What's the difference between karats of gold? Colors of gold?

Posted by Susan Smith on

When you are in the market for fine jewelry, the choices can sometimes be daunting.  White gold? Yellow gold? Rose gold? Gold filled? Gold plated? How many karats of gold should my jewelry be? What’s the difference between all the karats of gold? Before you make your decision, it is always helpful to have as much information as possible.  Here then, is our LooptyHoops Handy Guide to all things gold! We hope it will help you as you consider your next jewelry purchase.

What is 10k gold, 14k gold, or 18k gold made of?

A karat indicates the amount of pure gold present in a piece of jewelry. The higher the karat, the higher the percentage and value of the piece. The following are common karat amounts found in gold jewelry:

24K gold is 100% pure gold, which means no other metal has been mixed. In the US, pure gold is thought to be much too soft to be used in the production of jewelry.

18K gold is 75% gold, which means it contains 18 parts gold and 6 parts of one or more additional metals such as silver, copper, zinc, or nickel. It is the standard for jewelry sold in various parts of the world including Europe.

14K gold is 58.3% gold because it contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts of one or more additional metals such as described above. Fourteen karat gold items make up the majority of LooptyHoops’ stock and we are proud of the quality we can offer to our customers by choosing these pieces. In the U.S, 14K gold is the most popular choice.


10K gold is 41.7% gold and it contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts of one or additional metals. Ten karat is the minimum karat that can be called “gold” in the United States. 

Look for the Gold Fineness Marks

You should see a marking such as ‘14k’ or ‘18k’ to indicate the karat, and you may sometimes also see the manufacturer’s registered trademark or the country of origin.  These markings are usually found on the backs of the earrings, on earring posts, or on links close to clasps of bracelets and necklaces and are most easily viewed with a magnifying glass or jeweler’s loupe.  All manufactured jewelry is required by law to be stamped so consumers will know the quality of gold used. Jewelry made in North America is typically marked with the karat grade (10K, 14K, etc.), and jewelry made in Italy is typically marked with the "fineness" such as (417, 585, 750, etc.). So, if your jewelry does not have a karat grade stamped on it, check for a 3-digit fineness number.


Gold-Plated vs. Gold-Filled Jewelry

Gold Plating is a method of covering another type of metal with a very thin film of pure gold by electroplating. This finish is short-lived and doesn’t last forever.  The finish can chip, fade and tarnish in as little as a matter of days.  The amount of gold used on gold plated items is so little, that it’s immeasurable, making gold plated jewelry virtually worthless in terms of gold value.  

Gold-filled, however, is constructed in two or three layers. The core metal is usually jewelers’ brass. Gold alloy is then bonded to one or both surfaces of the brass core with heat and pressure. The bonded raw material is then sold as sheet or wire to jewelry manufacturers for use in designs. 

All the Colors of Gold

Gold is one of the most precious and valuable metals in the world and gold jewelry has been popular for eons. There are many different ways to present the metal in jewelry, and the gold metal’s color and consistency can be manipulated to match almost any desire.

How Does Gold Become Different Colors?

Because pure gold is extremely soft, other metals are mixed with the gold to make the piece more durable, less expensive, and to alter its color. Adding other metals to the mix also allows metallurgists to change the color of gold. Palladium or nickel can be added to create white gold. Adding copper produces a rose or pink tint, while silver gives gold a slight greenish cast.

Pure gold comes in yellow, but it can be produced in shades of rose, white, green, and even two-tone.  None of these additional colors are natural, and instead are produced by mixing pure 24K yellow gold with various other metals. The percentage of the other metals (copper, silver, zinc, and nickel) produces the different shades of gold.

Yellow Gold
Pure gold can be mixed with a number of different alloys such as copper, silver, zinc, nickel, palladium, and platinum in certain proportions to result in a brilliant yellow gold color with greater strength and durability.


Rose Gold
Rose gold is also known as pink gold or red gold, and is a mixture of pure yellow gold with a high percentage of copper. It has a very subtle and delicate color that may intensify somewhat with age due to a slight, but commonly regarded as attractive, tarnishing of the copper alloy. Rose gold is created by increasing the copper-colored alloys mixed with the gold, and decreasing the silver-colored alloys. Fourteen karat rose gold contains as much pure gold as 14K yellow gold but, because of the increased copper, is slightly pinker in color.

White Gold
White gold is created by increasing the silver-colored alloys (zinc, silver, nickel) normally mixed with gold and decreasing the copper-colored alloys. 14K white gold contains as much gold as 14K yellow gold but is nearly white in color.

So, what karat gold or color gold will you choose?  Hopefully, with all this information, you will be able to find jewelry that is perfect for you!


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