Karat Gold or Gold Purity – Whats the difference

Karat Gold or Gold Purity

Karat gold – what does 14 karat, or 14k mean? How is karat gold different from gold purity? I get asked these questions quite often and thought I may as well just write this article so you could read and share it with your friends.

Lets start with Karats and what they are, 24 karat is 99.9 pure gold and means that something that is stamped 24k would be just that 99.9% pure, HOWEVER its very seldom you will see something stamped as 24k, you will more likely see 99.9 and it will typically be on a gold coin or bar. 99.9 or 24k gold is generally too soft for jewelry and not often used in the United States for gold jewelry. They way to understand what 10k, 14k, 18k and 22k means we will simply do some math starting with 24k and 99.9% (we use 100% for the math purposes) as the starting point.

Karat Gold

14 karat gold jewelry

100 divided by 24 = 4.16, this mean that each “karat” is 4.16% gold, so for 10k we would multiply 4.16 x 10 = 41.6% gold in a 10k ring, or bracelet or charm etc. In all karat type gold we have to always account for 24k, so whats up with the rest you ask? We can look at it this way, 10k gold is 10 parts gold and 14 parts “other stuff” (usually silver, copper, chrome, maybe palladium etc) and will always add up to 24k. So if we take 14k gold, it will be 14 x 4.16 = 58.3% gold, or 14 parts gold and 10 parts “other stuff”…..any questions? (see below :-))

  • 1k = 4.16% gold = 1 part gold and 23 parts NOT gold
  • 8k = 33.28% gold (sometimes marked as .333) = 8 parts gold and 16 parts NOT gold
  • 10k = 41.6% gold = 10 parts gold and 14 parts NOT gold
  • 12k = 50% gold = 12 parts gold and 12 parts NOT gold
  • 14k = 58.3% gold = 14 parts gold and 10 parts NOT gold
  • 18k = 75% gold (sometimes marked as .750) = 18 parts gold and 6 parts NOT gold
  • 22k = 91.6% gold = 22 parts gold and 2 parts NOT gold
  • 24k = 99.9% gold = 24 parts gold and 0 parts NOT gold

There is the 1906 “Gold and Silver Stamping Act” that make it mandatory to stamp silver and “gold” jewelry and in the USA jewelry CANNOT be less that 10k and be sold as “gold jewelry”. One of  the major problems with the law was that there were a lot of manufacturers who would “Underkarat” their jewelry in some cases by up to 1 1/2 karats LOW (over 6%) in 1976 the law was amended to ensure that all manufacturers abide by the laws and that the tolerance can not exceed 3/1000 parts less than stamped value. A 14k gold ring from pre 1976 could in fact be as low as 12 1/2 karat 🙁

Gold Purity

Gold purity is based on percentages

Gold Purity – whats the difference between gold purity and karat gold?

Karat gold is a term that identifies a man made jewelry alloy that has a certain percentage of gold (see above) and is NOT typically used when identifying “the purity of gold nuggets or gold dust”. I see people call gold nuggets “22k” but the problem with that is that 22k is 91.6% pure gold alloy that is man made and SHOULD NOT be used when identifying the purity of raw gold. Karat gold is governed by the 1906 law and is used mainly for the jewelry industry.

Gold purity (or fineness) is used for natural gold and is usually just given as a percentage figure, for example “85.21% fine” and the other elements are not typically taken into account (unless its silver) for refining or sales purposes.

When you are selling natural gold there are MANY factors to take into consideration that will be covered in other articles and posts. Some natural gold is worth many more times the “spot” value of gold on the market and some is only worth spot value. When in doubt make sure you deal with someone who knows the natural gold market.

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