14-karat jewelry is one of the most popular choices among people looking to buy gold. Let’s see how 14K gold jewelry is made and how you should choose between it and items with higher and lower karats.
How Is 14K Gold Made?
14-karat gold is made by mixing pure gold with copper, nickel, zinc, etc. These non-gold metals are added to make the alloy more durable than pure gold, which is very soft.
It is very easy to arrive at a percentage for the gold content in a 14K piece: Just divide the karat number of the item (in our case, 14) by 24, which is the maximum karat possible, and you get 58.3%, which is how much gold 14K jewelry contains.
14K Gold Stamps
To find out if a gold piece is 14 karats, look for stamps on it that denote its purity.
The most often used markings are 14K, 14kt, or a similar variation (you might also see a mark reading 14ct).
Sometimes, karat is expressed as a percentage or parts per thousand. Therefore, if you see a stamp that reads 583 or a similar number indicating 58.3% gold content (sometimes, you can see the number 585), this also means that the piece is 14 karats.
14K Gold vs. 18K, 20K, and 22K Gold
Compared with gold jewelry with a higher karat, 14K gold contains more non-gold metals as a percentage of its total weight.
As a result, 14-karat items are harder and more durable. 18K, 20K, and 22K pieces, on the other hand, contain more gold and are therefore purer and softer. This is why such items tend to scratch, wear down, bend, and break more easily.
Nickel-containing 18K, 20K, and 22K jewelry has an advantage over 14K pieces made with the same metal: Purer items contain less of it (percentage-wise) and are therefore less likely to cause an allergic reaction if you are prone to it.
14K Gold vs. 10K Gold
14K jewelry has a more intense gold color compared with lower-karat items. However, 10K pieces are harder, so if you are after durability, keep this in mind.
One thing to note is that 10-karat jewelry that contains nickel is more likely to give you a rash. So, if you have an allergy to the metal, 10K gold is not recommended.
14K gold made with nickel is less likely to trigger an allergic reaction, but there are no guarantees until you try a particular piece out.
Buying 14K Gold: When Is It a Good Choice?
14K gold is quite affordable compared with 18K or 22K pieces, and this is what makes it so popular among buyers. It is also relatively more durable than the purer and more expensive pieces.
If money is no object and you are not going to wear your gold jewelry every day, you can safely buy a piece that has a higher karat. An 18K, 20K, or 22K item is also very unlikely to cause a nickel allergy.
If you are looking for something more affordable and are concerned about durability, however, consider 14-karat items.
Pick 14K jewelry if you are going to wear the piece often, especially if it is a ring or bracelet, i.e., an item that has higher potential to be damaged when worn.
Also, if you are allergic to nickel and the jewelry you are buying is not nickel-free, do not go below 14 karats (if you are really sensitive, you might need to go even higher).