Karat vs. Carat

Unless you’ve purchased gold jewelry in the past, youkarat-vs-carat probably aren’t aware of some critical jewelry terminology. Consumers often wrongly believe that Carat and Karat are the same thing. They sound the same, so they’re a homonym (if you can remember back to grade school language arts), but that’s where the similarities end.

  • Carat measures the weight of a gemstone
  • Karat measures the purity of gold.

That’s a huge difference

Karat 101

The purity of gold is pretty simple to understand. Here’s how to break it down:

  • 24K – If gold is 100 percent pure, then it’s 24K (or Karats).
  • 18K – Gold that is 18 parts pure, with 6 parts of other metals mixed in, then it’s 75 percent gold, or 18K.
  • 14K – An alloy that consists of 14 parts gold, combined with 10 parts of other metals, it’s 14K.
  • 585 – Gold that’s 58.3 percent pure with other metals mixed in is stamped “585.”

Pure gold. It’s the elusive phrase we’ve been spellbound by for centuries. Pure gold is sumptuous and beguiling. But when used in jewelry, it actually has some limitations. Throughout history, artisans mixed gold with other metals for a number of reasons like:

  • Improving the strength of the piece.
  • Changing its color.
  • Creating a more durable piece.


Specifically, jewelers often mixed pure gold with other metals improves the wear-ability of the piece. Pure gold scratches easily and, over time, succumbs to wear and tear. By alloying pure gold with harder metals like silver, copper or nickel, you get a much more durable piece.

Unique Pieces

Jewelers like to combine various colors of gold to create truly unique, one-of-a-kind pieces. Yellow good, white gold, rose gold and pink gold are all options. Before the mid 1990’s, yellow gold was the color of choice. In the 1990’s, the Platinum Guild International powered a marketing effort to make platinum, a white metal, popular, which spurred interest in white gold. Since then, white gold has been a hot commodity, with rose, yellow and pink gold becoming the prominent choice.

Talk to one of our expert jewelers about the Karat options for your next piece. Or give us a call if you have questions about jewelry terminology.