You’ve probably seen terms like “karat” and “14k” thrown around—but few jewelry websites explain what those terms mean and which is the best deal.
Today, we’re going to break down the difference of 10k vs. 14k gold so you can see for yourself which is a better fit for your budget and priorities. We’ll also look at 18k and 24k gold while we’re at it.
Just want to find the perfect gold wedding ring or gold necklace already? Check out some of my favorite gold vermeil pieces below, or keep scrolling for the rest of the article!
Emma Vintage Ring
Clementine 3 in 1 Choker Necklace
Swarovski Stud Earrings
Why no jewelry is made of pure gold
All jewelry made of gold counts as fine jewelry, but not all gold is created equal.
The problem is that pure gold is a very soft metal. On the Mohs hardness scale, which measures various elements’ strength, gold is at a mere 2.5—about the same as a human fingernail.
Any gold jewelry made from this metal would scratch and dent easily. Rather than lasting generations, a gold ring made of pure 24 karat gold wouldn’t hold up for more than a few months.
Thousands of years ago, jewelers realized they could mix solid gold with non-gold metals (called alloys) to create a strong yet beautiful blend perfect for any gold piece.
To distinguish the gold percentage, jewelers developed the karat system.
The best hypoallergenic rings have a high karat number. That’s because the metal alloy can include common allergens like nickel.
An 18k ring, for example, contains less than half the alloyed metal of a 10k ring. It’s also a good idea to only buy jewelry labeled “nickel-free,” like everything we sell here at Blush & Bar.
It’s pretty obvious—the more pure gold content, the more expensive your gold jewelry.
Because of this, you can save money buying a lower karat number. Low karat numbers are how mall retailers like Piercing Pagoda can sell a gold item for so little—their products contain more gold alloy than actual gold.
While you can save money buying 10k gold, we generally don’t recommend it. That’s because 14k or 18k gold are the industry standards for fine jewelry and have much better resale value.
Gold karat numbers are a perfect example of getting what you pay for. A higher karat number is higher quality and will maintain its value for a longer time.
Because gold is a soft metal, lower karat numbers with more base metal tend to be slightly more durable.
In other words, a 10k gold ring will be more scratch-resistant than one made of 18k gold. However, the difference is very slight.
If you want a very durable piece, go for 14k gold, which is strong but not as low-quality as 10k.
The higher the karat number and gold purity, the brighter the gold will be. Many people are surprised when they see actual 24k gold—it’s an intense orange color that looks almost fake.
That’s because most people are used to seeing 18k or 14k yellow gold, which is blended with other metals. Again, 10k gold is relatively low quality and has a notably weak color.
The exception is, of course, colored gold. If you’re looking for white or rose gold, a lower karat number means more alloyed metal and a brighter red or white color.
And of course, white gold’s rhodium plating covers up the metal underneath, so the karat number is less significant.
How to buy the perfect kind of gold
In addition to solid 10k, 14k, and 18k gold, you can save money buying other gold jewelry types.
One option is gold-plated jewelry made of base metal (like copper or brass) covered in real gold. The problem is that the gold plate will wear off in a few months, leaving you with a ring that may turn your finger green.
Gold-filled jewelry uses a much thicker layer of gold—by law, 5% of the weight must be gold—but underneath, it’s still a common and potentially allergenic metal.
Finally, you can choose gold vermeil jewelry, which we sell here at Blush & Bar. Gold vermeil is considered demi-fine because it’s made entirely of precious metal—silver underneath, coated with a layer of gold that’s five times thicker than gold plating.
As a result, the ring is hypoallergenic, made of gold and sterling silver, and yet costs far less than a piece of solid gold jewelry.
Here are Blush & Bar, all of our gold vermeil pieces are made with nickel-free, hypoallergenic 18k gold and 92.5% pure sterling silver.