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What Karat Gold Jewelry Is Best?

by Marie Cox

You know that the higher the karat, the more worth your gold has, but going for the highest karat gold possible isn't always the wisest choice. Different karats are better for different types of jewelry, and it's important to know what you have in case you ever decide to sell your jewelry.

Pure gold is 24 karats, or 24k, and is the most valuable type of gold since it's not mixed with any other metals. Most gold jewelry isn't 24k, however. Gold is naturally soft and can bend and scratch easily, so it's not a good choice for pieces you're going to wear. Pure, 24k gold has a very deep yellow hue that looks distinctly different from the gold used in most jewelry pieces.

18k gold is a popular choice for high-end jewelry pieces. It consists of 18/24 gold or 75 percent. This makes it stronger and more resistant to scratching than 24k gold, but since it's still mostly pure gold, it tends to be expensive and holds its value well. Many 18k gold jewelry pieces are ones that aren't meant for daily wear, like high-end cocktail rings and necklaces.

Jewelry made with 14k gold is some of the most popular gold jewelry sold. It's 58.5 percent gold and holds up very well, making it a common choice for engagement rings, wedding bands and other jewelry meant for daily wear.

10k gold pieces are the least expensive since they only contain 41.7 percent gold. They are very durable, but they won't fetch as high of a price if you sell your jewelry since less than half of the metal weight is gold. 

Yellow gold pieces in 10k, 14k or 18k gold are usually mixed with silver, palladium, platinum and nickel to make the piece stronger and more affordable. There isn't much difference in appearance between 10k, 14k and 18k gold. 10k gold is slightly paler in color than 14k or 18k and has to be cleaned more often since it tarnishes more easily, but the difference is nearly imperceptible. While a jeweler will be able to tell the difference, you most likely won't notice it with your bare eyes. 

Most gold pieces are stamped with the karat in an inconspicuous place, like the back of the bale of a pendant or the inside of a ring. You might see two numbers: one showing 10k, 14k, 18k or 24k and another three-digit number that also corresponds to the karat. The three-digit number is the percentage of gold the piece contains (without the decimal point) and is the European designation. 417 is 10k gold, 585 is 14k, and 750 is 18k.

If you're still not sure what karat gold would be best for a certain piece of jewelry you want, or if you're trying to sell your gold jewelry and want to know what karat it is and what it's worth, ask your local jeweler or gold buyer for help.