Carats, Karats, & Carrots


Three Carrot Ring

Three words in the title—all pronounced the same. So what’s the difference? I’m here to tell you. The three are completely different and…you don’t want to mix them up. Let’s start with the first.

What is a Carat?

“Carat” is a measure of gemstone weight. A one carat diamond (1ct.) weighs one carat. A 2.35ct. diamond weighs 2.35 carats. It’s as simple as that. It’s not about the size of the diamond. It’s all about the weight. Two one carat diamonds can have slightly different dimensions but still weigh the same.

Today’s carat is a fifth of a gram or 200 milligrams. This metric definition was adopted in the US on July 1st 1913. It was adopted by the British in 1014. So why is the whole EU and most of the rest of the world metric and we’re still counting inches and feet? Ah, I digress.

Diamonds weighing less than 1ct are often divided into “points.” One hundred “points” equals one carat. Therefore, a 1/4ct diamond (.25ct) would equal 25pts. A .10ct diamond would equal 10pts.

For those of you into trivia, the origin of the word stems from the carob seed, which was used as a unit of weight in ancient times. This was because carob seeds weighed the same one to the next.

What is a Karat?

“Karat” with a “K” is a measure of the percentage of gold in fine jewelry and has absolutely nothing to do with the weight of anything. For some obscure, non-decimal, reason decades ago, it was decided that 24 karats would represent 100% gold. 14 karat (14k) gold is 14/24ths gold or about 58%. 18k gold is 75% gold (18/24ths).

Since pure gold is 24 Kt. gold, I wondered why the choice of 24 to represent 100%? I’ve read that it comes from the Greeks who had a seed called a keration, which was used in ancient times to weigh pearls. How did that turned into gold being pure at 24 kerations? It’s thought that the gold coin used in Byzantium from 312 AD to 1453 AD, called the solidus, is the reason for the significance of the number 24 in relation to gold. The solidus weighed 24 kerations, and since that was the measure of the day, it carried forward even though karatage is about purity, not weight. The concept that pure gold is 24 parts has remained the measure of gold purity.

Why Are There Alloys in Gold?

Thus, your 14Kt. ring consists of 58% gold and 42% other metals. Why? First of all, gold is a relatively soft metal. Alloying it with other metals strengthens it and makes it more durable and suitable for jewelry. I’ve written a separate blog post all about gold alloy metals.

The Color of Karats

Secondly, adding other metals changes the color of the gold. 14Kt. yellow gold and 14Kt. white gold both contain 58% gold. The difference is in the alloys.

Third—and this is my personal opinion—it’s more “cost effective” to add other, less expensive metals to the mix. Nickel, copper, and zinc—all common alloys—are much cheaper than gold.

In America 14Kt. gold is the most common in jewelry. In Europe 18Kt. is more common. Which is better? 18Kt. usually has more of a pleasing yellow gold color to it. Since it has a higher percentage of gold in it, it’s more expensive—and by extension, more valuable. So which is better? You choose.

“What’s up, Doc?”

“Carrots” may not be as old and as hard as those measurable in carats and karats, but they’re definitely less expensive, easier to procure, and won’t crack your teeth. Carrots usually come in bunches, are measured in ounces, and get this: they’re edible and good for you!

So there you have the three carrots!

Jeremy Gold is Calla Gold’s husband and administrator of Calla Gold Jewelry. He wrote this. Thanks babe.

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About Calla Gold

Calla Gold is a Personal Jeweler and Author who takes pride in working with clients one-on-one to integrate their personal sense of style and taste into custom designed jewelry and repaired jewelry pieces.   Unlike typical Santa Barbara jewelry businesses, Calla Gold has no brick-and-mortar location. Calla Gold comes to you, bringing you the jewelry collection you want to see and collaborating with you to create unique custom jewelry. Calla also works with at-a-distance clients.

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Sue Manseau
Sue Manseau
13 years ago

I LOVE the three carrot ring! Can I purchase one?
Thanks for the information on the differences between the three! Very informative and entertaining!


Judy Tanner
Judy Tanner
13 years ago

Loved the new author! I want more from Jeremy…good and useful information for those of us who just like the bling but don’t know the ring.

Daniel Zia
13 years ago

It’s amazing how much jewelery info I continue to learn from this blog, thanks to Jeremy and Calla for keeping things fresh and informative!

Nancy D
Nancy D
13 years ago

Great blog, Jeremy! I was interested to hear that carat was derived from carob. Thanks! – N

Dr. Lynn K. Jones
13 years ago

I can see you guys know your stuff when it comes to jewelry!

Speedy Bubbles
12 years ago

Nice writing in Carats, Karats, and Carrots. I liked reading this article. Now I know the difference. It was fun and educational about jewelry. It’s nice to get to know you as a Personal Jeweler who educates her customers. The more we know the better we’ll feel about our jewelry!

Khalid S.
Khalid S.
11 years ago

And the story behind this karat is amusing if it is true. It turns out that a German gold coin called a mark a thousand years ago was weighed 24 karats (4.8 grams). The purity of the gold in the coin was expressed in the number of karats of gold present in this 24-karat coin.

Christopher A Gusman
Christopher A Gusman
5 years ago

When you melt down your own jewelry? Does it burn out the mixing alloys in it?