If you're in the market to buy gold jewellery, it pays to understand the lingo. 10K, 14K, 18K, 22K, 24K — it's all Greek to many, but knowing the difference between the types of gold karats is key to picking the right pieces for your tastes and needs.
Differences between Karat and Carat
Karat — spelled with a "K"—refers to the measurable purity of gold, while carat — spelled with a "C" — refers to the measurable size of a gemstone, such as a diamond.
A 24-karat gold jewellery piece is 100% pure gold. 22K comes in at 91.67%, 18K at 75%, 14K at 58.3%, and 10K at 41.7%. Put simply, the higher the karat number, the more pure gold is present in the metal. Anything other than 24K is mixed with other metals (usually nickel, silver, copper, or zinc) to make a stronger, more durable alloy. The mix of metals also affects the colour of the finished piece; the higher the karat, the more saturated and rich the yellow colour.
What are the Differences Between Each Type of Gold Karat?
What type of gold is right for me? 14K vs 18K — which is better? Both are common choices for gold jewellery. What about 22K vs 24K? All great questions. Here’s the lowdown:
24K gold is the real deal — the purest form of gold you can buy. In terms of colour, 24K gold offers the warmest, most buttery saturated hue — it practically glows against the skin. But don't forget, despite its purity, 24K gold lacks one key thing: strength. Pure gold is so soft that it's particularly prone to scratches and dents, often with little pressure. For this reason, most 24K gold pieces tend to be simple; think bars, coins, simplistic rings, and other collection pieces.
Still radiantly yellow, 22K gold is notably brighter and sparklier than much lower karats. It's also somewhat more sturdy and less prone to damage versus 24K gold. But compared to 18K and 14K gold, it is still far more pliable and malleable.
Measured up against 24K gold, 22K jewellery sports a far greater market variety, albeit still less than its lower-karat counterparts. And since 22K gold is mostly pure gold, expect hefty prices!
18K gold sits right in the middle of the gold purity spectrum. At 75% purity, it's a good mix of strength, colour saturation, and affordability. Plus, given that 18K gold is almost pure, there's little chance of metal allergy triggers.
This type of gold karat makes a great choice for one-of-a-kind pieces, like special necklaces and medallions, or statement jewellery. 18K gold is also a hot option for engagement and wedding jewellery — its blend of consistent hardiness and good resale value make it the ideal choice for couples seeking a lasting symbol of their commitment. It often comes in timeless white gold and modern, romantic rose gold colourways.
At 14K, you'll find a lovely yellow hue, with a hint of an orange cast. 14K gold is a little less saturated and intense versus 18K gold, making it a versatile option that goes with most outfits and skin tones.
Although its lower gold content helps make it more durable and affordable (it was introduced as a solution to rising gold prices, after all), 14K gold is also more likely to trigger allergies or irritate sensitive skins.
10K gold is one of the lowest pure form of gold you can find; it's 41.7% pure, with the rest composed of base metals and alloys. While this makes 10K gold tougher and more durable than its counterparts, it also makes it less vibrant and lustrous. Its dull yellow cast is something you either like or don't — some appreciate its subtlety, while most remain drawn to the more vibrant gold hues associated with a 14K or 18K gold piece.
No, it's not what a gold purist would pick, but this type of gold karat has its uses, especially for people who prefer a more cost-friendly option. Because of its low gold content, 10K gold jewellery is usually available at the most affordable price compared to other gold grades.
Your choice of gold karat ultimately hinges on your own style and requirements. Prefer a lustrous, high-quality, and pure metal? Higher karats — such as 18K and 24K — are your best bet. Or if sturdier and more resilient jewellery are your thing, 14K or 10K gold will do the job just fine.
Keep in mind that all these types of gold karats — 10K, 14K and 18K yellow gold — can be transformed into white gold or rose gold through alloyed metals. To learn more, check out our Metal Education page.
Show your commitment to style, sophistication, and luxury with a stunning gold jewellery piece from Diamond & Platinum. From white gold to rose gold and platinum, there's something for everyone in our expansive collection. Find your perfect piece today.