14k vs 18k Gold: Which one to choose?
Should you buy 14k vs 18k gold? While choosing a ring for you or your partner, you surely asked yourself what karat gold is better. Below, you’ll find all the differences between these gold types clearly explained. Our question plan will help you to choose your perfect gold ring. And to make your choice even easier, at the end you’ll find a useful gold comparison chart.
14k vs 18k Gold: What is the Difference?
In jewelry, we use “karat” system (which is also spelled “carat” outside the U.S.) to speak about the purity (or the fineness) of gold in every single gold jewelry piece. Actually, a gold karat is 1/24 part or 4.1667% of the whole.
This number tells you how many parts of gold in your jewelry piece you have. For example, a piece that contains 16 parts gold from 24 is called a 16-karat gold piece. The other 8 parts are other metals.
In some countries, gold pieces are marked with numbers like 999 (958, 919, etc.) which also indicates a gold content of 999.9 (or other) parts per 1000 from the whole.
Here is the chart as far as karats go:
- 24 karat gold = the hallmark ‘999’ = 99.9% of pure gold
- 22 karats = 916 = 91.6% pure
- 18 karats = 750 = 75% pure
- 14 karats = 583.3 = 58.5% pure
- 10 karats = 417 = 41.6% pure
So, all freshly mined gold comes in 24 karats. In order to make 18k or 14k, jeweler mix in an alloy.
Why do we not wear pure gold?
The 99.9% pure 24-karat gold is not widely used for making jewelry because of its softness. Gold in itself is very malleable and can be deformed easily and lose its grip on a jewel. Still, in the past, many pieces were made from pure gold with a minimum of other metals. The karat system developed in Medieval times when copper or other metals began to be added to produce a harder alloy and jewelers wanted to know how many parts of gold were contained in pieces.
Also nowadays, some countries make high-karat gold jewelry. In China, the wedding band may range a bit lower than 24 karats. The average karat for India is 22 with a fineness of 91.6%. The reason for this is that India, Arabic & Asian countries consider gold pieces not as jewelry for everyday wear but first and foremost as investments.
In the U.S. and most North American countries, anything under 10 karats is not considered gold jewelry. And 14k gold is considered as standard, as well as 18k.
So, there is no question “what karat gold is best?”. Cultural and historical aspects come into play. The question is exactly what is better for you personally: 14k or 18k gold. Let us look closer at the differences between them.
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14k vs 18k Gold: Which is Brighter?
Is there a color difference between 14k and 18k gold? Yes, there is. Generally speaking, these two types will differ from each other in brightness & hue.
Pure 100% 24k gold as pictured above is bright reddish yellow in color and keeps this tone in high karat jewelry. Depending on alloy and karat, its hue can be more or less intense.
Since 18k contains more gold parts, the color of an 18k gold ring will be, roughly said, brighter and intenser than a 14k piece that contains more alloy.
But the color of your gold ring will depend not only on its gold karat but on the kind of alloy you have in it.
In the modern jewelry market, there are the 3 most popular kinds of gold: yellow, white, and rose gold. These different hues of gold are determined by an alloy used for them. Each alloy gives gold a different coloration. For example, there are alone more than 100 varieties of rose gold and each has a slightly different color.
So, we cannot say for sure that your 18k gold ring will be brighter than a 14k piece. A ring of 18k white gold WON’T probably look brighter than a 14k yellow gold only because it contains more gold inside. The color depends on alloys (and plating in case of white gold) used for rings.
14k vs 18k gold: Which is Most Durable?
Gold as a chemical element is considered a heavy metal because of its high density, which comes from the fact that each of its atoms is individually very heavy.
Still, these atoms make the gold soft and malleable as well. Actually, gold is so soft that in fact, one gram of it can be beaten into a sheet covering nearly a square meter.
- Logically, the purest 24k gold is the softest karat type of all. 24k gold is too soft for complicated jewelry manufacturing.
- 18k is already more resistant to scratching, bending, and scuffing compared to a higher-karat gold because it also contains other metals harder than gold.
- 14k is the most durable compared to 18k and higher karat gold. It has about 45% of the other metals mixed in to make it harder and more durable.
What this all means to you & your gold jewelry
- 18k gold piece compared to 14k will scratch, wear down, bend, and break more easily. It is typically considered as a special occasion gold, such as engagement rings, anniversary rings, etc.
- You can wear your 18k and other solid gold pieces in the shower: water will not damage the metal itself, but it can reduce the shine. So it’s not highly recommended.
- 14k gold provides more resistance to wear and tear. Your 14k ring will wear down more slowly than an 18k piece. It will be a nice choice for those with more active lifestyles. It holds up better in sports, manual labor, & other regular activities.
- Both solid gold pieces like 14k and 18k can last beautifully for many years.
14k vs 18k Gold: Which will Tarnish More?
Sometimes you can see tarnish spots on the surface of almost any metal piece in the form of a dull blackish or grayish film. It can occur in just about any type of metal including silver, aluminum, copper, and brass.
What about gold? Pure 24k gold will not tarnish because it’s the most non-reactive of all metals. It’s totally benign in all natural and industrial environments. Pure gold never reacts with oxygen or other chemical elements on your skin or in the air, so it will not rust or tarnish.
But almost all jewelry gold pieces contain other metals as alloys. Depending on the percentage of other metals mixed with the gold, there is a chance of tarnish.
The general rule is: the purer the gold, the less it tarnishes.
Roughly said, since 18K has more gold by weight it won’t probably tarnish as quickly as 14K. But tarnish will depend not only on the percentage of gold but also on which metals were used in an alloy for every single gold piece. Which metals were used in an alloy for your 18k or 14k ring? Do these metals tarnish more quickly than others?
The type of metal used in the final gold alloy is one of the key factors in how fast the gold piece will tarnish.
For example, pure silver can quickly go from yellow spots to a brown or black film during active wearing.
By designing our custom engagement rings, we use sterling silver in our alloys. It is 92.5% silver and 7.5% of other metals. We don’t use zinc or nickel for our rings to avoid allergic reactions and tarnishing. Together with a unique custom-designed ring, the customer gets from us the full information about its alloy composition.
At mall jewelry stores, you will not be informed which metals were used for your 14k or 18k ring. The only thing you’ll learn that for example, your 14k gold piece is made up of 42% of something other than gold. You will not be explained what that ‘something else‘ is.
14k vs 18k Gold: What is More Expensive?
The price of gold jewelry varies significantly. Three key factors will determine the price of your gold ring:
- Current market value of gold
By the way, gold prices have surged extremely during the pandemic.
- Purity of your gold ring & its physical weight.
- Overall design of your piece.
So, pure gold with 24K will be the most expensive. As far as we’re talking about 14k vs 18k gold, since 18k is purer than 14k, it will cost more.
The lower the gold karat number, the lower the price.
However, this simple rule does not always work. At mall jewelry stores, you may find that a 14k gold ring will cost more than a 18k piece of a nearly equal design in a small shop.
From our experience, a gold ring of 14k will cost 30% more than a piece from an independent jeweler. Just keep in mind: if you buy from a chain store, you are generally buying overpriced jewelry.
We are not the only ones who know it. Source: reddit
14k vs 18k Gold: Which is Right for You?
Now we are going to talk about how to choose a gold ring that will totally fit you. By going through the questions below during a free consultation, we at NinaVova help the customer to decide on a gold ring that suits him completely according to his budget & needs
How to choose your perfect gold ring
What color of gold do you like? Yellow, white, or pink?
Yellow gold looks great on dark, tan, and olive skin tones because of contrast. If you prefer a brighter hue, 18k gold is more yellow than 14k.
White gold is gold, plated with another metal to make it the shiny white color (We use rhodium plating. Nearly all white gold jewelry sold in the U.S. market is rhodium plated). Actually, there are 2 big reasons not to use 14k gold for your white gold ring:
- since your white gold ring is rhodium plated, you won’t see its own color on the ring’s surface. There is no visual difference between 14k and 18k — hence, no need to pay more.
- When the plating will wear out, a brighter yellow tone of 18k will stand out more than a softer hue of 14k gold. So, 14k for a white gold ring will be a more than adequate choice.
Pink gold is always associated with love, romance, and femininity. It’s a great choice for a woman’s engagement ring. 14k pink gold will have probably a more pinkish hue, while the 18k rose gold appears more yellow. White or rose gold might also be a better choice for someone with fair skin.
Are you prone to allergies?
If your answer is yes, look for higher gold karat in your ring. 18k gold contains fewer other metals (about 25% to be exact) which are usually the reason for allergy. But also here it’s not so simple (as you have already read from the previous points above). For absolute peace of mind, you can choose a platinum ring. With its 95% pure platinum, such a ring is the best solution for those with sensitive to very sensitive skin. For the remaining 5% we use silver: it’s the best way to minimize any possible allergic reactions.
What is the planned overall design of your ring?
The design of your ring also counts. For an antique-styled design, yellow gold of 18k is the best choice because of its lemon yellow hue typical for antique pieces.
If you choose an elaborate ring design with many small details, 14k will fit best because it’s harder than 18k.
Art Deco style rings for example have sharp geometric shapes and to keep these fine lines, it’s better to use 14k gold or even platinum.
If you like more softer classic outlines, look again at lemon yellow or pink 18k gold.
If we talk about a pave ring, its prongs have to be strong enough to hold tiny diamonds at their places. So, decide on 14k gold.
As you see, the overall ring design is very important when we choose metal for it.
Do you plan to wear your ring on special occasions or every day?
Now, let us think about your ring in terms of durability. Remember that lower karat gold tends to be stronger. If you’re buying a ring for daily wear, choose 14k gold with a stronger alloy.
18K gold is softer and is typically considered a special occasion piece which you will not wear every day. But it may be nice for plain wedding bands without elaborate details, both for men and women. The 18k gold wedding bands are especially popular in Europe though they are a bit less durable than 14k wedding bands favored in the U.S.
If you dream of a gold wedding ring with a big diamond set in 18k gold, your responsibility will be also a lifetime checking of claws to make sure you don’t lose an expensive stone. However, a well-skilled professional jeweler will offer you some custom designs to keep the chances of losing a diamond to a minimum.
You can also compare solid gold rings with vermeil jewelry with the help of our article Everything You Need To Know About Vermeil Jewelry.
Think about advantages of gold and platinum rings together with Platinum vs. Palladium Guide.
Lots of inspirational ideas you’ll find also in Our illustrated guide to different styles & types of rings.And in case you have a very specific question, write to us directly. No commitment, you’ll just get a piece of friendly advice 🙂