Many of us have come across the term “karat” in relation to gold. This term originated from the German gold coin named “mark” and was common in the 19th century. Before investing or purchasing any new jewelry pieces, it is very important to understand gold karats and what they mean. The karat of jewelry defines its value and quality and by knowing more about how different golds are formed and what that means for their worth can give you a useful insight when you are planning to purchase a jewelry.
What Are Karats?
A karat is a number stamped on a piece of gold in the format of “xxKT” or “xxK” and it refers to the type of gold and to the actual gold content in a piece of jewelry. One karat is equal to 200 milligrams for example a 5 karat stone will weigh 1 gram. The higher the karat the more expensive the jewelry will be, have you wondered why?
The gold used for bracelets, watches, rings, necklaces etc, is rarely 100 percent pure gold, usually it comes in a variety of different purity levels. A 24 karat is the pure gold that hasn’t been mixed with any other metals therefore is the highest possible karat. Even though pure gold is more valuable it’s rarely used for jewelry pieces because of its softness, malleability and tendency to scratch
Which karat is the best?
When buying a jewelry item it is very important to consider what type you will be choosing and which karat is best suited to it. We all would love to have pure 24K gold but it is also extremely soft and malleable. These characteristics are not conducive to daily wear, which is why designs add different metals to the mix in order to make gold more durable. There are many karat variations but the most common gold karats used in jewelry are:
24K Gold (contains 24 parts gold)
As mentioned above, the 24 karat gold is 100% pure gold and doesn’t have any other metal mixed. It has a distinct bright yellow color and in comparison to other karats is more expensive.
22K Gold (contains 22 parts gold and 2 parts of another metal)
In the 22 karat gold, 22 parts of the metal are gold and the 2 other parts are of metals like zinc, nickel, silver and other alloys. Mostly it is used in making jewellery and is also known as 91.67% pure gold.
18K Gold (contains 18 parts gold and 6 parts of another metal)
18 karat is the most traditional mix of gold and other metals. In comparison to 14K, the 18K pieces tend to have a deeper yellow tone and because of the higher gold content it will also yield a higher price.
14K Gold (contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts of another metal)
This type of gold was created to make a gold piece more affordable at the expense of having less gold. 14K contains 58.3 percent gold and its strength is a good fit for necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets.
12K Gold (contains 12 parts gold and 12 parts of another metal)
Is composed of 50 percent gold and 50 percent alloy. Is more durable and more affordable than the higher purity alternatives. It won’t be as shiny as the higher purity types because of the alloy content. For some individuals it can irritate the skin.
10K Gold (contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts of another metal)
10K gold jewelry has 41.7 percent pure gold and the rest is a mixture of metal alloys, including nickel, silver and copper. This type of gold is very durable because it contains more metal alloy than pure gold.
How can you tell if gold is real?
Gold is one the most valuable type of jewelry on the planet and because of its value, inexpensive jewelry can be made in order to look more expensive if it appears to contain gold (even if that gold is fake). One way to check if the gold that you are purchasing is real is to look for a hallmark. The hallmark is a small stamp that indicates the gold’s karat weight. In the United States, the hallmark number is a fraction of 24. This means a hallmark of 12 karat means that 50% of the jewelry is gold. While in Europe, you will see a number between .000 and 1.000. The number 1.000 means that the jewelry is 100% gold – pure gold.
Another way to find if the gold is real is to look for a letter mark. If the jewelry has the letters GF, GEP and GP stamped on it, this means that it isn’t made of real gold. GF – means it is gold-filled, GEP – means it is gold electroplate and GP – means it is gold plated. So, the jewelry is made of some other metal with a thin layer of gold on top.
You can also gently drop the jewelry into the water. And if your gold jewelry floats it means that it is not real gold because real gold will not float, it is a heavy metal. In case that you notice rust or tarnishing after being in the water, this is also a sign that it isn’t real gold because gold doesn’t rust or tarnish. With the help of a magnet, you can look if the gold on your jewelry is real or not. Gold is not magnetic but you should be aware that you might get a reaction from the jewelry if the gold is blended with magnetic materials.
A test that you can do involves scratching your gold jewelry. By using an unglazed ceramic tile, gently rub your jewelry against the tile until you see fragments of gold flaking off. In case that it leaves a gold streak, there is a possibility that your jewelry is real gold. And if it leaves a black mark that means that the gold is fake.