10k vs 14k Gold: Gold Purity Comparison
Posted on February 15 2021
So you’ve decided to pop the big question to your significant other, and now you’re looking for an engagement ring. Congratulations! You’ve probably already been overwhelmed by the sheer variety of combinations of diamonds, gemstones, and settings available.
If you aren’t already familiar with jewelry terms, they tend to get a bit confusing. You’ve likely heard your jeweler refer to 10k vs 14k gold engagement rings. What’s the difference? Which one is best? Does “karat” mean the same thing as “carat”? Why is the 10k ring so much cheaper?
If you came here looking for answers about your most pressing jewelry needs, we’ll answer all these questions and more in this comprehensive comparison guide between 10k and 14k gold.
What is a “karat”? Is it different from a “carat”?
Yes, “karat” and “carat” refer to two completely different things. “Karat” refers to the purity level of a piece of gold, whereas “carat” generally refers to the size of a gemstone, such as a diamond.
When someone says they have a 24-carat diamond, they are stating that they have the largest, most expensive diamond possible. Conversely, when someone says they have 24-karat gold, they are stating that they have gold that is 100% pure, unmixed with any other time of metal.
24k gold is the most expensive type of gold available, but it comes with a number of disadvantages that make it impractical for use as jewelry.
Additionally, 24k gold is extremely rare, especially in wearable jewelry. Most jewelry, including engagement rings, are sold at the 10k, 14k, and 18k purity levels, meaning they are not 100% pure gold; typically, they are around 50-75% pure gold, and the rest is other metals.
These metals may be copper, nickel, zinc, silver, or other types of metals that provide different properties such as color, durability, and value. Different types of gold rings will contain different amounts of each of these other metals.
What’s the Difference?
Unlike other metals and gemstones, gold jewelry is almost never made from pure gold. Feeling ripped off? You shouldn’t be. Gold is actually an extremely soft, pliable metal. Therefore, it’s not practical to wear as a piece of jewelry that could easily become dented or scratched.
Jewelry that’s worn on locations that come into a lot of contact with surfaces and conditions that cause lots of wear-and-tear, such as your hands, need to be especially sturdy. Engagement rings that are made from pure gold couldn’t hold up to that; they would get ruined fast.
In general, pure gold is reserved for items that aren’t going to be exposed to the elements or to significant beatings, hand washings, and bangs on hard surfaces. Pure gold is best reserved as an investment opportunity.
Therefore, jewelry makers need to mix gold with other metals in order to maintain the piece’s strength. The higher the gold content, the more expensive the jewelry is - and also the more fragile it is. The amount of gold present also determines the product’s color.
Generally - although there are some exceptions to this rule - the higher the gold purity, the brighter the color. Pure gold is a bright, vibrant yellow-orange color that some people consider to be ugly on an engagement ring. This is yet another reason why pure gold rings just don’t work.
The lower the purity, the duller, more washed-out the piece of jewelry looks. So 10k gold, the lowest purity level of any gold jewelry, looks the dullest, while 18k gold, one of the highest (although you may be able to find 22k gold in some places), is the brightest.
The type of metals that are used in addition to the gold may also impact the color. For example, rose gold is created by mixing gold with copper. White gold is made by combining pure gold with silver metals, such as nickel or silver itself.
The term “karat” simply refers to the amount of gold present in the jewelry. All gold jewelry is separated into 24 parts, called “karats,” and the number of “karats” a piece of jewelry is refers to the percentage of its gold content.
This means that 14 karat gold is 14 parts pure gold and 10 parts other metals. Conversely, 10k gold is 10 parts pure gold and 14 parts other metals. This is where the trade-off between 10k vs 14k gold takes place.
Advantages and Disadvantages
10k gold is the cheaper of the two pieces, as it contains less pure gold. This is a significant advantage over 14k jewelry, which can be much higher in price. It is also stronger, and more likely to hold up over time.
If you’re someone who frequently works with their hands, you may find 10k gold to be the more attractive option. 10k gold is much less likely to be disfigured, and will also require less cleaning and maintenance than 14k gold rings.
However, 10k gold contains less gold. This means it will likely have a shoddier, more muted color than 14k color, and it won’t be as valuable. Because it is 10 parts pure gold and 14 parts other metals, less than half of the jewelry is actual, pure gold.
10k gold may also contain more allergy-inducing metals, such as nickel and silver. If you know your partner has a metal allergy, you may prefer purchasing a 14k gold engagement ring. You may also not be able to find high-quality jewelry that uses 10k gold in their settings.
On the flip side, 14k gold is a nearly perfect combination of gold content and strength. It has just enough pure gold to have a beautiful color, but also a significant amount of other metals to lend it strength and durability.
Although it is not as durable nor as cheap as 10k gold, it makes up for it with its fuller, more golden color and the fact that it is generally durable enough for everyday wear for someone who lives an average lifestyle.
14k gold is generally still highly durable and affordable, and more resistant to skin allergies than 10k gold. 14k is one of the most popular choices for engagement rings and wedding bands because it’s typically viewed as being the best middle-ground ring.
When comparing 10k vs 14k gold popularity, 14k wins the battlefield here as well. Because of its popularity, 14k gold is more easily found among nearly all jewelers and within a range of prices and gemstones. You’ll just have more options with this ring.
So Which Should I Buy?
The choice on whether to purchase a 10k gold vs 14k gold engagement ring is entirely up to you. However, you’ll need to keep a few key factors in mind.
If your significant other does not have skin allergies, regularly works with their hands, and doesn’t mind a duller-looking ring if it means saving some money, you may be better off purchasing a 10k gold ring. It takes much longer to wear down a 10k gold ring than a 14k one.
However, 14k gold is still durable enough to withstand everyday wear, and isn’t generally so expensive that it will break your bank account. It’s the most popular, and you’ll be able to find better options from more reputable jewelers. Not to mention the fact that it’s much prettier.
You are the only one who really knows which type of ring that best fits your partner’s preferences and lifestyle, so go with your gut and choose the ring that you believe to be the best fit.
Tips When Shopping for a Ring
- Pair your ideal wedding band with the diamond or other gemstone you’d like, along with its design. Different sized diamonds, and different colored gemstones, may look better with different colored gold rings.
- Never purchase from a jeweler who’s not reputable, or certified in their industry. You may end up getting ripped off, or paying more for a ring that’s really not as high quality as you’d think.
- Do your research. Understand everything there is to know about diamonds, gemstones, gold, and settings, so that you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for, as well as so you don’t get ripped off (although that shouldn’t happen if you’ve followed tip #2).
10k gold and 14k gold rings have several key differences. First, the lower the purity level of gold, the higher the content of other metals. Therefore, lower purity rings are going to be cheaper and more durable, but have fewer options and look very dull.
Rings of higher purity are going to be more resistant to skin allergies, more expensive, less durable, and generally look better on the wearer. Not to mention the fact that you have more options for settings, jewelers, and designs.
Despite the fact that 14k gold is more expensive and less durable than 10k gold, it’s still considered the more popular and better option, as it strikes a good balance between the two. When deciding on whether to purchase 10k vs 14k gold, most people will choose 14k.