Rose Gold, White Gold, Yellow Gold

How to Choose the Right Gold: 10K, 14K, 18K and 24K Compared

In this article we will discuss the different types of gold used in jewelry and how to choose the right one for your occasion. Understanding the differences in purity, the characteristics of each alloy, and their relative costs will help you in selecting the right gold for your project, depending on the type of jewelry item you are shopping for. Engagement rings and wedding rings tend to have a different threshold of gold quality for most shoppers. Fully understanding your options and their various pros and cons is the key to making a great purchase.
18k White Gold Legato Sleek Line Pave Diamond Engagement Ring
18k White Gold Legato Sleek Line Pave Diamond Engagement Ring
14k White Gold Flower Cluster Diamond Pendant
14k White Gold Flower Cluster Diamond Pendant
Many shoppers for engagement rings and wedding bands prefer the higher purity of 18K gold. The sleek and ever popular Legato engagement ring is pictured above in white gold. The White Gold Flower Cluster is a bright and shining example of a 14K fashion piece.

Gold Price Calculator

% of Gold
Cost per Gram
$ 60.71
$ 45.54
$ 35.42
$ 25.30
The chart above is based on the spot gold per ounce being $1,800 and provides a quick glance at the base cost per gram of the alloy purities most commonly used in the jewelry industry. This is the raw cost of the gold in the alloy just for the sake of comparison. Bear in mind that the actual cost of a piece of jewelry includes labor, design, and retail markup.
In this article we will take you through the basics of understanding your precious metal choices. We will explain the terminology, calculations, and characteristics of each type of gold enabling you to make an informed choice. We will cover the following aspects:
To help with your selection if you are purchasing a diamond engagement ring, see selections below of very popular styles from some of the finest designer brands in the market.

How is Gold Purity Measured - Karat vs. Carat

The purity of gold is usually expressed in terms of “karat”, commonly confused with gem weight which is expressed in ‘carats’ (1/5 gram), abbreviated “ct”. Karat is a traditional expression of gold purity with 24 Karat (24K) being 100% pure gold. 18K gold is 18/24 th’s pure or 75%, 14K is 14/24th’s and so on. The higher the karat the more pure gold is in the piece. That portion which is not gold is usually a mixture of other metals such as copper, nickel, and silver. Gold mixed with other metals is referred to as an ‘alloy’ and each alloy has it’s own characteristics in terms of color, malleability, heft and brittleness.
Generally speaking the non-gold metals in a gold alloy are less expensive, harder, and lighter than gold. They also can change the color of the alloy. Pure gold is yellow, but alloys can be white, pink (rose gold), or other colors depending on the exact content of the mix.

Is All Jewelry Made of Pure Gold?

Some people are surprised to find out that engagement rings and most other types of gold jewelry are NOT made with pure gold. In fact, many contain only about half pure gold or less. The primary reason for this is that pure gold is very soft and is not suitable for everyday wear and tear. Pure gold is the most malleable and ductile of all elements. As such it is easily scratched, bent, and deformed. Pure gold is therefore particularly unsuited for setting diamonds and gemstones.
Secondly, pure gold is very heavy so larger pieces would be uncomfortable to wear and would add significantly to the price. 24K gold contains almost twice the amount of gold as 14K, making 14k a more affordable and popular choice.
18k Yellow Gold A. Jaffe ME1689 Classics Solitaire Engagement Ring
18k Yellow Gold A. Jaffe ME1689 Classics Solitaire Engagement Ring
And lastly, the color of pure gold is a very rich yellow. Most people seem to like a more subtle golden color that is very bright. White gold (an alloy that contains nickel, silver or palladium) is particularly well suited to diamond jewelry enhancing the icy white brilliance of the gemstones.
Some Asian markets do sell items made of 22k - 24k gold, usually neck chains and bracelets, and have a thriving trade. Thailand for example is well known for its “baht” chain. Consumers both buy and sell these chains in the shops when the price of gold is high, or when they need cash, as the value is pinned closely to the daily ‘spot’ price of gold. Baht chain is normally about 23k or about 96% pure.

What’s the Difference between 10K, 14K, 18K AND 24K Gold?

As we have seen, gold purity is typically expressed by its karat designation and is based on the ratio of non gold metals making up the alloy. In addition to some 24K gold, the most common alloys used in jewelry are 22K, 18K, 14K, and 10K. You will sometimes see 12K and 9K gold. 9K was a popular alloy in the past representing an affordable price point for gold jewelry.
Gold content is also expressed in parts per thousand and is known as “fineness” or Millesimal Fineness. 18K gold which is 75% gold would therefore have a fineness of 750.

Gold Purity Chart

US / Karats
% of Gold
Gold jewelry comes in different purities. There is no ‘best’ gold type, only the one that is best for your purposes as a consumer. Some shoppers prefer the most pure alloy available that still gives them the durability they need for everyday wear. Often, that purity is 18K for high-end fine jewelry, which is 75% pure gold. A very popular jewelry standard is 14K gold at 58.3% pure and has the hardness to stand up well to daily wear and tear. 10K gold is 41.7 percent pure and was formerly a popular standard for its hardness and affordability.
Here are some pros and cons of different types of gold:

Advantages and Disadvantages of 18K Gold

Advantages: As pure as possible while still practical, looks great
Disadvantages: Expensive and less resistant to scratches
18 karat gold is your best all-around gold choice for engagement rings and other fine jewelry. With gold making up 18 of the 24 parts in the alloy, 18K has a gold purity of 75%, or a fineness of 750 (you will sometimes see a purity stamp of 750 instead of 18K).
It has the rich yellow coloration traditionally associated with gold, and is very malleable and easily worked. The 25% non-gold elements in 18K gold give it good hardness. And because pure gold is non-allergenic, the purity of 18k makes it unlikely to cause any skin irritation, even to sensitive wearers.
Overall, 18K is an excellent gold alloy that looks great, has a nice heft to it, and is suitable for everyday wear.
18k White Gold Verragio INS-7074R Braided 3 Stone Engagement Ring
18k White Gold Verragio INS-7074R Braided 3 Stone Engagement Ring
Many high-end designers use only higher karat gold and platinum for their bridal lines. The outstanding Verragio engagement ring above is an example of superb design and craftsmanship in 18k white gold.
Disadvantages of 18K are few, but these should be kept in mind. Since it has a high content of pure gold which is very soft, those who are very active with their hands might be inclined to go for a harder alloy to avoid some wear and tear. For the same reason 18k is less scratch resistant than 14K. 18K has good overall strength but will probably need to be repolished more frequently than some other alloys. For styles that have a lot of smooth surfaces, scratches may be more noticeable than styles with a lot of fine detail. Many people actually like the patina that develops over time from micro-scratches and is one of the things that gives platinum its unique charm.
18K is also more expensive than less pure alloys so it may not be the best choice for those on a tight budget.
Overall, 18K is a great choice when it comes to fine gold jewelry. But there may be better choices for those who are very hard on their jewelry or are looking to economize their budget.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 14K Gold

Advantages: A great mix of purity, durability and value for money
Disadvantages: More expensive than 10K gold, but still fairly affordable
14 karat gold is made up of 58.3% gold and 41.7% alloy, or 14 out of 24 parts gold. 14K gold is the most popular gold for rings and other wearable jewelry in the United States, the UK and the other Western countries. The 41.7% of non-gold metals in the alloy give 14K gold excellent hardness and resistance to scratching.
14K gold is highly versatile; it has a nice yellow color in alloys made with copper and is almost white in alloys made with nickel, silver or palladium. This white alloy is usually plated with rhodium for a very bright “white gold” that is a mainstay of diamond jewelry. Note: because of the plating 14K and 18K white gold look identical.
14K gold predominates the jewelry market, a good sign that it’s a safe choice if you’re not sure which type of gold is best for you. In addition to its hardness giving it excellent scratch resistance, yellow 14K gold has an attractive yellow color that is slightly less intense and very compatible with most skin colors.
Because it contains significantly less pure gold, 14K gold has a slightly lighter heft and is less expensive than 18k gold.
Ritani 1RZ1321 French-Set Halo Diamond Engagement Ring
Ritani 1RZ1321 French-Set Halo Diamond Engagement Ring
The very showy Ritani halo selection above is a great example of an impressive engagement ring that can also extend a budget. The halo creates a big look enabling the center diamond to be a bit smaller. In 14k gold it is also a less expensive metal choice than 18k or platinum.
The main disadvantage of 14K gold is that some alloys contain metals that might irritate the skin of some wearers. The main culprit is nickel, so if you are concerned about this issue the higher purity of 18K may be a better option. There are also 14k alloys that do not contain nickel and thereby minimize this potential problem.

Advantages and Disadvantages of 10K Gold

Advantages: Very affordable, harder than other types of gold
Disadvantages: Pale yellow color, more likely to trigger metal allergies
10K gold is 10 parts pure gold and 14 parts non-gold metals like copper and nickel. Thus it contains only 41.7% gold and 58.3% other metals and is the least expensive of the gold alloys commonly seen in the jewelry industry.
While 10K gold was more popular in the past, especially in Europe, it is mainly used today in mass produced, “price point” jewelry because of its affordability.
10K gold has excellent hardness and scratch resistance since it contains a relatively small amount of pure gold which is quite soft compared to the other metals that dominate the alloy.
18k White Gold Tacori FP643 Dantela Diamond Pendant
18k White Gold Tacori FP643 Dantela Diamond Pendant
10K gold is not very yellow in color compared to higher karat alloys containing more pure gold. 10K tends to look pinkish because of the high copper content of many alloys, and is often used for that purpose to create “rose gold”.
10K gold is also lighter in heft than 14K or 18K gold. This could be helpful in items such as earrings where extra weight is not desirable, but also might have a cheap, lightweight feel in other forms of jewelry. For this reason, 10K is typically not used in fine jewelry and is not recommended for engagement rings or wedding bands.
The advantages of 10K gold are affordability, and hardness. It is the least expensive of the commonly used gold alloys and is hard enough to resist bending and scratching. It is also a good choice for someone looking for a lighter, slightly pinkish color.
The disadvantages of 10K gold include a higher propensity for skin irritation due to the higher percentage of non-gold metals in the mix. It also has a lighter heft and may feel ‘cheap’. 10K gold is highly associated today with inexpensive jewelry so it does not have the same luxury ‘cachet’ as 18K or even 14K gold. It is therefore not recommended for important jewelry purchases such as engagement rings.

What is the best Gold to use for an Engagement Rings?

One of the many decisions you face when shopping for an engagement ring is the type of gold to go with. This decision revolves around both the color of the gold and its purity level (karat). The first decision is color – yellow gold, white gold, or rose gold? This will be determined largely by the preference of the wearer. It needs to be compatible with skin tones and style.
Once color has been established, the purity or fineness of the gold should be addressed. 18K gold is the highest standard for most gold fine jewelry, as higher karat gold is too soft for most everyday wear. 14K is a legitimate option as well for engagement rings as it features good purity and even better hardness and scratch resistance than 18K gold.
18k Yellow Gold Simon G. MR1394 Fabled Diamond Engagement Ring
18k Yellow Gold Simon G. MR1394 Fabled Diamond Engagement Ring
The Fabled engagement ring by Simon G above is a great example of the rich warm glow of 18k yellow gold. This design is also exceptional in its fluid lines and overlapping strands.
If you are shopping for rose gold you should target a lower karat in order to get a color that is not mistaken for yellow. Because higher karat gold contains so much pure gold with its rich color, a rose gold alloy will be very subtle. For a more definite pink color, 14K gold is more likely to achieve the goal.
18k Rose Gold Tacori HT2657 Royal T Simply Tacori Three Stone Diamond Engagement Ring
18k Rose Gold Tacori HT2657 Royal T Simply Tacori Three Stone Diamond Engagement Ring
The Royal T selection from renowned design house Tacori is a top example of how uniquely beautiful a rose gold engagement ring can be.
As we have seen, there is no one type of gold used in all jewelry, nor is there one type of gold that is right for every purchase. The key is to know the pros and cons of each type along with the style and taste of the wearer. 100% pure gold is rarely an option in jewelry, so it comes down to which alloy and which color and purity level meets your needs.
Of the three most common gold purity levels, 18K gold is a top choice for engagement rings though some favor the greater hardness of 14K for everyday items, especially those who are very active with their hands. 10K gold is best for minimizing cost for those on tight budgets, or when extra hardness or a bit of pink coloration is needed.

What is 1KT Gold?

Lower karat gold items are sometimes promoted, and there is actually 1k gold being marketed today. This is largely a gimmick to add some perceived value to a line of fashion jewelry that is just a step above ‘costume jewelry’. Be wary of such offers unless it’s very inexpensive and you just like the look of it. It will have virtually no intrinsic value, and may tarnish or irritate the skin in sensitive wearers.

What Type of Gold Should You Choose?

The operative word here is “you” (or the person you are buying for). There is not a “best” type of gold for everyone. Things like budget, style and taste are the deciding factors in determining what is best for you.
Budget should be a consideration as you want to stay in your comfort zone in order to have a stress free buying experience. You can get more bang for the buck with 14K gold than with 18k and the look and durability is very comparable. 14k gold is the most popular choice and that is certainly a big reason.
14k White Gold Four-Prong Timeless Diamond Tennis Bracelet
14k White Gold Four-Prong Timeless Diamond Tennis Bracelet
10k gold is fine for fashion jewelry. It holds up well and has a nice look and is the most affordable type of gold that you will probably consider. Avoid choosing 10k for engagement rings or wedding rings unless you are buying it for yourself and have a specific reason to do so. It may not be the best for conveying quality and importance to the recipient. Also, while 10k is generally less expensive, the overall difference in price will not be so great as to outweigh other factors.
While 14k may be the best all-around type of gold for value, quality and durability, definitely consider 18K for its purity and rich look and feel. An engagement ring in 18k gold conveys quality and exclusivity. It is also durable enough for daily wear for most people. For a person with a very active lifestyle, especially if particularly active with their hands, 18k might have a tendency to bend out of shape or need more frequent polishing.
If you need any help choosing a diamond engagement ring, or determining what your best options are, we are just a quick call, email or chat away. Our friendly and knowledgeable diamond and jewelry consultants are expert at answering questions in a pressure free way, and in guiding our clients to the item that best meets their needs. We look forward to helping you!

Be Inspired By Our Designer Engagement Rings

Find the perfect Designer Ring for your special diamond by clicking the links below, and let us build the ultimate ring for the love of your life!