Gold has historically been the most popular metal choice for fashion rings, earrings, pendants, necklaces and bracelets.
There are two factors to consider when looking at gold.
- Color (yellow or white).
- Karat (percentage of pure gold i.e.: 10K, 14K, 18K)
The karat in gold measures the proportion of pure gold mixed with other metal alloys. Pure gold is too soft to be used at 100% concentration in jewelry, so different alloys (metals like copper, silver, zinc, palladium and nickel) are added that affect overall color and sometimes hardness.
The karat of gold is represented in the USA by the abbreviation K or Kt. Other countries might use Ct.
The higher the proportion of gold used in the final metal, the more valuable and expensive the metal will be.
- 10K gold contains 41.7% pure gold (417 parts per thousand)
- 14K gold contains 58.5% pure gold (585 parts per thousand)
- 18K gold contains 75% pure gold (750 parts per thousand)
Jewelry is normally stamped with a marking to show the type of gold.
- For 10K gold: 416 or 417, 10kt, or 10K
- For 14K: 585, 14kt or 14K
- For 18K gold: 750, 18kt or 18K
The stamps only indicate the karat of metal. They do not indicate the color of the metal. For example, an 18K yellow gold ring and an 18K white gold ring would both have a 750 stamp.
10K, 14K and 18K gold are each relatively hard and durable metals and are suitable for use in all types of fine jewelry. Gold is also suitable to be used in jewelry that is worn on an everyday basis.
Gold is available in several different colors, including yellow, white, pink/rose and a range of reddish and greenish hues. Jewelry can be made using a combination of different gold colors. These jewelry items are sometimes called two-tone, three-tone or multi-colored gold.
The difference in color between yellow, white and rose gold is determined by the metals used in the alloy mix. As the color difference is due to the metal components in the alloy mix, the color will not fade or decrease with age.
Another factor influencing gold color is Karat. 18K yellow & rose gold have a deeper, richer color than 14K or 10K. This does not apply to white gold.
When white gold rings are new, they are generally plated with another white metal called Rhodium, which belongs to the platinum family. The rhodium plating is used to make the white gold look whiter. The rhodium is very white and hard, but it does wear away eventually. To keep a white gold ring looking its best, it should be re-rhodium plated approximately each 6 to 18 months.
When comparing the price of the gold colors in the same karat, white gold is normally a little more expensive than yellow or rose gold. Yellow gold and rose gold normally have approximately the same price.
In practical terms, 14K and 18K hold up to everyday wear better than 10K. They also tend to look better than 10K as it ages over the years. This is one of the reasons why when selecting gold for an engagement ring most people will opt for 14K or 18K.
When deciding what Karat of gold is the best fit for you, consider:
- Performance (everyday wear)