If you are trying to decide between 14-karat and 18-karat gold, this article will help you. Let’s see how these two gold alloys differ, as well as how variations in their karats affect the characteristics of the jewelry made with them.
14-karat gold and 18-karat gold 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.
14K vs. 18K Gold: Similarities and Differences
To understand the extent to which 14-karat and 18-karat gold differ, 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.
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.
Hardness and Durability Comparison
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.Black Friday Deal: Click here to get up to 50% OFF engagement ring settings from James Allen.
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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.
The difference in durability is more easily noticeable in yellow gold – 18K pieces made of this material are easier to scratch, and they wear down more quickly than those made of 14K yellow gold.
The difference in durability between 14K and 18K white gold jewelry is less significant mainly because of their rhodium plating – this surface layer protects the gold alloy below from scratching.
However, 18K white gold is still slightly softer and easier to bend than 14K white gold.
If you are comparing white and yellow gold of the same karat, take into account the protective role that the rhodium plating plays in white gold.
At the same time, be aware that this coating wears out with time, and you will need to have your jewelry replated when that happens.
Price: Is 14K or 18K Gold Cheaper?
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 from it is usually more expensive per gram.
Other factors also come into play – e.g., whether the jewelry is handmade or mass-produced, how complex it is to make, what brand it is, what other metals are used in the alloy, etc.
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.
Color Differences Between 14K and 18K Gold
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 not always notice such a difference, though, so if you are paying more for 18K yellow gold, make sure that it really looks noticeably better to you.
There is no visible difference between 14K and 18K white gold pieces of jewelry in terms of color – both items will look white because they are plated with rhodium.
Gold (Nickel) Allergies: Is 14K or 18K Gold Better?
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 to 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.”
Allergies are more likely to be an issue with yellow gold rather than white gold jewelry . Since white gold pieces are coated with rhodium, the actual gold alloy in them does not come into direct contact with your skin.
However, after some time, the rhodium plating will wear out, and if your skin is sensitive, it may become irritated if there is nickel in the gold.
In the end, regardless of whether the gold you are buying is white or yellow, if you are allergic to nickel, go for a higher karat or for pieces that do not contain nickel at all.
Where to Buy Gold Jewelry?
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