Gemstones and Jewelry



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Gold Jewelry Guide

What is 10k, 14k, 18k Gold Jewelry?  

Most people already know that the ‘k’ in the gold designation stands for karat. The karat number indicates the "purity" (the amount of pure gold) in a piece of gold jewelry.  The word carat, meanwhile, is used to denote the weight of gemstones.

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) mandates the standards by which a purity mark or stamp is used for gold jewelry manufacturing.  Though a stamp such as 14k, for example,  is not required by law, nearly all gold jewelry produced in the United States by reputable jewelry manufacturers will bear such a mark.  It’s safe to assume that the majority of newly manufactured gold jewelry sold in the United States will have such a mark; not having a purity mark or stamp would be a rather poor decision on a manufacturer’s part, as most U.S. consumers know and expect a karat designation on their fine gold jewelry.  Usually located near the purity mark will also appear the trademark or hallmark of the jewelry manufacturer, the stamp-of-approval, so to speak, of a jewelry manufacturer who stands by their gold jewelry and the purity designation assigned to it.

Pure gold (24k) is generally considered to be much too soft for use in jewelry manufacturing.  Therefore, in order to strengthen the gold and make it more suitable for jewelry manufacturing, 24k gold is alloyed with different metals to increase its strength. The type of metal alloyed with pure gold will also determine the shade of the resultant gold jewelry. Thus we find shades of rose gold and green gold, which are created by alloying pure gold with copper and silver, respectively.  White gold is made with an alloy of pure gold with palladium.

What is 18k gold?

18k gold is three-quarters pure gold.  The European designation for 18k gold is 750. Though more costly as well as more valuable than 14k gold, 18k gold jewelry is also softer and therefore a bit more prone to dings, dents and scratching through everyday wear. On the plus side, 18k gold can be a blessing for those who have metal allergies, thanks to its high gold content and correspondingly smaller percentage of other metals.

What is 14k gold 

14k gold is 58.3% pure gold. The European designation for 14k gold is 585. 14k gold is the grade of gold most often used in jewelry design and manufacturing. The percentage of gold content in 14k gold jewelry is a nice middle ground between 18k and 10k and the percentage of alloy with another, stronger metal makes it a practical choice for jewelry (especially frequently-worn pieces such as wedding rings) over that of 18k gold jewelry, which has a high enough percentage of pure gold to be more susceptible to dings, bending and marring over its 14k counterpart.

What is 12k gold?

12k gold is 50% pure gold.  The European designation for 12k gold is 500.

What is 10k gold?  

10k gold is 41.7% pure gold.  The European designation for 10k gold is 417. It is a requirement in the United States that any gold jewelry marked or sold as “gold jewelry” MUST be 10k or greater.

What is Solid Gold:  What Does 'Solid Gold' Mean?

The term solid gold can legally be used to reference any piece of gold jewelry with a purity level of 10k or greater, provided it is not made with hollow construction (hence, it is “solid” gold).   

So you’ve learned that in order to be labeled gold jewelry, a piece of jewelry must be 10k or greater, and to be represented as solid gold, a piece of jewelry must be 10k or greater and not use hollow construction. 

Oftentimes you can find advertisements for solid gold jewelry.  To the uninformed consumer, this might conjure up visions of 18k or even 24k gold jewelry, which is not the case. Your solid gold chain can, in fact, be only 10k gold.  Which is fine, as long as you’re a savvy consumer and understand what you’re buying.  Be sure to check out the gold content of any piece of solid gold jewelry you are considering as a purchase, as the term solid gold only ensures that the piece is at least 10k gold and not hollow construction.  Its gold content may be greater or it may not.

When shopping for gold jewelry, keep in mind there is nothing cheap or less-than-ideal about buying gold jewelry that is well constructed, well designed and has a gold content of 12k or 10k gold. You know it will be durable.  And the percentage of gold (either 50% or 41.7%) is within the alloy – that is to say, the gold is distributed throughout the metal alloy mix, so put aside any concerns you may have about “wearing off” the gold in your 12k or 10k gold jewelry. It isn’t going to happen, and there are too many pieces of beautiful 10k and 12k gold jewelry out there to just write them off out of hand without serious consideration.

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