Monday, July 24, 2017

Stories of a Country Jeweler: What actually is a karat of gold?

Welcome back to Stories of a Country Jeweler! We are continuing the educational theme of the last few posts, and are back to answer more of your questions about gold! Today's question is: what is the difference between karats of gold? Can you make colored gold in different karats?

Simply put, the karat of gold is the percent weight of pure gold that is within the metal alloy. For example, 24k gold is gold that is %100 pure, while 10k gold is gold that only has 41.7% pure gold within its alloy. Here is the full list of commonly referenced karats:

24 karat = 100% gold (or "Pure" gold)

22 karat = 91.7 % gold
18 karat = 75.0 % gold
14 karat = 58.3 % gold
12 karat = 50.0 % gold
10 karat = 41.7 % gold

Is there really a noticeable difference between karats of gold though? Yes. Definitely. Pure gold (24k) is an incredibly bright yellow, soft, and heavy metal. While the warm golden color is beautiful, 24k is actually not the best karat for jewelry that is meant to be worn everyday: every scratch and dent will be visible in this soft metal. We work mostly in 14k (and some 18k) because at 14k the alloy has been strengthened with other metals which make the gold more resilient for everyday use.

Note how much paler 10 k yellow gold is than 18k yellow!
What makes up the other percentage in the gold alloy will depend on the color of gold that is desired. If yellow gold is what is desired, silver and copper are added to the alloy. If rose gold is the aim, silver and copper will still be added, but the ratio of silver to copper will not be the same as in yellow gold. More copper is added, which gives the gold its beautiful rosy color!

Green gold can be achieved through the mixtures of various metals, but mainly silver and zinc. White gold is made by mixing together many different metals, primarily nickel. The higher karat you want to achieve means that less other-colored metals can be added, and so the more yellow the metal will remain. 

For items of jewelry that will be worn everyday, such as wedding rings or a beloved bracelet, we highly recommend choosing either 18k, 14k, or 12k because it is in this range that the gold retains a beautiful color (and considerable monetary worth) while also being strong enough to withstand everyday wear.

14K Yellow River Ring, 14k White Pooled Ring, 14k Rose Bark Ring, 14k Yellow Perfectly Puddled Ring


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