloy. The purer the gold, the more expensive and distinctly yellow it is.

In its purest form, gold can scratch and bend easily. So, the lower the karat, the stronger it becomes. In terms of “purity,” however, it declines.

Typically, alloys such as silver, copper, zinc, and palladium are added to make gold stronger. This also has an effect on its color and sheen. As you’ll see in stores, gold comes in various hues, such as yellow gold, rose gold, white gold, and even black gold. The color outcomes really all depend on the composition of the metals that are mixed with the gold.

Read More: White Gold vs. Yellow Gold: Choosing the Perfect Precious Metal for Your Jewelry

Gold Purity Chart and What It Means to Us

A gold purity chart helps us understand the gold content of jewelry. There are different terms used to relate to the purity of gold, such as:

  • Karats
  • Part of gold
  • Percent (%) of gold
  • Millesimal fineness or hallmark

They have different number values, but it basically means all the same.

For example, I’m buying a 22K rose gold ring for myself. Based on the chart, I would know that the gold content of the ring is 22 out of 24 parts, or 91.7%. Some pieces of jewelry have stamps or hallmarks on them to show how much gold is in them. I would need to look for the 916 or 917 on the ring. Knowing these, I’m expecting that my gold ring would cost more compared to a 14K ring because of its gold content.

So how does knowing the gold purity of your pieces help you? Of course, as a shopper, it’ll help you better understand the value of the piece and better discern which ones you want to invest in.

In addition, this guide can help you take better care of your gold jewelry items.

So, What’s the Best for Everyday Wear?

If you’re going to buy gold jewelry for everyday wear, we recommend 14K to 18K gold. Aside from being more durable, 14K-18K reacts less to skin. (You may notice that when you wear 12K gold and below, it sometimes turns green because of sweat and acidity.) Pieces that are 14K to 18K have the least reaction to skin, because the gold content is higher than the metal added.

If you want higher content gold jewelry, stick to a simple gold ring or chain. This is because 22K gold and higher is too soft to hold other gems and they will just eventually fall out. In addition, higher content gold jewelry is more prone to scratches and deformities because of the softness.

So a lesser karat ring, on the other hand, is something you can wear even while working or doing house chores. And you don’t have to worry too much about it.

Learn the basics and use this as a guide in assessing the jewelry you want to buy. It’s always a balance of price, preference, and quality.

Related: Different Types of Gold Jewelry: A Comprehensive Guide

If you have any other questions, please reach out to me at admin@willynvillaricajewelry.com or comment below! You may also

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  • Willyn Villarica

    Willyn Villarica, a third-generation jeweler from the Philippines, brings a wealth of expertise to the world of gemology and jewelry appraisal. As a licensed Graduate Gemologist, accredited by the prestigious Gemological Institute of America, she is not only a master of her craft but also holds the distinction of being the first Filipino member of the National Associ...

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