Gold is a metal mined from the earth that has been used in jewelry for hundreds of years. Gold’s malleability (how easily it can be shaped and molded) and its rarity (how unusual it is to be found in nature) have made it a choice metal for engagement and wedding rings.
But malleability – one of gold’s most appealing attributes – is also its biggest weakness in jewelry. Pure gold jewelry is brittle and susceptible to breaking. Gold is therefore mixed with alloys such as copper, zinc or silver to increase its strength. The proportion of pure gold used vs. alloys used is what determines a gold’s Karat (or K) purity.
Not to be confused with a diamond’s carat (weight), a gold’s karat (K) is determined by the proportion of pure gold vs. alloys added to strengthen it. Gold purity is measured in karats; the highest karat number is 24K, which is the karat of pure gold. Since pure gold is too soft to be used in jewelry making, gold is mixed with other metals, which make the resulting alloy harder and more durable as jewelry. A higher percentage of pure gold to alloys equals a higher Karat. To determine what gold karat a piece of jewelry is, look for the gold stamp that’s on the inner edge of a gold ring.
- 10 karat gold is an alloy made up of 10 parts gold + 14 parts other metals
- 14 karat gold is an alloy made up of 14 parts gold + 10 parts other metals
- 18 karat gold is an alloy made up of 18 parts gold + 6 parts other metals
Visually the differences among the different karats is subtle, and the polish used on jewelry can be misleading. To verify the gold Karat of jewelry, you must have jewelry tested in a nationally certified independent lab as informal tests such as scratch testing and acid testing are prone to human error.
Karat vs. Carat
Carat refers to the weight of a diamond, whereas Karat,
refers to the pure gold content in jewelry.
Is 10K or 14K Better?
In some parts of the world, gold jewelry with a higher karat, such as 18K and 22K, is more is widely sought after. But in the U.S., most people opt for 10K and 14K gold; these varieties are stronger and more affordable than those with higher pure gold content.
My Trio Rings offers both 10K and 14K gold options for all our diamond ring sets. But what’s really the difference between the two?
Is 10K Lower Quality?
You’ll notice that 10K jewelry is less expensive than 14K pieces. This makes sense, since 10K jewelry contains less gold. However, keep in mind that in this case, cheaper doesn’t mean low quality: 14K gold may be more expensive, but its higher gold content also makes it softer and less durable than 10K gold.
- Yellow Gold
- Yellow gold’s warm hue is created by combining pure gold with alloys such as zinc and copper.
- White gold’s silvery appearance is the result of blending pure gold with white metals such as nickel, palladium or manganese.
- Rose gold’s pinkish glow is achieved by adding more copper to the alloys mixed with pure gold.
Do Gold Rings Fade?
It’s a common misconception that rings which fade are not authentic. But it’s not the gold itself that fades – it’s the polish that all gold jewelry has on its surface which gives it the lustrous shine. It’s important to take gold jewelry in for a “tune-up” from time to time to get a new coat of rhodium, yellow polish or rose polish. Many jewelers also refer to this practices of having gold rings “redipped” which references how rings are dipped into an electroplating solution which is how polish adheres to the gold surface.
Buyer Beware: Nickel Allergies
Nickel is commonly used in gold alloy mixtures and is also a metal that many people are allergic to. For people with this sensitivity, jewelry made with nickel can cause a skin reaction or rash if the gold polish fades over time. We are proud to offer a line of Nickel Free rings which you can explore by clicking here.
Customize Your Rings
We offer all of our rings in both yellow and white gold (10K and 14K). On each product page, you can select the gold color and karat you want. To see how the same ring looks different in yellow and white gold, try our interactive slider below!