If you are buying gold jewellery, its karat is one of the most important features you need to know before making a smart purchase. Let’s see what exactly gold karat means and what you should know about it before you go shopping.
The Meaning of Karat
In plain words, a karat number indicates the parts of gold contained in a jewellery piece, out of a maximum of 24.
For example, an 18 karat gold bracelet has 18 parts pure gold out of 24, and the remaining 6 parts are made up of other metals, such as copper, nickel, zinc etc.
Converting Karats to Gold Purity Percentages
Converting karats to a percentage of purity is pretty easy. You just need to divide the karat number by 24 and then multiply by 100.
For example, let’s calculate the percentage of gold in an 18 karat bracelet. You just need to divide 18 by 24 and then multiply by 100 (18:24×100=75%). So it turns out, that 18 karat bracelet contains 75% pure gold and 25% other alloys.
Karat Stamps and Their Meanings
Karats are usually indicated by the following symbols: K, k, Kt, kt or KT.
Remember that markings “18Kt”, “18K” and all the other variations of karat mean the same, the piece contains 18 karat gold.
Instead of karats, sometimes you may see gold purity numbers as percentages of thousandths stamped on jewellery. For example “999” or “.999” stamp means that the gold is 99.9% pure, which is the same as 24K.
Standard Karat Values
The most popular karat values for gold jewellery are 10K, 14K, 18K, 20K and 22K.
It’s important to note that jewellery with gold purity less than 10K is not technically considered gold.
Keep in mind that unless your gold jewellery is marked as “plumb” (such as “18KP”), the exact karat may vary slightly from what is stamped on the piece. In the U.S., the allowed variation is +/-0.5 karats.
How High and Low Karats Differ
As a general rule, the lower the karat the less gold in your jewellery. The less gold there is, the less jewellery will look like gold.
Besides, since gold alloys contain nickel, the lower the karat, the more likely you will experience skin irritation if you are allergic.
On the contrary, the higher the karat, the more gold it contains, but the jewellery piece is more likely to scratch easily.
In general, 14K and 18K pieces tend to be the most popular since these karat levels offer a good combination of durability, appearance, quality and price.