You’ve probably heard of gold purity, but do you know how you should factor it in when buying gold jewelry? We’re here to help you with that, so read on.
What Is Gold Purity?
Simply put, gold purity is a measure of how much real gold a piece of jewelry contains.
Purity is usually measured in karats (abbreviated as K), with 24-karat gold being the purest.
Jewelry marked “14K” has a purity of 14 karats, meaning that it contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metals.
Purity can also be expressed as a percentage. For example, a 22-karat ring contains 22 parts gold out of 24, which is equal to 91.7% gold content; this level of purity may be indicated using the number 917 stamped on the piece.
What Is Solid Gold?
If a piece of jewelry is described as being solid gold, this means that it is made of a gold alloy as opposed to just being covered with a layer of gold.
Usually, for a piece to be sold as solid gold, it needs to have a purity of at least 10K (this is the guideline used in the U.S.).
“Gold filled” and “gold plated” are terms used to describe jewelry that has been covered with a gold coating.
Gold filled pieces have a thicker layer of gold compared with gold plated ones. Only choose gold filled or gold plated for jewelry that you will wear occasionally; otherwise, if you wear the piece often, its gold layer will wear away quickly.
For jewelry that you want to last longer, you should buy solid gold.
Why Higher Purity Is Not Always Good
Generally, the higher the purity of a piece of gold jewelry, the more expensive it will be, but it will also look better.
However, higher purity is not always more desirable.
There is a reason why 24K gold is not widely used in jewelry and it has to do with the physical properties of the metal. Gold is very soft and any piece made solely of it will bend easily.
This is why gold is mixed with other metals, which make the resulting jewelry more durable (and also cheaper).
Because of the softness of gold, the higher the karat of your jewelry, the more easily it will scratch. (This is generally true but not always – it also depends on what other metals are in the alloy.)
Why Low Gold Purity Can Be Bad
The good thing about lower karat jewelry is that it is usually cheaper. In addition, the higher amount of other metals in the gold alloy can make it stronger.
On the other hand, when buying low karat pieces, you should keep in mind that gold which is not 100% pure is often mixed with nickel. Therefore, if you are allergic to this metal, wearing low karat jewelry may be problematic for you.
In such cases, it’s better to avoid 10K gold. However, if you don’t want to pay for higher karats, stick to 14K or 18K gold.
What Gold Purity Should I Buy?
There is no easy answer to this question because it depends on the price you are willing to pay, the appearance you are after, and whether you have any allergies to metals.
In general, higher karats are more expensive, but if your budget permits, go for the piece you like best. However, keep in mind that if you are allergic to nickel or other metals in gold alloys, you should buy gold that is at least 14K.