Is There a Difference Between 14-Karat and 18-Karat Gold?
14-karat gold and 18-karat gold are similar in that they are both alloys. However, although they have the same main ingredient – gold – they differ with respect to their gold purity.
As a result of the difference in how pure they are, 14K and 18K gold also differ in price, hardness, color, and their suitability to be worn by people allergic to nickel.
To understand the extent to which 14-karat and 18-karat gold differ from each other, you should know what their karat numbers mean.
Karat is a unit of measure for gold purity and denotes how much gold content there is in an alloy relative to the amount of other metals mixed in.
If an alloy is 1 karat gold, this means that it contains 1/24th gold. Or, in decimal notation, 1 karat is equal to about 4.17% gold content.
How 18K and 14K Gold Differ in Purity
Now that you know what the meaning of karat is, you can see how 14K and 18K gold differ in terms of purity.
14K gold contains 58.3% pure gold (14 divided by 24), whereas 18K gold contains 75% gold (18 divided by 24). From this, it’s evident that compared with 14-karat gold, 18-karat gold is purer, as it contains more of the precious metal.
The Prices of 14K and 18K Gold
The difference in purity between 14K and 18K gold also results in a difference in price. Since 18K gold contains more pure gold, jewelry made of it is usually more expensive per gram.
So, if you are looking for a more affordable piece of jewelry, a 14-karat piece will likely be cheaper than an 18-karat one, all else being equal.
Hardness: How Durable Are 14K and 18K Gold?
Gold is a soft metal, and this is the main reason it is mixed with other metals when it is used to make jewelry. As a general rule, the lower the karat of gold, the harder the alloy is.
Because 14K gold contains less pure gold, it is harder than 18K gold. This difference should be considered when buying gold jewelry, as it means that 18-karat gold will wear out and bend more easily than 14-karat gold.
If you are looking for durability, 14K gold is better in this regard and is the recommended choice for jewelry that you will wear often.
If you’d rather have an 18K gold piece, it can actually last as long as a 14K one provided that you don’t put on your 18K jewelry every day.
14K vs. 18K Gold: Color
The higher the gold content in an alloy, the more the color of the material looks like that of pure gold.
This also holds true when comparing 14K and 18K gold – the latter is supposed to have a warmer and more saturated color, whereas the former might not have as strong a yellow hue.
Whether an 18-karat gold jewelry piece will actually be visibly different in color from a 14-karat item depends on what other metals there are in the alloys. You might see 14K jewelry that doesn’t look much different from an 18K piece.
Karats and Nickel Allergies
Nickel is sometimes used in gold alloys, and it is found in greater concentration in lower-karat gold.
This is why people allergic to nickel can be more sensitive to a 10K or 14K piece, whereas nickel-containing 18K or 22K jewelry might not induce an allergic reaction even though the metal is present in the alloy.
If you have a nickel allergy, 18-karat gold would be preferable than 14-karat jewelry. Keep in mind that if you are too sensitive, you might need an even higher karat.
If you are allergic but would rather have 14K jewelry, look for pieces that do not contain nickel. Usually, such jewelry is labeled “nickel free.”