“Which is better for me, 14Kt. or 18Kt. gold?” People ask me that question all the time. There are compelling reasons why a difference in karat, 14Kt or 18Kt gold, can have a big effect on the life of your wedding ring.
What’s the Difference Between 14Kt. and 18Kt. Gold?
The short answer is that 14Kt. gold is stronger than 18Kt. gold jewelry. I’ll start by explaining how gold is used in jewelry.
What the Karats Mean and How it Effects the Cost of Your Ring
First of all 24 karat gold is 100% gold. It is such a soft metal that it is impractical to use in its pure form. By combining it with harder metals (alloying) and cutting its soft purity, it can be used to create jewelry that can last a lifetime. Also see my blog post: Carats, Karats and Carrots!
The most common ways a jewelry designer uses gold is to alloy it with stronger metals such as silver and copper. When creating a 14Kt. gold alloy we are creating a 58% pure gold mixture that is strong enough for jewelry creation. When we create 18Kt. gold we alloy the pure gold with 25% alloy metals to create 75% pure gold. The alloy metals that make up the remaining percentages are worth considerably less than the gold and normally aren’t considered in the pricing when buying a piece of jewelry.
With the greater percentage of gold, 18Kt jewelry will cost more than similar looking 14Kt jewelry. Since gold is now trading at over $1,200 an ounce, there can be a significant difference between 14Kt and 18Kt gold in terms of the cost of your wedding ring.
Different Karats, Different Gold Weight
Gold is a heavy metal. Since 18Kt has a greater percentage of gold than does 14Kt, if two rings have the exact same width and the exact same dimensions, the 18Kt ring will be heavier.
Some people like the feel of the extra weight of 18Kt gold. My husband’s hammered comfort fit style wedding band is made of 18Kt gold and he likes the weightiness of it.
Different Karats, Different Yellow Gold Color
The color of 18Kt yellow gold typically looks richer and deeper than its 14Kt counterpart. 14Kt tends to look more of a pale yellow than 18Kt. Personally, I prefer the rich color of 18Kt. This subtle color difference only matters in ring designs that show a lot of the gold.
Many people don’t realize that there is a difference in color hue between the two different karats of yellow gold. When designing a ring which shows a lot of gold and has a nice strong gem setting element, I often suggest 18Kt yellow gold due to its rich, warm coloration.
14Kt vs 18Kt Gold, Different Strengths of Gold
14Kt gold is usually stronger than 18Kt gold because of the greater percentage of harder alloy metals in its makeup.
For this reason, it’s often better to use 14Kt in intricately designed jewelry, especially when setting lots of little diamonds in tiny prongs. The 14Kt prongs will be stronger than 18Kt ones.
Different Karats, Different Speed of Scratching Gold
18Kt gold scratches more easily than 14Kt gold, because it has more pure gold and gold is a relatively soft metal. For this reason, you might expect to have to polish an 18Kt ring more often than one made in 14Kt.
This would be for more modern setting designs. For rustic or antiquity inspired designs the scratches add to the beauty and patina of your ring.
In White Gold, both 14Kt and 18Kt hold their shine quite well, especially when compared to how quickly platinum metal scratches. Generally white gold holds its shiny look longer than yellow gold. This is due to the strong white metal alloys mixed in with the gold.
Different Karats, Different Patina of Wear
The soft look that 18Kt yellow gold develops as a patina of wear could be quite pleasing to you. This is especially true for rustic designs and designs with elements of texture worked into them.
The gold or yellow-orange richness that deepens in color over time is specific to 18Kt yellow gold vs the lighter yellow gold of 14Kt.
Certain designs are actually more beautiful after a period of wear has passed. Once this time elapses, it allows the 18Kt yellow gold color tone to deepen and enrich. When you add in the pleasing and visually soft patina that develops as well, you see a dimension in your ring that wasn’t apparent when you first started wearing it. This is unique to 18Kt yellow gold as well as higher karats like 2oKt and 22Kt.
14Kt vs 18Kt Gold – White Gold
14Kt white gold contains more of the alloys that give it its white color than does 18Kt white gold. For this reason, 14Kt white gold has a better chance at looking whiter.
On the other hand, since almost all white gold jewelry is rhodium plated, it doesn’t make that much difference.
However in all my years of jewelry making, I’ve observed that 14Kt white gold with its higher percentage of hardening alloys holds up better in tiny and intricate details than 18kK white gold. When a client of mine wants a white gold ring I generally suggest 14Kt white gold for its added strength.
Come Pick Up Your “Different Karats” Diploma
You now know enough about 14Kt and 18Kt, to choose the best karat for your yellow or white gold wedding ring!
Your Personal Jeweler,