Differences Between 10k vs 14k vs 18k Gold (Karat)

14k gold vs 18k gold

If you are shopping for fine jewelry or engagement rings, you will probably come across the terms 10k gold, 14k gold, 18k gold or even 24k gold when selecting a setting.

So, what do these terms mean and how does it matter to you?

In this article, we will address some of the key differences between karat (k) values and common misconceptions people have. Also, we will do a comparison between 10k vs 14k and 14k vs 18k gold.

Let’s dive in…

Overview – What is Karat? (Chart Reference)
What is 24 Karat (24k) Gold?
What is 18 Karat (18k) Gold?
What is 14 Karat (14k) Gold?
What is 10 Karat (10k) Gold?
10k vs 14k Gold – What Are the Differences and Which is Better?
14k vs 18k Gold – What Are the Differences and Which is Better?
Where to Buy High Quality Gold Jewelry?
What’s the Best Type of Gold to Buy?

Overview – What is Karat? (Chart Reference)

Karat is a term used to describe the purity content of gold in a piece of jewelry. One of the most common mistakes people make is to confuse karat (gold purity) with carat (diamond weight). Just remember this; one is spelled with a “k” and the other with a “c”.

In the industry, the following gold karat chart 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 Reference Table

What is 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.

24k gold jewelry chinese wedding bridal gifts

Apart from traditional Chinese wedding jewelry or collectible gold bars that are very popular 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.

What is 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.

The main difference between 18k vs 14k yellow gold is in price. In terms of physical appearance, 18kt yellow gold may appear with a more saturated hue compared to 14kt yellow gold.

What is 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!

What is 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.

 
 

10k vs 14k Gold – What Are the Differences and Which is Better?

From a technical point of view, the differences between 10k vs 14k gold lies in their ratio of gold purity. Here’s a little trivia: 10k gold is 41.7% gold and this is the lowest ratio for a metal to be considered “gold” in the US.

As a consumer, you will probably be more interested about the practical differences between these 2 metals. Obviously, 10kt is going to cost less than 14kt as the alloying metals used are generally cheaper.

If you have owned gold jewelry before or have a keen eye, you might notice that 10k pieces look a tad paler compared to 14k. This is due to the lesser gold content used in 10k. On this note, I also want to point out that 10k jewelry are more likely to cause skin irritation to people with a nickel allergy.

The other key difference between 10 karat and 14 karat gold is their usage in jewelry manufacturing. If you are buying fine jewelry or a diamond ring, the lowest karat metal that most businesses offer for their settings would be 14kt. On the other hand, 10kt gold is usually used in less prestigious jewelry pieces.

Between 10k vs 14k gold, I would choose the latter as my choice of metal when buying jewelry. To me, 14 kt gold represents a sweet spot that balances value for money and practicality.

14k vs 18k Gold – What Are the Differences and Which is Better?

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

There are jewelry businesses (think of the big brands) and elites who feel that 18k gold is more “prestigious” than 14k gold because of the higher gold content. To these groups of people, any grade lower than 18k gold would be 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 is more susceptible to wear and tear.

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 think 14k is better. This is because I don’t get bothered by social stigmas and I 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 vulnerable 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. If you want to see some stunning diamond ring designs,  check out James Allen!

Where to Buy High Quality Gold Jewelry?

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 high quality gold wedding rings and diamond jewelry are online retailers like James Allen and Blue Nile.

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. The 360° HD videos in every of their listings enable you to scrutinize 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!

What’s the Best Type of Gold to Buy?

The differences between 10k vs 14k vs 18k are very hard to see with the naked eye and most people simply can’t tell them apart. Ultimately, the best type of gold to buy boils down to your personal needs and preferences.

All of them make are great options for engagement ring but my personal pick would be 14kt as it offers an good balance of cost versus usability. And if you can afford the budget, 18kt is an option that offers a little more luxury.

So, which type of metals do you 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.

If you are searching for high quality jewelry at competitive pricing, Blue Nile and James Allen are 2 fantastic retailers to check out. They offer a wide range of designs catering to all types of budget.

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23 Comments

  1. Finley-
    July 15, 2017 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, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Thanks! You can find out the differences of white gold vs yellow gold in this webpage. 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 white gold.

    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-
    August 16, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    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-
    August 21, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    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 14kt gold compared it to 10kt gold. It’s worth more as well.

  5. Kevin-
    September 1, 2017 at 1:02 am
  6. Paul Gian-
    September 2, 2017 at 2:56 am

    The melee quality is atrocious and 10k isn’t recommended for fine jewelry. The quality is so terrible, I wouldn’t even considering touching this piece of junk with a stick.

  7. Jacob-
    October 12, 2017 at 9:30 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-
    October 13, 2017 at 5:44 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-
    November 2, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    How many carats is pure gold?

  10. Paul Gian-
    November 3, 2017 at 2:41 am

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

  11. Bennett-
    December 12, 2017 at 12:09 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.

  12. Paul Gian-
    December 14, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    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.

  13. Daly-
    January 27, 2018 at 3:01 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.

  14. Paul Gian-
    January 28, 2018 at 9:01 pm

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

  15. Kenny-
    February 4, 2018 at 4:44 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. The 18k vs 14k yellow gold ring of the same design is only a difference of $280 and I’m not sure whether it is worth it to upgrade to a better specification.

  16. Paul Gian-
    February 6, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    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.

    As for the differences between 14k vs 18k yellow gold rings, it is more of a psychological factor. In reality, both metals are very much alike.

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

  17. Rossi-
    March 9, 2018 at 1:00 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 fiancee’s band that I had already purchased. Any recommendations?

  18. Paul Gian-
    March 12, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    Go back to the jeweler where you bought your wife’s ring from. They should be able to match the design. Most jewelers who actually deal in 10k products don’t offer quality that matches the standards I expect. That’s why I am hesitant to make recommendations.

  19. Catherine-
    April 1, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    What is your opinion on Vera Wang engagement rings?

    Thank you :) Excellent website by the way!

  20. Paul Gian-
    April 3, 2018 at 1:45 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.

  21. Leviticus Bennett-
    May 22, 2018 at 10:07 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.

  22. Chris-
    July 13, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks for the article! While the vast majority of white gold rings are rhodium plated to get that finished white look, there are jewelers that use different alloys in their white gold (I’m guessing a higher % of palladium) to get white color without the need for rhodium plating. The ring has a slightly different look to rhodium-plated white gold (less bright) so it might not be everyone’s taste, but personally I think it looks great.

    I didn’t like the thought of rhodium plating because it feels like you’re paying a lot for gold, and then covering it with another metal (even if rhodium is very expensive..). I also didn’t like the thought of having to re-plate the rhodium every few years.

  23. Paul Gian-
    July 16, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    Thanks for your comment. I guess different people would have different tastes. In your case, you might want to consider platinum as it should give a better finishing to what you are looking for and saves you hassle of maintaining a WG ring.

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