Gold and Karats Explained
18 karat gold or 14 karat gold, what's the difference? The karat weights and terms used to identify gold jewelry can be new to many of us so we wanted to share some information and resources to explain more about gold purity in fine jewelry.
Our gold jewelry collections are solid gold, and more specifically solid 18k gold. Customers will often ask us, what is 18k gold? Is 18k gold better? Does it have the nicest color? How do I care for it?
As a starting point, it helps to understand that one hundred percent pure gold is 24 karat gold. Karats are a measure to describe the percentage of gold purity in a piece of fine jewelry. Because 24k gold is soft, it is not ideally suited for everyday jewelry, and for that reason, pure gold is mixed with other alloys to create the best quality composition for your jewelry.
18k gold is 75% pure gold (18/24 = .75) combined with other alloys to give it the strength and durability for everyday wear. In rose gold, these other alloys will include more copper to give the gold its warm pinkish hue. We use only solid 18k gold in both our gold and two-tone collections, quite simply to always deliver more gold in our pieces and a higher level of quality and value.
How much more gold? A common metal used in the jewelry market is 14 karat gold which is 58.3% (14/24 = .583) pure gold mixed with 41.7% of other alloys. We choose only 18k gold for our Monica Rich Kosann jewelry designs because this purity of metal delivers almost 29% more gold than an equivalent style in 14k.
We build our 18k gold pieces to be part of your life for generations. Delivering "more gold" in each piece is an important part of that lifetime quality.
Lastly, you may also come across 10k gold as you explore various jewelry options in the marketplace. 10 karat gold is only 41.7% pure gold (10/24 = .417) and is the lowest gold purity level generally available. For that reason 10k is found much less often in luxury fine jewelry.
Additionally, any conversation about gold purity might not be complete without a note and explanation about gold plating. Our 18k gold collections are never plated. Plating is a process where a layer of gold is adhered to another metal like sterling silver. In that specific case the jewelry would be considered gold plated “sterling silver”, but not solid gold.
Identifying 18k Gold and a note about its color
We especially like 18k yellow gold as it possesses a rich, luxurious color that is ideal for everyday jewelry. We love the way it's warm hue works so easily with any hair coloring, skin tone or wardrobe palettes.
If you own a piece of jewelry that is 18k gold you can identify it by finding the metal purity mark on your piece. It will be marked with either 18k or 750, and these markings are required by law under guidelines issued by the Federal Trade Commission. Oftentimes, these markings on your jewelry can be quite small so you may need a magnifying glass or jewelry loupe to see them clearly.
All solid gold pieces from Monica Rich Kosann are marked 18k or 750.
Caring for 18k gold
Because of the high percentage of pure gold in 18k gold it will not tarnish over time. The best way to care for your gold piece is to buff it from time to time with a soft polishing cloth to remove common, everyday impurities and help keep it bright. If heavier dirt were to get in the patterns or crevices of your jewelry, rinsing it with warm water and a gentle soap can be a great solution to cleaning the piece.
If you are interested in exploring gold purity, markings or other information in greater detail, here is a short resource guide of government and industry sites we thought you might find interesting.
MJSA – Manufacturing and Jewelry Suppliers of America – an organization dedicated to helping those in the jewelry industry achieve professional excellence.
FTC – Federal Trade Commission – the government agency responsible for standards related to metal purity.
World Gold Council – a market development organization for the gold industry.