Updated: Apr 25
In its pure form, gold is exceedingly soft and malleable: properties that do not allow created jewellery to stand up well to daily wear. To solve this problem, jewellers alloy gold with other metals to increase its strength and resistance.
This is where 14-karat and 18-karat gold come into play. It’s a good idea to learn about the important differences between the two so that you can make the best choice for your needs.
Difference in gold percentage
K stands for karat (not to be confused with carat, which is the weight measure for gemstones) and refers to the percentage of gold in an alloy. To illustrate: 24K gold is 100% pure, 18K contains 75% gold and 25% alloyed metals, and 14K is 58% gold and 42% alloyed metals. Jewellers usually engrave the karat on an inconspicuous part of the jewellery, such as on the clasp of bracelets and necklaces, or on the inner band of rings.
Value and fashion considerations
Because of its greater percentage of gold, an 18K piece will fetch a higher price than one of 14K gold. However, in some cases, monetary value alone does not influence purchasing decisions. History, circumstance, or sentimental value can be taken into consideration too. Some also consider the look of the gold, as the higher the karat of the gold, the more yellow it appears, for example. Talking about hues of the 3 main colours of gold, 18K yellow gold has a deeper yellow hue than 14K, 14K white gold has a stronger white colour than 18K, 14K rose gold is more pink than 18K. So, in some circumstances 14K is the better complement to the desired gems because it has a more appealing look.
Durability and lifestyle considerations
Because of its higher percentage of alloyed metals, 14K gold offers more resistance to wear and tear. Thus, it is ideal for everyday use, and is the most popular choice for engagement rings and simple wedding bands. Those with active lifestyles should definitely consider getting 14K gold jewellery because it holds up better in sports, manual labor, and other rigorous, regular activities.18K gold jewelry is softer than 14K, and is therefore typically considered a special occasion piece. You can expect to see more of 18K gold pieces at social events or on red carpets.
Karat desirability varies from region to region. In the US, for example,14K gold is more dominant in the jewellery industry, meanwhile, 18K gold is more popular in Europe and Asia.
To sum up, as with most things, there are positives and negatives to the different gold karats. It is important to know what you want out of a piece so that you can pick the karat that is right for you.
WHITE GOLD VS PLATINUM VS PALLADIUM
Since gold is typically a yellow colour, other metals are needed to create a white finish. Palladium is actually one of the alloys used to change the hue of the metal, in addition to silver, copper, nickel and zinc, which work together to make it especially strong and durable. As other types of gold, 14K and 18K white gold is resistant to rust and corrosion. While the end result may appear silver, there will always be a slight golden glimmer in white gold jewellery.18K white gold may also appear a bit grey in colour. It is very rarely possible to achieve Platinum white colour in 14K or 18K white gold, that is why white gold jewellery is very often rhodium plated. A thin layer of rhodium covers the metal and gives it desirable white look. The only problem with rhodium plating is that it wears off after a year or two and the piece starts to show off its original either golden or grey hue. Some owners of white gold jewellery, however, opt for jewellery without rhodium plating. Natural hues of white gold can make the piece look unique and make it go well with certain skin complexions or gemstones.
Platinum is traditionally perceived as the leader in beauty and quality when it comes to white precious metals. It's the most durable, as well as the heaviest, it used to be the most expensive option on the market as well. However, since gold is getting more expensive, platinum can actually cost less than white gold nowadays. It requires less maintenance than both white gold and palladium, and is the brightest white of all the metals.
One of the world's rarest metals, palladium makes for a special wedding band that's high in quality and, relatively speaking, lower in price than other high-quality metals. With the increase in the price of gold and platinum, palladium is one of the best choices for those with a lower budget who don't want to sacrifice quality or beauty. The metal is similar to platinum in that it's hypo-allergenic and keeps well over time, it's also "whiter" than white gold.
It was officially recognized as a precious metal in January 2010, and it's now a legal requirement that any palladium ring that weighs more than 1 gram is hallmarked.
The Cons of Palladium:
Still rare and hard to find;
Not all jewellers and craftsmen are experienced working with it and therefore the existing amount of designs made in palladium is limited (not all designs can be made in palladium);
Repairing it (including resizing) is problematic and even if possible will probably leave a mark due to the metal's characteristics.