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10K vs 14K Gold
Which Gold Karat Should you Buy?

When it comes to precious jewelry, gold maintains its own, irrefutable high standard among experts and buyers alike. On looks alone, it needs no introduction; we can all readily conjure up images of a warmly hued, gleaming metal unrivalled by even the most previous alternatives.

However, not all gold is created - or, more accurately, alloyed - equally, and, for anyone entering into the market for a piece of gold jewelry, understanding how that process translates into the final product is essential.

A big part of understanding the ways in which gold is altered between extraction and crafting means getting comfortable with the term ‘karat’ – and, of course, how it impacts the item they are investing in – is essential.

So, whether you are making a short-term investment with the hope of re-selling the item at a higher cost, or a one-off, long-term investment into a piece that will stay within the family for many years, the number of gold karats contained within that piece is one of the most important factors for you to take into consideration. Read our guide to using karats as an effective way of ensuring that you are making the best possible investment into gold jewelry.

Bottom Line - 10k VS 14k Gold Recommendation

It's always the most fun to start with the actual engagement rings :)
So when it comes to what to choose and where you'd find each type of gold, in most cases, you'd find 14k gold is more expensive and is considered more luxurious.

Therefore, you don't see it as often in jewelry as engagement rings. If you'll go to BlueNile or JamesAllen for example you'll see that while they do offer 1000's rings in the form of design your own, you cannot design an engagement ring with 10k gold, only 14k gold.

With that said, 10k gold rings, diamond rings even, do exist! Here are examples of beautiful and cost-effective 10k gold rings and engagement rings found at Kay Jewelers:

10k gold rings at Kay Jewelers

What is Gold Karat?

Many people who don’t have that professional expertise within the worlds of jewelry and precious metals probably have a loose understanding of karats and gold – with the general idea being that the higher the karats, the better the gold is.

In essence, the term ‘karat’ represents a unit of measurement, used by jewelers and their patrons to understand the amount of pure gold contained within any piece of gold jewelry - a fact which sounds confusing, until you understand how gold is turned into gold jewelry in the first place.

Pure gold - that is, the pure chemical element Au - is the metal we are left with immediately after extraction. In the world of jewelry, it is all too easy for us to get caught up on the word ‘purity’, and to imagine that it unwaveringly represents the highest possible standard. And, while this may well be the case in many instances, when it comes to gold, purity is a poor choice for jewelry.

Pure gold is, as far as metals go, relatively soft and malleable. While it won’t feel like putty in your hands, an engagement ring made of pure gold will quickly begin to show signs of wear and tear. Scratches and dents will ruin the surface, and even a relatively small amount of pressure could warp the ring out of its desired shape.

For this reason, gold is typically ‘alloyed’ - or combined - with other metals in order to boost its strength and durability. The amount of base metal used to alloy gold varies drastically, however, which is why the karat system is used in order to offer buyers and sellers a unit of measurement to determine how much gold is in the gold jewelry in front of them.

Understanding the Karat System

Even when you begin to grasp why we need to use the karat system, it can still seem like a lot of numbers pointing toward nothing concrete. In reality, however, it represents the most convenient way of ascertaining the ratio of gold to other, non-precious metals within a piece of jewelry - and, by extension, its inherent value.

An item of jewelry - or, really, any gold object - is viewed as an object of twenty-four parts. For this reason, a pure gold ring, say, would be a 24 karat gold ring, and a single karat presented as 1/24th of pure gold.

By that logic, a 14 karat gold ring comprises more gold than any other metal, with a ratio of fourteen parts to ten (or 58.3%), while a 10 karat gold ring contains less gold than it does base metals.

While it is relatively unlikely that you will be in the market for a pure gold ring, it is incredibly useful to remember that 24 karats represent absolute purity. Using that as a benchmark, you will find it easier to gauge the value of jewelry quicker, and whether or not it contains more gold than any other type of metal.

Gold Karat Scale - Gold Purity Chart

Gold Karats Gold Purity % Millesimal Fineness
24K 99.9% 999
22K 91.6% 916
20K 83.33% 834
18K 75% 750
14K 58.33% 583.3
12K 50% 500
10K 41.67% 417

Also important to note is the fact that karats represent an entirely different unit of measurement to carats, which is a unit of weight (200 milligrams) used for measuring the value of precious stones.

10 Karat Gold: Defining Features

As we mentioned above, 10 karat gold contains more alloying metal (base metals such as nickel, aluminum and zinc, or other, stronger precious metals such as palladium and silver) than it does gold, which naturally means that the final gold alloy is significantly cheaper than pure gold.

In many countries around the world, any alloy below 10 karat gold cannot be sold as gold, which means that 10k is the generally most economical choice for those buying gold jewelry. Thanks to the addition of stronger metals, however, it is also much more durable than a higher karat gold, making it more resistant to the knocks, scrapes, and pressure that, for instance, a ring is subjected to whenever it is being worn.

There are, however, some disadvantages to opting for a 10k gold piece over an item that features a higher level of purity.

For one thing, while pure gold features a bright, yellow hue that many prefer to ‘tone down’ through the alloying process, 10k gold is noticeably paler than what many of us would expect from gold. If you are specifically looking for gold jewelry, then you may be somewhat disappointed by the more pallid coloration.

What’s more, metals like nickel and zinc are common allergens. If you have ever noticed your skin reacting badly to cheaper jewelry, then this is likely down to the metals causing allergic contact dermatitis, and grows increasingly common when you opt for cheaper gold jewelry. For this reason, a purer gold is much better if you are investing in, say, engagement or wedding rings; you want to be able to wear this item regularly, without succumbing to rashes, itching, and discomfort every time you do.

For pieces that are intended to be prized for many years, then, 10k gold is not the best choice.

14 Karat Gold: Defining Features

14 karat gold is four parts purer than 10 karat gold - or, in other words, around 17% purer. While the alloying metals do not differ from those used within 10 karat gold (either base, or precious), the result is a much warmer and more vivid coloration - although it still isn’t as vivid as pure gold.

Still, the fact that it is mixed with just over 40% alloy metals means that it can still boast a good level of resistance damage. While a higher purity ring may begin to get scratched or warped out of shape, a 14k ring will likely hold up a lot better over the years. While 10k gold is more durable, the difference between 10k and 14k shouldn’t be much of an issue for the average wearer.

Due to the higher content of gold, opting for 14 karats will entail a higher price tag - but many people consider this a worthy investment, given the great trade-off between durability and aesthetics.

If you have the budget, then it can be tempting to go a step further, as 18 karat gold boasts a much warmer coloration that a 14 karat item still misses out on. Still, those who do will then need to weigh up the disadvantage of investing in a purer - and therefore less durable - form of gold.

Alloying Metals

Even if you are investing into an item of gold jewelry boasting a higher purity, the types of alloying metals used to strengthen it will have a significant impact on the final result - not only in terms of possible reactions with the wearer’s skin, but also in terms of its appearance and durability.

The alloying metals used can drastically alter the metal’s hue. For instance, ‘rose gold’ refers to hold that has been alloyed with both copper and silver in order to produce a slight blush within the metal, while platinum often produces a coloration termed ‘white gold’, for its pale coloration.

Platinum is also one of the best options for strengthening gold, while base metals like nickel are noticeably less effective – though they will still improve upon pure gold’s durability – and, as a result, much more affordable.

Platinum, silver, and palladium are, on the other hand, precious metals in their own right, which means that they come at a higher price point, although this is generally seen as a worthwhile cost for those investing in special pieces, as they are typically able to promise a much greater level of resistance against wear and tear.

14k and 10k: A Quick Comparison

As you have probably guessed from the length of this article, there is no straightforward, ‘one size fits all’ answer to this question. Pure, 24 karat gold holds just as many advantages and disadvantages as 10 karat hold, which means that what you wind up choosing will ultimately depend on your own personal feelings over a long list of factors, what the jewelry is intended for and, of course, your budget.

When investing into a significant piece of jewelry, such as an engagement ring, it is important that you are able to marry up your own budget with the longevity of the ring itself. This is something that, ideally, will last you and your family many decades.

The good thing about 10 karat gold is that it will allow for a good amount of longevity. While it may never wind up with a high resale value, that is rarely the point - more important is its ability to stay looking new through many years of wear and tear.

Still, it is also important that the ring - or any other piece of gold jewelry, for that matter - lives up to expectations. We all form a clear picture in our heads when we think of gold jewelry, and taking those high hopes into consideration is incredibly important - particularly if this jewelry is going to represent a pivotal moment in our lives.

This is why 14 karats is such a popular choice among those shopping for gold jewelry. It strikes a delicate balance between the fragility of 24 and 18 karat gold, and the superior appearance that comes from opting for one of these higher purity options. It is for this reason that it is deemed a great middle ground for many people looking for, say, an engagement ring; it is affordable, while still retaining that all-important warmth we prize so highly in gold.

Coming to Your Decision

When all is said and done, choosing between 14 karat and 10 karat gold remains a highly personal decision - one that is based upon your finances, the significance you have attached to this particular piece, and how durable it needs to be.

We all recognise that higher purity gold will remain the superior choice - both in terms of appearance, and that intangible quality that draws us to gold over other choices time and time again. For some, opting for a higher gold ratio (even if it means not wearing it in day to day life) is a much more desirable option than lowering their own expectations.

For many, however, the high cost and practical difficulties of owning in an 18 or 24 karat piece are untenable, which is why these lower levels of purity have proven so popular among buyers looking for jewelry that can be worn regularly, rather than on special occasions alone. For that reason, there are plenty of long-term benefits to investing into a 10 karat or 14 karat piece, even if it features a lower gold content.

The best part is, it ensures that buyers will always be able to find a gold piece that strikes a healthy balance between perfection and affordability - and that the inexpressible allure of gold is still captured within more affordable and wearable pieces.