What is Gold Purity and How is it Measured? Comparing 24k, 22k, 18k, 14k, 12k, and 10k Gold

POSTED ON January 26, 2020
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Almost all of us, at some point or the other, have been to a gold shop. And if you’ve looked at the pricing, you’re probably familiar with the term ‘karat.’ Anywhere you go to buy gold, it’s the first word you’ll hear. The price of gold increases with the number of karats. But why does that happen?

To answer it simply, karat means gold. More exactly, it’s the term used to denote the purity of gold – or the percentage of a metal that is composed of actual gold. The higher the karats, the more gold you have.

When you break it down, karats and gold purity isn’t too difficult. In this article, we’ll cover all the important things you should know about the purity of gold and how it affects the value of your jewelry.

What is a karat?

A karat is the unit used to measure the purity of gold. The higher the karats, the purer the gold.

How do I know the purity of my gold?

Most jewelry has the purity imprinted on it somewhere. If want to know the purity of your gold, search for a small impression on it. A stamp of a 10, 12, 14, 18, 20, 22, or 24 would be the most common. That tiny number represents the karat measure.

If you can’t find (or read) the imprint on the gold, then it’s not quite so easy to find the value of your gold. To do that, you’ll need to perform a chemical test to determine the purity. There are at-home testing kits you can purchase to measure the purity of your gold. If you’d rather not trust that, you can take it to a local pawn shop or gold buyer to test for you. They’ll let you know the results of the test, and then of course make you an offer for your gold.

If you send your gold in to us, we’ll test it for you and provide a quote too. If you’re interested, request a kit today.

What are the most popular gold karat purities produced?

Gold is produced in fairly standard measures of purity. Let’s take a look at the common purity measures and what that means for their purity and price. Here are the details of the different gold karats you should know.

24k-gold-bars
Gold bars are typically 24k, or 99.9% pure gold

24 karat (24k) gold

24 Karat gold is the highest purity of gold. In other words, this is 100% gold. That’s why it’s the most popular if you’re looking to purchase gold for investment purposes. It is the most expensive gold type you will find in the market.

The story is different for jewelry. Real gold can be easily bent and scratched. That is why you shouldn’t wear 24k gold as daily jewelry (plus if you lose it, it’s very expensive to replace).

22 karat (22k) gold

22 Karat gold is 92% gold and the other 8% consists of alloyed metals, and thus is worth about 92% of the spot price of gold. The added alloys make the gold much more durable than pure gold. However, you still need to take care of it because it is the softest form of mixed gold.

18 karat (18k) gold

The 18 Karat gold consists of 75% gold and 25% alloyed metals. This is the most common type of gold. 18k gold can be easily identified because of its deep yellowish tone when compared to lower purities of gold. Its inherent value is 75% of the spot price of gold.

18k gold is mostly used to make the highest quality jewelry. This mix of gold and alloys gives the jewelry its vibrant, gold color while still being strong and durable. It’s frequently used for wedding bands and engagement rings.

14 karat (14k) gold

14 Karat gold is made of 58% gold and 42% alloyed metals and is worth 58% of the spot price of gold.People often purchase 14k gold because of its durability, being more resistant to wear and tear than 22k and 18k gold. 14k gold is considered to be the best for daily use. Many rings, bracelets, and necklaces are made of 14k gold. The lower purity also makes it less expensive than the other gold purities.

12 karat (12k) and 10 karat (10k) gold

Anything less than 14k gold is often called “discount gold” and contains only half actual gold (in the case of 12k) or less. Due to the presence of other metals, they are more suspectable to rusting (although this can be repaired) and are just overall lower quality.

If you have 12k and 10k gold, you’ll find they are worth much less than you might expect when you see high prices for gold. In reality, 12k gold only contains 50% actual gold, while 10k gold contains 41.7% gold.

How much are 14k, 18k, 22k, and 24k gold worth?

Let’s say you have an old wedding band that weighs 8 grams, but it’s 18k gold. Companies won’t pay you for 8 grams of gold. They’ll pay you 8 grams multiplied by .75 (75%) – the purity of 18k gold. So, it’s 6 grams of actual gold.

price of gold rings

If the price of gold is $1500/ounce. 8 grams is equivalent to .282192 ounces (gold is frequently priced in ounces, so doing a unit conversion here is helpful). Here is the formula for calculating the value of gold:

Formula: (weight)*(purity)*(price of gold) = value

This would make the inherent value of the same 8-gram gold ring with 24k, 22k, 18k, and 14k gold purities the following:

8 grams of 24k gold:

(.282192)*(1)*(1500) = $423.29

8 grams of 22k gold:

(.282192)*(1)*(1500) = $388.01

8 grams of 18k gold:

(.282192)*(.75)*(1500) = $317.47

8 grams of 14k gold:

(.282192)*(.58)*(1500) = $245.51

You can also try our gold value calculator to make your life easier, as it does all the math for you!

As you can see, karats matter a lot from a pricing perspective. Whenever you are buying or selling gold or gold jewelry, you need to check the karats. The cost and durability of gold are all dependent on the purity of gold.

Is having pure gold more important?

When it comes to gold, purer does not mean prettier or more attractive. It only means more expensive. It’s actually worse to have pure gold or 22k gold if you want it for everyday use. So, choosing the right purity depends on how you want to use the gold.

If you want to wear gold, then you need to mix it with alloy metal. This makes the gold jewelry stronger and more durable. Pure gold cannot be used for jewelry making as it will not last. It will easily break and bend. The best type of gold to wear is 14k as it contains just the right amount of gold and alloy. Plus, 14k gold is much cheaper than 24k gold. If you’re after a balance of quality and durability, 18k gold might be the best option for you.

What does that mean if you’re looking to sell your scrap gold jewelry? It means if you don’t know the purity of your gold, it’s most likely that you have 14k gold. It could even be lower purities like 12k or 10k (or it might not be real gold at all).

purity of gold jewelry

Jewelry pieces like rings are worn every day. Therefore, they need to be extremely durable so that they don’t break and fall off. The lower the karats, the stronger the ring will be. To recap, here are some differences between higher and lower karats:

1. Lower karat means stronger jewelry whereas higher karat gold means softer.

2. Lower karat gold is not as resistant to tarnishing as higher karat gold.

3. Lower karat gold is not worth as much. Higher karat gold is more valuable because it is purer.

4. Higher karat gold comes with a more yellowish tone.

Colors of Gold 

The color of gold varies depending on the gold content. For example, 18k gold has a deep yellowish color due to the high gold content in it. 24 karat gold is pure gold and therefore, has a natural warm color that cannot be changed. If you want to change the color, you do so by selecting certain alloys to mix with the gold, thus lowering the purity of the gold.

Depending on the composition of the metal alloy, different varieties of gold can be created. Here are a few common ones:

1. Pink Gold – Pink or rose gold is made by adding more copper.

2. Green Gold – Green gold is made by adding more silver and zinc.

3. White Gold – White gold is made by adding more palladium or nickel.

Final Thoughts & Requesting an Appraisal

When it comes to selling your gold, jewelers and pawn shops price what you bring in based on the actual gold content within the piece. In most cases, they aren’t buying the pieces for how they look, but rather looking at the “melt value”. In other words, if the piece was melted down to pure gold, how much would be left?

That’s why karats are so important, as we saw in the earlier pricing example. It’s also why it’s so important to understand if you have broken gold jewelry, if it’s 14k gold, you’re actually looking at prices that are 58% of the price of gold you see in the news.

If you are looking at gold jewelry, then it’s likely the gold is between 10k and 18k.

If you have gold for investment purposes, then 22k and 24k purities are the best options.

Are you interested in selling your gold? At Cash for Gold Mailer, we offer fully-insured FedEx shipping to our customers. Let us quickly and safely send you a gold pack for so can send your items to us. We’ll test all the gold, appraise it, and send you an offer for your unwanted gold. Request a pack now!