Most of us will never see a 24-karat bar of gold in our lifetimes. But most of us will buy a piece of gold jewelry for a loved one at one time or another. Thankfully pieces of gold jewelry are available at a wide range of prices, and even low-karat gold makes for a luxurious item.
Before shopping for an item of gold jewelry, it’s helpful to understand more about the purity of gold and how it affects the price point, so here is our golden guide:
What are Karats?
Gold is measured in karats. The unit of measurement, which is divided into 24 parts, tells you how pure the gold is. Pure gold is 24 karats, meaning all 24 parts are gold. But the actual gold content in a piece of gold can be much lower. Indeed, pure gold is too soft to be used for jewelry, which is why it is alloyed with other metals like silver, nickel, copper, palladium, and zinc to increase a piece’s strength and durability.
Other metals can also be added to enhance the color. The less gold that is in a specific piece, the lower karat it will have. So, the higher the karat number, the more gold there is.
How are Karats Used to Measure the Purity of Gold?
To work out the purity of different types of gold, you need only do some simple math. Firstly, you need to know what the karat of the gold is. You will find small numbers stamped on gold that refer to the karat. Let’s say you have a gold ring that is 14 karats.
The maximum number of karats gold can have is 24, so to find the ring’s gold purity, you simply divide the 14 karats by the number 24, which gives the number .583. That means your gold ring is 58.3% pure. Here is a look at the percentage of gold purity for various karats of gold:
· 9 karat = 37.5% purity.
· 10 karat = 41.7% purity.
· 12 karat = 50% purity.
· 18 karat = 75% purity.
· 22 karat = 91.7% purity.
Different Countries Predominantly Use Different Karats for Jewelry
Some countries tend to sell gold jewelry of a higher karat than others. For instance, in the US, most fine jewelry is made from 14 karat gold and 18 karat gold. But you can also pick up 10 karat gold for a much lower price. 10-karat is also sometimes seen in Europe, but practically never in Asia.
And 8-karat is the minimum accepted standard in Europe, but you will hardly ever find it in the US or Asia. 18-karat is the gold most predominantly used for jewelry in Europe and Asia.
How Does Gold Purity Affect the Price?
Quite simply, the purer a piece of gold is, the more it is worth. That doesn’t mean it is actually better because, as mentioned above, pure 24 karat gold is very soft and not as durable as lower karat gold. So, when it comes to finding jewelry for a loved one, you would not want a 24-karat piece even if you had the cash.
Typically, 24 karat gold takes the form of coins and bars and is only used for investment purposes. So, remember, the lower the karat, the less expensive the gold will be. And some of the best pieces of jewelry have a low karat because a lower karat means a more robust item.
*Photos by Olive Studio.