Understanding Gold Karat

Everybody has heard references to the particular karat a piece of gold jewellery is – but how many of you truly understand what this means? The official definition of the word karat is: a unit for measuring the purity of gold. Although it seems quite simple, the numbers associated with this can be confusing. Higher karat golds are more expensive than lower karats – but what makes 25 karat better than 14 karat? How does gold lose purity? Which karat is best for you? Before choosing a piece of jewellery, ensure you do your research and understand what the implications of differing karat values will mean for your piece.

Pure Gold – 24kt

Pure gold is 24kt and is often reserved for gold bullions, display or ceremonial pieces. Pure gold is a very soft material and is considered too malleable to be used for fine jewellery. A piece of 100% gold will lose particles if handled consistently and may also lose its shape. Due to the extremely soft nature of pure gold, different metals are added to create a stronger, longer-lasting piece – essentially rendering the material an alloy.


22 Karat Gold – Top of the Range

Different karat ratings allow you to know the percentage of pure gold and added materials. 1 unit karat of gold is 1/24 part, therefore something that is 22kt gold is 22/24 parts gold with the remaining 2 parts made from either, silver, copper or zinc. High-quality fine jewellery is usually made from 22kt gold. The choice of metal that is mixed with the gold will effect price and colour. Rings made from 22kt gold alloyed with silver is considered to be the best available due to its strength and colour. Gold laced with copper will normally take on a redder tint compared to the more desirable yellow of the silver alloyed style. Even though 22kt is strengthened with its added materials, this karat of gold is the softest in jewellery. As 22kt gold is still quite soft, these pieces may wear down through overuse or poor care. Ensure you care for the integrity of your gold by avoiding overuse or harsh cleaners which may affect the materials.

How the Rest Compare

The most popular karat of gold is 18kt as the 75% pure gold 25% other metal combination makes for a strong and beautiful material. This karat is most commonly used in ring design as it is sturdy enough to safely hold gemstones and diamonds. 14 karat gold is still more than 50% pure gold making it moderately priced as well as remaining strong like its 18kt counterpart. The lowest karat of gold available in Australia is 9 karat. 9kt gold is only 37.5% gold, with the remaining 62.5% comprised of other metals. This is the cheapest karat of jewellery available due to its low gold content.

Disadvantages of Lower Karat Gold

Although you may be inclined to go the cheaper option when choosing jewellery, be aware that with lower purity, there are more chances of tarnishing. Due to the high percentage of secondary metals like copper and silver, a lower karat piece will tarnish badly over time without proper care. Copper laced pieces are especially vulnerable to this as copper will often tarnish a very obvious green or black. People with sensitive skin may also have problems with lower karat gold as any pieces mixed with copper or nickel can affect the skin.

When you are looking at purchasing a piece of gold jewellery it is important to understand the differences between each karat. If you require a sturdy piece for a wedding ring, consider an 18kt gold or if you want an inexpensive gift try the 9kt. Just as with many things in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to gold. Take into account your budget, the purpose of the jewellery as well as any stylistic preferences you have. Understanding karat will ensure you choose the right gold for you.