10-karat and 14-karat gold items are two of the most popular types of jewelry, and many jewelry buyers often cannot decide between them. Some people even say that 10K gold is actually the better choice. How do these two gold alloys differ, and is one of them better than the other? Let’s compare them.
How Are 10K and 14K Gold Different?
The karat number of your jewelry indicates what proportion of it is made up of gold. Thus, the most fundamental difference between 10-karat and 14-karat gold is in the amount of gold content.
10-karat gold is an alloy made up of 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metals such as copper, zinc, silver or nickel. In percentage terms, 10K gold contains 41.7% pure gold.
Jewelry that is 10K gold will usually be stamped with a mark such as 10KT, 10K, 10kt or something similar. If you see a mark reading .417, this also means that the item is 10 karats gold.
Similar to 10K gold, a gold alloy that is 14 karats is made up of 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metals, mostly silver and copper, but there could also be zinc and nickel.
This alloy contains 58.3% gold and that’s why sometimes you can see 14K jewelry stamped with a mark such as .583 or .585. More often, a 14K piece will be marked as 14K, 14KT, 14k or a similar variation.
So to sum up, 10K gold contains 10 parts pure gold and 14 parts other metals, whereas 14K gold contains more of the precious metal – 14 parts of the alloy is gold and 10 parts consists of non-gold metals. In terms of percentage, 10 karats corresponds to 41.7% gold content, while 14 karats is equivalent to 58.3% pure gold.Black Friday Deal: Click here to get up to 50% OFF engagement ring settings from James Allen.
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Looking at these numbers, it is interesting to note that less than half of the material in 10K jewelry is actually gold, whereas almost 60% of the alloy in a 14K piece is gold.
You may ask why there is a need to create gold alloys. The main reason is that pure gold is too soft to be used in jewelry making. To overcome this problem, gold is mixed with other metals, which make the resulting alloy harder and more durable.
How Is 10K Gold Better Than 14K Gold?
It might seem that 14-karat gold is better just because it is purer than 10K gold, but the latter actually has some advantages over the former. Let’s take a look at the pros of 10K gold:
10K Gold Is Cheaper Than 14K Gold
One of the first differences you may spot when shopping for gold is that 10K jewelry is on average cheaper than 14K items – per gram. This is understandable: 10K pieces contain less gold than the ones made of 14K gold.
However, keep in mind that cheap doesn’t necessarily mean low quality. 14K gold may be more expensive, but its higher gold content also makes it softer and less durable.
The price of 10K gold is perhaps its biggest selling point. Although most people who prefer 10-karat jewelry do so mainly because it’s cheap, it has another important advantage – greater hardness and durability.
10K Gold Is Harder Than 14K Gold
Although the lower gold content of 10K jewelry may make people think of it as low quality, this alloy is actually harder than 14K gold and can be more durable.
Since gold is a very soft metal, having less of it means that a 10K alloy is harder than purer gold mixtures. For that reason, a 10K ring, for example, could wear down more slowly than a 14K piece. Higher-karat gold is easier to scratch and wear out compared to lower-karat pieces.
Since 10K gold is harder, jewelry made with it is more durable and less prone to bending than 14K gold.
However, this is not always the case, as the durability of a gold alloy depends not only on its gold content but also on the type and proportions of other metals in the mix. Also, the alloy content is just one factor of durability. So it is possible for a well-made 14K piece to be more durable than a 10K one.
The Bottom Line
To sum up, 10-karat gold is a better choice for jewelry that you will wear every day, as it will wear down more slowly because of its hardness. 10K gold is also preferable if you are looking to save money on jewelry.
10K Gold Cons
10K gold has some cons compared with 14K gold, and the most important are nickel content and color.
10K Gold Is Not Recommended for People Allergic to Nickel
The biggest downside of 10K gold is that the jewelry made of it is not suitable to be worn by people allergic to nickel.
Since a higher percentage of 10K gold is made up of this metal (compared with higher karat alloys), 10K items are more likely to cause skin irritation and other symptoms in people with a nickel allergy.
In such cases, 14K jewelry is less likely to cause allergic effects, but you will need to test it in order to find out for sure.
10K Gold Color
Since 10K gold contains less gold, its color also tends to be less “gold-like” compared with 14K gold. As always, there are exceptions, and depending on the other metals in the gold alloy, sometimes 10K gold can actually have a color that is as warm and yellow as a 14K piece.
How Is 14K Gold Better Than 10K Gold?
14K Gold Has a Better Color
When it comes to appearance, 14K gold has a color that is closer to that of pure gold. 10K gold looks less yellow due to its lower gold content.
Also, keep in mind that due to its lower gold content, 10K gold may tarnish faster than 14K gold.
Now, if you’re shopping for diamond jewelry, you might not have much of a choice: you’ll notice that most gold settings available for diamonds are at least 14K gold. Check out some diamond ring settings here.
14K Gold May Contain Less Nickel
14K gold is likely to contain less nickel compared with 10K gold. The usual disclaimer applies here: it all depends on the particular alloy, and some 14K gold pieces may contain just as much nickel percentage-wise as a 10K piece. But in general, 14K gold is less likely to cause a nickel allergy than 10K gold.
When to Prefer 14K over 10K Gold?
As discussed, 14K gold has two main advantages over 10K gold: 14K gold is less likely to cause an allergy and has a better color. These two points indicate the two cases when you should choose 14K gold:
If Your Skin Is Sensitive to Gold Jewelry
Some people have an allergic reaction when they wear lower-karat jewelry, such as 10K gold. Usually, these allergies are caused by nickel present in the alloy.
Since low-karat pieces contain a greater percentage of other metals, people with a nickel allergy tend to be more sensitive to such jewelry.
14-karat jewelry is less likely to give you a skin rash in case you are allergic. However, keep in mind that you might need an even higher karat if your skin is too sensitive.
If You Care a Lot About Gold Color
14K gold tends to have a stronger yellow color due to the higher percentage of gold in the alloy.
Some people find that 10K gold looks whiter and prefer to opt for purer gold jewelry just because of its appearance.
Not all 10-karat jewelry has a visibly paler color than that of 14K gold, however. Depending on what other metals are in a gold alloy, its color may vary, so even pieces of the same karat can differ in tone.
If you care a lot about color and are trying to decide between 10K and 14K gold jewelry, the best you can do is compare pieces of each karat and see if there is a noticeable difference in their hue.
Sometimes, you might spot a difference, and sometimes, you might find that they look the same.
Summing up: Choosing Between 10K and 14K Gold
Although it cannot be said that either 10K or 14K gold is better in all respects, there are cases when one is preferable to the other.
If you are looking to buy jewelry that you will wear every day, 10K gold may be a better choice since it may be more durable and resistant to scratches. A 14K gold ring that you wear very often, for example, will scratch and wear down faster. An additional bonus is that 10K gold is cheaper.
As we already noted, if you’re buying diamond jewelry, then the setting offered to you will usually be at least 14 karats (if gold).
Of course, if you are allergic to nickel, you might want to pass up 10K jewelry and go with 14K gold or even an alloy with a higher karat.
As for appearance, only you can decide if 14K gold looks better than 10K jewelry and if it is worth it to pay more for a higher karat.
Where to Buy Gold Jewelry?
Blue Nile is another reputable diamond retailer we recommend.