Although the two words sound similar coming out of our mouths, their definitions vary, so much so any jewellery buyer, seller or aficionado should know the difference, especially if they also work in gold or gold collectibles.
Carats and karats are not interchangeable terms. Rather, a carat is a unit of weight used to measure the size of gemstones such as a diamonds or rubies. But a karat is a measurement relating to the proportion of gold in an alloy out of 24 parts. So 18K gold is 18/24 parts gold.
Both words come from the "carob" tree whose seeds called "carats" were used to compare against gemstones.
Looking at carats, it’s long been known that a higher carat size means a higher price. Such a price rises impressively — and not by a linear scale — as carat increases. Contrary to what many people think, the carat is not the size of the diamond or gemstone but it’s the weight. A diamond’s size is calculated in millimeters, length by width — in other words, the diameter of the stone.
Carat will have an affect on the other of the 4Cs in gemstone lexicon – cut, clarity and color. So if you’d like a larger carat size, you’ll need to select a diamond with a higher colour grade, as that colour will be more apparent. You’ll also need to opt for a higher clarity grade if you want a very clear, bright stone.
You’ve heard it many times before, undoubtedly –karat is a unit used to measure the purity of gold. Thus, the higher the karatage, the purer the gold.
This measurement is laid out on a 24-part scale. One karat, therefore, is equal to 1/24 fine gold. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 24 karat equals 24/24 fine gold, or 100%.
Why should you know about karats? It’s always helpful to separate your gold or collectibles according to the karat markings. Organizing this way can simplify the sale, prevent accidents or phony misrepresentations of value, and increase how much you get paid for gold.
With websites like Muzeum, where we advertise prices per gram per karat, you can get a solid idea of the potential value of your gold without even entering the door!
We thought it’d be helpful to offer readers a simple guide to parsing through the difference between 24k, 22k and 18k gold, and also mention the very popular items of gold jewellery that comes in 14K, 10K and 9K.
First, with 9-karat gold, it contains 9 parts pure gold and 15 parts additional metals such as silver, tin, nickel, zinc, etc. Calculated as a percentage, the purity of a 9K alloy is 37.5%.
Looking at 10K gold, it has 41.7% gold and 58.3% alloy, and is often regarded as discount gold in some circles. 10K is often regarded as ideal for gold jewellery since the other metals make it less prone to scratching and more durable than higher karatage gold.
14K gold features 58% pure gold, and is also well-known to work with jewellery and other memorabilia.
With 24K gold, you get all 24 parts in the gold are all pure gold without traces of any other metals. It’s often designated as 99.9% pure and features on a distinct bright yellow color. It’s more common to see 24K used for bullions, bars, coins and rounds, than for gold jewellery, due to how hard it is.
There is no higher form of gold than 24K and since this is the purest form of gold, it is obviously more expensive than 22K or 18K gold. But, this type of gold hold less density compared to gold of a lower karatage which makes it soft and pliable.
24K gold may also used in various electronics medical devices such as those for children suffering from ear infections who are fitted with gold tympanostomy tubes that are known to improve aeration of the middle ear.
When it comes to 22K gold, that notation refers to 22 parts of the gold jewelleryamounting to gold and the balance 2 parts are some other metals. We see this type of gold commonly used in jewellery making.
With 22k gold, of the 10%, only 91.67% is pure gold. The other 8.33 is made up of metals like silver, zinc, nickel and other alloys. It is this addition of metals that make the texture of gold sturdier thereby making the jewellery durable.
Looking at18K gold, that means 75% gold is mixed with one quarter of other metals like copper or silver or something else. Usually studded jewellery and other diamond jewellery is made in 18K gold. This type of gold is less expensive compared to 24K and 22K, as you can infer already. 18K gold sports a slightly dull gold colour compared to 24K’s shiny gold flourish.
Recognizing 18K jewellery is rather simple because you will see the item stamped with 18K, 18Kt, 18k or a variation similar to these markings. At times, 18K gold is marked by 750, 0.75 or a stamp to symbolize that the jewellery contains 75% gold.
If you wear gold for personal use, then consider that a 14-karat gold ring will be more durable than 18-karat gold, so if you have a particularly active job or lifestyle, consider how various karats can affect a piece’s strength.
The metals experts at Gold.TO created a handy guide to better understand the various karatage in gold:
8k Gold Jewellery – 8k/24k – 33.3% Pure Gold Marked 8k/333
9k Gold Jewellery – 9k/24k – 37.5% Pure Gold Marked 9k/375
10k Gold Jewellery – 10k/24k – 41.7% Pure Gold Marked 10k/416
14k Gold Jewellery – 14k/24k – 58.3% Pure Gold Marked 14k/585
18k Gold Jewellery – 18k/24k – 75.0% Pure Gold Marked 18k/750
20k Gold Jewellery – 20k/24k – 83.3% Pure Gold Marked 20k/833
21k Gold Jewellery – 21k/24k – 87.5% Pure Gold Marked 21k/875
22k Gold Jewellery – 22k/24k – 91.7% Pure Gold Marked 22k/916
Wrapping your head around carats vs karats isn’t too confusing, but if you’re still curious about the inner workings of measuring and valuing gemstones and gold, we have expert staff available to assist you with any questions you may have.
If you are looking to sell your gold or collectibles, or have questions about the value of your jewellery, our specialists are available to give you the honest and transparent feedback you want from a trusted source.
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