When it comes to gold jewelry, the two most popular types are 14k and 18k gold. In this article, we’ll discuss their differences as well as the advantages and disadvantages of both gold types.
- Carat vs. Karat
- 14k vs. 18k Gold – What Does It Mean?
- 14k and 18k Gold Hallmarks
- 14k vs. 18k Gold – Strength and Durability
- 14k vs. 18k Gold – Color
- 14k vs. 18k Gold – Price
- 14k vs. 18k Gold – Popularity
- 14k vs. 18k Gold – Hypoallergenic Properties
- Advantages and Disadvantages of 14k and 18k Gold
- Which Gold Type Should I Buy?
- To Wrap Up
Carat vs. Karat
First of all, it’s essential to distinguish the terms karat and carat.
Carat is used as a weight measurement of gemstones. For example, when buying diamonds, carat weight is an important metric.
Karat (k) is used to mark the purity level of gold in jewelry. The most common are 10k, 14k, and 18k.
14k vs. 18k Gold – What Does It Mean?
In its purest form, gold is generally an exceedingly malleable and soft metal. It’s not suitable for crafting jewelry and everyday wear. For this reason, all the gold jewelry available on the market today is made from an alloy, or metal mixture, where gold is mixed with other metals, such as copper, zinc, silver, nickel, and others, to increase its resistance and strength.
This is where the karat system comes into play, referring to the percentage of gold in that mixture. 100% gold is marked as 24-karat gold, where all of the twenty-four parts of the metal are made of pure gold.
In 14k gold alloy, there are fourteen parts of pure gold, and the remaining ten parts contain other metals. When it comes to percentages, 14k gold contains 58% of pure gold and 42% of alloyed metals.
Depending on the gold color, which can be white, yellow, or rose gold, the alloyed metals could contain silver, nickel, zinc, copper, and palladium. Each of these metals impacts the final gold color.
On the other hand, we have 18k gold. This refers to eighteen parts of pure gold and six parts of alloyed metals, which amounts to 75% of pure gold, and 25% of other metals.
14k and 18k Gold Hallmarks
To mark the gold purity of a jewelry piece, jewelers often engrave the karat number on a ring’s inner band, on necklace and bracelet clasps, or other inconspicuous parts of the jewelry.
14k gold jewelry is usually labeled as 14kt, 14k, or .585, while 18k gold jewelry has 18kt, 18k, or .750 markings.
14k vs. 18k Gold – Strength and Durability
Since 14k gold contains a much heavier metal alloy mixture, it’s substantially stronger and much more durable than 18k gold. The strength of an alloy is especially important in diamond rings with a more detailed design. More robust prongs will keep the diamond safe and secure, and other intricate details won’t be prone to bending or denting.
Durability-wise, since the 18k gold is much closer to the pure gold softness, it will also be more likely to scratch and scuff than 14k gold. As a result, you might have to polish your 18k gold ring or other jewelry more frequently.
Generally, yellow gold is softer than white gold because it doesn’t have any additional coating. White gold is usually plated with rhodium, gaining some extra strength this way. With this in mind, 18 or 14 karat yellow gold will be less durable than 18 or 14-karat white gold.
14k vs. 18k Gold – Color
14k vs 18k wedding band from James Allen. Can you see a difference? Check here
The color of pure gold is vivid yellow with a slightly reddish and orange hues. Therefore, the higher the gold purity in an alloy, the warmer the color of the piece.
When comparing the color of 14k and 18k gold, it might be challenging to notice the difference at first glance. However, the 18k gold has a richer and more saturated yellow with warm orange undertones. This rich and warm color of 18k gold will look great on darker and olive skin tones.
Whereas the 14k gold has cooler tones and depending on other metals in the alloy, it makes for beautiful lighter yellow gold, pinker rose gold, and stronger silvery white gold.
14k vs. 18k Gold – Price
The price of a piece will vary from style to style, but generally, 18k gold jewelry will command a higher price than its 14k gold counterpart. This is simply due to the higher amount of pure gold.
However, other factors will affect the cost of a piece, such as its brand name, the amount of metal used, and additional precious stones.
14k vs. 18k Gold – Popularity
Since both karats offer distinct colors and features, their desirability and popularity will vary, depending on a personal style but also the region in the world.
The modern and sleek appeal of 14k gold jewelry with cooler tones is more dominant in the USA and Europe. The warmer yellow tones of the 18k gold are more popular in the jewelry industry in Asia and some parts of Europe.
On the other hand, 18k gold might be a more popular choice for vintage jewelry lovers. This softer material scratches in a way to ensure a certain rustic flair and patina to the piece that can look especially desirable.
14k vs. 18k Gold – Hypoallergenic Properties
In lower-karat gold jewelry, the concentration of nickel is often much higher. For this reason, people who have nickel allergies might be sensitive to 14k gold jewelry.
Although nickel is present in 18k and higher gold jewelry as well, the concentration of this metal is minimal, and it usually doesn’t cause allergic reactions.
However, if you still want to go for a 14k gold piece, target those that are labeled nickel-free to make sure that the alloy doesn’t contain any nickel.
Advantages and Disadvantages of 14k and 18k Gold
Both gold types are commonly used in wedding and engagement rings. But, as with many other things, there are positives and negatives to both 14k and 18k gold jewelry. Here are some of the most important pros and cons of each:
Pros of 14k Gold Jewelry
- Durability: Thanks to the higher ratio of alloyed metals, 14-karat gold is more durable than 18k gold, offering better resistance to wear and tear. For this reason, it’s ideal for day-to-day use, and this type of gold is the preferred choice for wedding bands and engagement rings. 14k gold jewelry can withstand manual labor, sports, and other rigorous activities, making it perfect for those with a more active lifestyle.
- Affordability: 14k gold jewelry contains less pure gold than its 18k gold counterpart. This, of course, will have its impact on the pricing of the gold jewelry. A 14k gold ring, for example, will cost slightly less than the same ring style made from 18k gold.
- Availability: In the world of gold jewelry, 14k gold is widely popular and available throughout the world. When it comes to engagement rings, 14k gold is by far the most popular option, and it accounts for almost 90% of sold rings both in the US and other Western European countries.
Cons of 14k Gold Jewelry
- Appearance: Although 14k gold jewelry looks stunning, it doesn’t have the radiance and shine associated with 18k gold. If compared side-by-side with the pieces of higher pure gold level, 14k gold can look slightly dull and won’t have that rich and vivid gold color.
- Metal allergies: 14k gold jewelry is more likely to trigger specific metal allergies as it contains higher amounts of other metal alloys, such as nickel, zinc, iron, and copper. If you’re allergic to some of these metals, you might find that 18k gold jewelry is a more favorable option for you.
Pros of 18k Gold Jewelry
- Purity: The most significant advantage of the 18k gold jewelry is its higher level of pure gold. Therefore, 18k gold jewelry offers a near-pure gold appearance with almost all the gold alloy’s practicalities and benefits. Its purity is particularly noticeable in yellow and rose gold, resulting in warmer and more vibrant colors and incredible shine.
- Hypoallergenic properties: Although 18k gold jewelry contains allergy-triggering metals, such as nickel, these alloys are only present in trace amounts. Therefore, it’s highly unlikely to get any metal allergy or contact dermatitis from 18k gold jewelry.
Cons of 18k Gold Jewelry
- Durability: As it turns out, the greatest advantage of the 18k gold jewelry is also its biggest disadvantage. The higher level of pure gold will make a piece look stunning, but 18k gold is softer than 14k gold, making it easier to scratch or dent.
- Cost: Another major disadvantage of 18k gold jewelry is certainly its price. The 18k gold price tags are far steeper than that of its 14k gold counterparts. As a result, an 18k gold ring will cost up to 150% or 200% as much as the same ring made from 14k gold.
Which Gold Type Should I Buy?
Both 14k gold and 18k gold are excellent choices for engagement and wedding rings. When choosing the gold type, it all comes down to personal preference, lifestyle, and budget.
If you want an affordable and durable piece able to stand up to your daily activities, 14k gold would be an ideal choice for you. Typically, 14-karat gold provides a great balance between beautiful color, durability, and good value for money.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for something more elegant and you’re okay with swapping durability for a richer and more vibrant color, you can’t go wrong with an 18k gold piece, as long as you treat it with lots of love and care.
Bear in mind that while 14k gold is more affordable, it can also cause some skin allergies due to the higher percentage of nickel and other metals. Therefore, if you, or your fiancé, are sensitive to these metals, you might find that 18k gold is a better option after all.
However, if you prefer white gold over yellow, you don’t have to be concerned with this allergy aspect. The rhodium coating of white gold rings prevents the actual alloy from coming into contact with skin, making it safe for everybody.
To Wrap Up
As we’ve already mentioned, whether you pick a 14k or 18k gold for your engagement or wedding ring will depend on your personal stylistic choices, everyday habits, and the amount of money you’re willing to invest.
Both gold alloys make for beautiful pieces of jewelry; the cooler tones of 14k gold give a more modern appeal, while the rich and warm colors of 18k gold with a certain patina add to a more vintage and rustic look.
However, while a 14k piece is more durable and affordable, its 18k equivalent is much more costly but makes for valuable and timeless jewelry kept as a little piece of a family’s heirloom.