The Lowdown on Solid & 14k Gold
When it comes to buying jewelry, we know it can be difficult to compare types of gold and to understand what quality you're actually getting. For example, how does a 10k ring compare to the same ring in 14k? Is one better quality? The answer isn't that simple, which might be why it can feel confusing! So we've put together a few "key gold facts" that we think will help demystify it all, and give you the info you need to buy gold with confidence!
Karats are a measure of gold purity out of 24 parts. The easiest way to think of a karat is as “parts gold out of 24” (for example, 10 karat gold = 10 parts gold out of 24). You may find karats represented as “K,” “k,” or “kt.”
Pure Gold vs. Solid Gold
When you talk about “pure gold,” it’s different from “solid gold.” As you probably know, 24k gold is a pure element. It literally comes out of the ground as 24k pure gold ("Au" on the periodic table). But no one wants pure gold jewelry because 24k gold is impractically soft to wear (and honestly, it just isn’t a very pretty shade of yellow). So they take the pure 24k gold and mix it with other metals to change the color and give it more strength and durability. The amount of other metals added changes the purity of the gold and is reflected by the karats. For example, 18k gold (18 out of the 24 parts are pure gold) has more pure gold than 10k gold (10 out of the 24 parts are pure gold)—but they are equally solid. In the United States, any gold that is 10k purity and above is legally considered “solid gold.”
How 14k Gold is Made
14k gold is an alloy, which is a blend of metals with a specific formula. To change 24k gold into 14k, we need to take pure 24k gold and mix it with the right amount of other metals.
For 14k, we need 14 out of 24 parts (or 58%) to be pure 24k gold and 42% (or 10 parts) to be other metals. (To calculate, just divide 14k by 24k; 14/24 = 58.3%—we've rounded it off for easier illustration). The 42% “other” can be made up of a combination of silver, copper, and/or zinc, which add strength to the otherwise soft pure gold.
How to Make 14k Gold in Different Colors
The quantity of pure 24k gold is fixed at 58% for 14k, and that part is always yellow. If you want to change the color, it comes down to what formula of silver, copper, or zinc makes up the 42% balance of the mixture. You can end up with 14k yellow gold, 14k rose gold or 14k white gold, depending on the ratios of silver to copper to zinc. This also explains why 14k yellow gold can come in different shades of yellow.
14k Gold vs. 14k Yellow Gold
14k gold may also be called 14k yellow gold. Both terms refer to the same thing. The yellow variety of 14k gold is by far the most common (pure 24k gold is yellow, so people expect gold alloys to be some shade of yellow). Because of this, the reference to “yellow” is often left out of the title. The only reason to include it is if you’re clarifying the difference between yellow gold and another shade, such as white gold or rose gold. Basically, if you just see “14k gold,” you can assume this means it’s 14k yellow gold.
Which is better, 14k or 18k gold?
This question gets asked a lot. There is no correct answer to this; it depends on what you value most. If you ask “Which is more expensive?” that’s simple: a cube of 18k gold would be more expensive than a cube of 14k gold because it contains more pure gold. But in terms of jewelry, many people prefer 14k gold, not just because it is less spendy, but because it generally has a softer shade of yellow and is harder than 18k gold. 10k gold, by comparison, is even harder than 14k and has a lighter yellow shade, which can also be beautiful.
What is 14k gold-filled?
It’s easy to love the warm look and elegant feel of gold jewelry, but sometimes paying the price for solid gold can overwhelm the wallet. Luckily, 14k gold-filled jewelry is an excellent, affordable alternative to solid gold: it has a thick layer of solid 14k gold over a jeweler’s brass core. It looks the same as solid gold and is great for people with skin sensitivity or allergies. Gold-filled might not have the same incredible resilience as solid gold (which can last literally forever), but it is still highly durable, and with proper care, it can offer decades of wear at a more affordable price. For the full scoop, check out our “What is 14k Gold Fill?” article.
What is rose gold filled?
When it comes to gold-filled, rose gold follows the same specifications as yellow gold. You’re getting that thick layer of 14-karat gold over a jeweler’s brass core. The only difference is the color of the gold—one is 14k rose, the other 14k yellow. Both 14k yellow gold and 14k rose gold alloys contain the same amount of 14-karat solid gold. It’s the combination of metals that are added to the pure, 24k gold that changes the color—the pure gold part is that constant 58% of the alloy.
Other types of gold jewelry
Apart from solid gold and gold-filled, there are other types of gold jewelry available that we've compared in a previous post you can find here.