14k gold vs 18k gold

When you are shopping for fine jewelry or engagement rings, you will often come across the terms 10k gold, 14k gold, 18k gold or even 24k gold.

So, what do they mean and why should it matter to you?

In this article, we will address some of the differences between karat values and most common misconceptions people have about white/yellow gold settings.

Let’s Break Down the Purity Differences in 10k, 14k, 18k and 24k Gold

In the industry, the following karat marking system is universally used and understood. It represents the fineness of precious metal content (expressed in parts-per-thousand).

 
Karat Gold Purity Fineness
24k 100% 999
22k 91.6% 917
18k 75.0% 750
14k 58.3% 583
10k 41.7% 417
 

Karat Gold Purity Relationship Table

24 Karat (24k) Gold

Pure gold (100%), is sometimes referred to as 24 karat or 24k. It is free from other impurities and is a highly valued metal. Even though 24k gold doesn’t degrade or tarnish, it is very soft and malleable.

As a result, it is unsuitable for usage in many jewelry applications. After all, you don’t want to see an expensive diamond ring deform or severely scratched after wearing it only a couple of times.

Apart from traditional Chinese wedding day jewelry or collectible gold bars in the Asian markets, you will hardly see them being sold in other parts of the world.

The solution to making long lasting gold jewelry is to alloy it with other metals like silver, zinc, nickel (increase hardness), copper (to change its color). The percentage of alloying metals is reflected by the karat level and the most popular grades used are: 14k and 18k.

 
 

18 Karat (18k) Gold

18 karat (18k or 18kt ) gold consists of 75% gold and 25% alloy. In its raw form, 18k gold has a richer yellow tone compared to 14k due to the higher gold content. Although 18k gold is relatively softer than 14k gold, it is suitable for use in jewelry with proper care and some common sense.

18karat yellow beside 14karat yellow gold ring

Comparison of the same ring setting in 18 karat (left) vs 14 karat (right) gold.

14 Karat (14k) Gold

14 karat (14k or 14kt) gold consists of 58.3% gold and 41.7% alloy. In essence, the chemical composition is made up of 14 parts gold and 10 parts alloy. It is hardy and able to withstand moderate abuse during wear.

In my opinion, 14k gold provides the best balance of practicality, economics and aesthetics. Click here to view hundreds of beautiful engagement ring designs in 14k gold!

10 Karat (10k) Gold

10 karat (10k or 10kt) gold consists of 41.7% gold and 58.3% alloy. Interestingly, I find it funny that people label 10k as gold when the make up of gold is less than half the entire composition.

Because of the higher composition of alloys, 10k yellow gold jewelry is more susceptible to tarnishing compared to higher karat grades. This is one of the reasons why jewelers with stricter quality standards won’t use 10 karat gold or lower grades.

In terms of pricing, the discount you get with 10k gold is minimal when compared to 14k gold. However, the overall quality of the ring does take a significant hit when you go to lower karat grades.

 
 

Pros And Cons of Using 14k & 18k Yellow Gold

There are 2 school of thoughts between consumers when choosing between 18k and 14k gold.

Some jewelry businesses (think of the big brands) and individuals feel that 18k gold is more “prestigious” than 14k gold because of the higher gold content. To this group of people, any grade lower than 18k gold is generally frowned upon as “cheap”.

Having higher gold content means the wedding ring or jewelry item is going to cost much more. Besides being more expensive, 18 karat white/yellow gold is also softer than 14 karat gold. This means it undergoes wear and tear at a faster pace.

how much does a 18k yellow gold halo diamond ring cost
much less expensive 14k yellow gold halo diamond ring

Personally, I belong to the other camp of people who don’t get bothered by social stigmas and value practicality over what others think. The truth is, most people will never be able to tell 14k jewelry apart from 18k gold jewelry.

One of the downsides of 14k and 18k gold is that a small group of people may be allergic to the alloy materials. Nickel, a metal used to strengthen the material, can cause allergies or skin irritations (like red rashes).

The other downside of adding a higher composition of alloys is that the jewelry piece is more susceptible to tarnishing overtime. This affects both types of 14k and 18k gold. The severity of tarnishing also depends on body chemistry and the environment the jewelry is worn in.

That said, don’t let this information turn you off from 14 karat and 18 karat gold. The benefits far outweigh the cons of using 14k or 18k gold for your wedding band or engagement ring.

Both 14 karat and 18 karat gold rings offer consumers a much cheaper alternative compared to platinum. Check out the stunning diamond ring designs from James Allen here today!

What is 14k & 18k White Gold?

White gold was developed to imitate platinum (because platinum is very expensive!). Basically, it has similar properties to yellow gold and the same principles stated above are also applicable to them.

 
18K White Gold 14K White Gold
75% Gold 59% gold
10% Palladium 25.5% Copper
10% Nickel 12.3% nickel
5% Zinc 3.2% Zinc
 

White Gold Metal Composition Table

The main difference is that 14k and 18k white gold jewelry are electroplated to deposit a thin layer of rhodium onto their surface. This coating gives the finished jewelry a shiny, white protective coating that’s pleasing to the eye.

popular wg 14k ring designs and how much they are worth

Click here to browse more 14 karat white gold ring designs…

Note: the rhodium coating may wear off overtime and require a simple 30 minute maintenance routine (redipping) once every few years. This will make the engagement ring look as good as new.

What is 14k & 18k Rose Gold?

Rose gold is very versatile and considered to be a romantic metal because of its pinkish color. Due to the mechanical properties of the alloyed copper, rose gold yields a tougher material compared to white and yellow gold.

 
18K Rose Gold 14K RoseGold
75% Gold 59% gold
22% copper 31% copper
10% Nickel 3% silver
 

The specific recipe used is usually varied between vendors. 

By fine tuning the composition (sometimes to even include zinc), light peachy pink to dark rose gold wedding bands can be obtained. In essence, different tones of colors can be tailored to a consumer’s preferences.

rose gold vs yellow gold engagement ring
14 karat rose gold pave diamond wedding ring

Click here to browse more 14 karat rose gold ring designs…

Where to Buy Gold Wedding Rings And Diamond Engagement Rings?

Now that you have a better understanding of the various types of gold, it’s time to go shopping. In my opinion, the best places to buy gold wedding rings and diamond rings are James Allen and Enchanted Diamonds.

Both vendors offer huge selections of setting designs to choose from and showcase great craftsmanship on their finished rings. More importantly, the shopping process is convenient and the prices are very competitive.

Here’s a screenshot to show you what you can expect on James Allen’s website.

wedding bands in dfferent colors and materials

With video technology, you can see exactly what you are buying!


If you are shopping for an diamond engagement ring, James Allen is one of the best places to start browsing for diamonds. In fact, they offer 360° videos in HD that enables you to examine diamonds in every angle!

loose diamonds ideal excellent cutting

Try them out for yourself and you’ll be amazed at how intuitive the interface is!

Ultimately, It Boils Down to Individual Preferences!

So, which type of metals do you personally like the most?

Feel free to leave a comment below to let us know why. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Lastly, if you have any further questions on the different types of ring metals, you can also drop them below and I’ll help you out in a jiffy.

 

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25 Comments

  1. Finley-
    July 15, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    I think it would be useful for you to do a comparison between white gold vs yellow gold and rose gold vs yellow gold. For a consumer like me, I’m still not sure which is better.

  2. Paul Gian-
    July 16, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    Thanks! I updated the article to reflect some differences of white gold vs yellow gold. The main difference lies in its color. White gold has rhodium which makes it very white color in appearance. Most modern jewelry utilizes 14 karat or 18 karat whitegold.

    As for rose gold vs yellow gold, the main difference is also in color. One is pinkish red while the other is yellowish. In terms of physical properties, they are roughly the same. Rose gold is a little tougher because of the Cu content.

  3. Vick-
    July 17, 2016 at 7:05 am

    Does 14k gold value increase or decrease overtime? Also, when we compare 10k vs 14k gold, would it be easier to sell one or the other?

  4. Paul Gian-
    July 18, 2016 at 6:23 am

    It depends. I’m no economist who can predict future market trends in the world. As of now, gold is slowly increasing in value because of Brexit. It may take the next stock market crash to significantly increase the value of 14k gold or a boom in the economy to decrease what’s it is worth.

    To answer your 2nd question, it’s easier to sell 14k gold if you compare it to 10k gold. It’s worth more as well.

  5. Kevin-
    July 20, 2016 at 11:12 pm
  6. Paul Gian-
    July 21, 2016 at 6:32 am

    The melee quality is atrocious and 10k isn’t recommended for fine jewelry. I wouldn’t even considering touching this wedding band at all.

  7. Jacob-
    July 23, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    What’s the highest karat gold that’s possible? I know many types of bullion claim to sell 99.999% purity but is it possible to go up to 100%? If it isn’t, why not?

  8. Paul Gian-
    July 24, 2016 at 12:34 am

    The highest karat gold is 24k. This is largely due to the refining process as it isn’t possible to maintain a purity of 100% due to impurities or even micro level oxidation. So, to give the mints some wriggle room, the standard is set at 99.99%.

  9. Saul Pogba-
    July 24, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    How many carats is pure gold?

  10. Paul Gian-
    July 25, 2016 at 6:35 am

    I believe you mean “karats” and not “carats”. Pure Au is 24 karats.

  11. Lynette-
    July 27, 2016 at 11:16 am

    Can you do a comparison of platinum and white gold?

  12. Paul Gian-
    July 28, 2016 at 1:29 pm
  13. Byrne-
    August 1, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    Is 14k gold good for a tennis bracelet set with a mix of gemstones and diamonds? What is a good price I should pay for such a piece?

  14. Paul Gian-
    August 3, 2016 at 6:38 am

    Without knowing details of what constitutes the bracelet, it’s hard to give an estimate on costs and how much you should pay. You might want to refer to this article as well: http://beyond4cs.com/diamond-prices/

  15. Bennett-
    August 13, 2016 at 5:23 am

    I’m considering an engagement ring from Tiffany. Is 18k gold good enough or is platinum better? The 18k gold ring price is slightly cheaper than platinum by 1k.

  16. Paul Gian-
    August 15, 2016 at 9:40 am

    If you shop at Tiffany, you are already overpaying for brand premiums. As to which is better, 18k gold is good enough for me and I don’t see a need to go to platinum unless you like the denser weight or you are allergic to nickel. Also, as far as I know, most of Tiffany’s setting material is made of platinum. So, you want to double check details prior to purchasing.

  17. Daly-
    August 16, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    I have a 10k gold ring that was passed down to me by my parents and I want to sell it. I know the Au content is low but I want to know how much a 10 karat diamond ring is and where I can find a buyer for it.

  18. Paul Gian-
    August 17, 2016 at 6:42 am

    You can estimate the value of 10 karat Au here: http://www.livepriceofgold.com/australia-gold-price-per-gram.html

  19. Kenny-
    September 4, 2016 at 6:48 am

    In your opinion, how much is a 14k gold ring with diamonds worth if I were to buy it from a wholesaler? The design of the ring is identical to the Tiffany Soleste and has a EGL graded cushion cut diamond in it.

  20. Paul Gian-
    September 6, 2016 at 10:53 am

    Well, it’s anybody guess. It’s hard to say how much the piece is worth with vague information. What I can say with certainty is that an EGL diamond is a sure fire way for you to get ripped off and overpay.

    EGL is notorious for unreliable grading so much so that they got into trouble with the trading networks. It’s no wonder they have shut down now.

    My advice, avoid the ring completely. EGL benefits the jeweler and does not protect the interest of consumers.

  21. Rossi-
    September 14, 2016 at 6:52 am

    I know you advised against 10k white gold engagement rings. However, I’m trying to find a 10k gold men’s wedding band that’s durable and has milgrain corners to match my fiancée’s band that I had already purchased. Any recommendations?

  22. Paul Gian-
    September 15, 2016 at 6:56 am

    Go back to the jeweler where you bought your wife’s ring from. They should be able to match the design well.

  23. Catherine-
    September 27, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    What is your opinion on Vera Wang engagement rings?

    Thank you 🙂 Excellent website by the way!

  24. Paul Gian-
    September 28, 2016 at 1:15 am

    Somewhat unique ring designs at exorbitant price points. The main problem lies in the limited selection of center stones in which cut quality is generally mediocre by my standards.

  25. Leviticus Bennett-
    March 7, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    That’s really interesting how different metals are mixed together to make different colors of gold. I’m planning on proposing to my girlfriend later this month, so I’m getting ready to pick out a ring. I figured I should do some research before I start.

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