14k vs18k Gold: What’s the Difference?

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If you’re trying to choose the metal for an engagement ring, you might be wondering which is better: 14K or 18K gold? So, we’re going to break down the differences between the two here in this blog post.

The Basics

Before we delve any further into this article, you should know that ‘k’ stands for karate. This isn’t to be confused with carat, which refers to the weight of gemstones. Instead, karate is a term used to describe the percentage of gold in an alloy.

As you may already know, pure gold is too soft and malleable, so it isn’t strong enough to withstand the daily wear and tear engagement rings are put through.

In light of this, jewelry designers overcome this issue by incorporating other metals into their golden bands. For example:

  • Silver,

  • Copper,

  • Nickel,

  • Zinc,

These combinations make the gold far more durable- which is where karate ratings come into play.

Let’s break this down even further- so you can get a better idea of what we mean by 14K and 18K gold:

  • 24 karats are 100% gold,
  • 18 karats are 75% gold,
  • 14 karats are 58.3% gold,

Although these alloy metals aren’t as precious as pure gold, they serve as a handy alternative that’s robust enough for users to wear near-on daily.

Interestingly, white gold is also an overly soft metal, so similarly, jewelers mix white gold alongside silver-colored alloys — for example, palladium and nickel. However, this tends to give the white gold a lighter color- which is why these alloy rings are usually plated to provide them with a look of white gold.

Fun Fact: Typically, white gold rings are stronger than yellow gold. This is because of the alloy combinations- which is why prongs are almost always made using white gold.

gold-colored clear gemstone trio ring

Do Karates Impact the Rings Appearance?

When it comes to aesthetics, it’s challenging to tell whether you’re looking at a 14k or 18k gold ring because there’s virtually no difference when it comes to appearance. However, an expert might argue that 18k jewelry showcases a (slightly) brighter yellow color than 14k gold.

The contrast between the two is usually more apparent when 18k gold adorns someone boasting darker, tanned, or an olive-colored skin tone- it’s safe to say, 18k-gold rings complement deeper complexions beautifully!

Similarly, 18k gold also boasts a more vivid yellow hue in both white and rose golds. So, if you’re after a whiter white gold or pinker rose gold, then you’re usually better off opting for 14 karats.

The hue of these metals should be considered carefully as you pick the central gemstone for an engagement ring — some shades of gold complement different stones better than others. If you’re unsure, consult your jeweler and get their advice!

diamond ring and gold band

Who’s More Likely to Wear What?

In the States, 14k gold is the most common- in fact, a whopping 90% of wedding bands in America are crafted using this karate rating. This might be because 14k gold is more durable and therefore, it’s more sought after.

Handy Hack: If you’re an active person, i.e., someone who plays a lot of sport, works using their hands, cleans a lot, etc., then a 14k ring is usually the better option because it’s less likely to scuff or bend. Whereas, there’s a good chance 18k gold won’t be strong enough to withstand that kind of beating!

Fun Fact: Most people with metal sensitivities can wear 14k gold comfortably. It’s very rare for irritation to occur, which is another reason why 14k gold might be so popular in the U.S.

Top Tip: If you’re unsure how many karats a ring has, jewelers occasionally engrave the karat number somewhere they can’t be seen. On rings, this is usually carved into the inner band.

Despite the prominence of 14k gold in America, 18k gold comes up trumps in Europe and Asia- who knew?!

gold-colored rings

Is There Much Difference in Price?

In short, yes; there’s quite a big difference in the value of 14k and 18k gold. Unsurprisingly, the price of gold varies depending on the market. However, as a standard rule, 18k gold is usually more expensive (as its purer than 14k).

Plus, 18k gold is often used to complement higher quality diamonds and gemstones- so it’s likely you’ll need a larger budget to purchase this kind of engagement ring.

Obviously, there are exceptions to this trend- but you’ll have to shop around to find them! Although, you’ll be pleased to hear that both 18k gold and 14k gold are less expensive in comparison to platinum and 24k gold.

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Do You Want to Know the Value?

To calculate the value of 14k gold you typically need to multiply the pennyweight by 0.583. Then divide the current spot gold price by the number of pennyweights per ounce. Once you’ve done that, multiply these two values together to give you the amount.

Whereas, to work out the value of 18k gold, just multiply the pennyweight by 0.750- then just like above, divide the current spot gold price by the number of pennyweights per ounce. Then, multiply the two figures together to provide with the total value.

two hands on gray surface with gold bands

How to Care for Your Gold

Gold slowly tarnishes as time moves forward because unfortunately, gold rings have a habit of scratching and bending over time.

It stands to reason, 14k rings are easier to keep looking fresh. Whereas, 18k rings are prone to wear and tear as the years go by.

Interestingly, by wearing your gold engagement ring every day, your jewelry won’t fade as quickly! The natural oils emitted from our skin help to delay the overall process that tarnishes the ring.

You should note, as gold is a natural element, harsh chemicals found in cleaning products can negatively impact the condition of your ring, regardless of how many karats it boasts. So, always take off your gold jewelry before hitting the bleach!

How Does the Karat Rating Impact Nickel Allergies?

As we’ve already said, nickel is occasionally used in gold alloy rings. Typically, the lower the karat, the higher the concentration of metal found in the ring- other than gold.

So, if you suffer from a severe nickel allergy, you’re more likely to react to 14k rings in comparison to 18k- however, this is exceedingly rare. If you’re prone to incredibly sensitive skin, then 18k rings are usually a safer bet for avoiding irritation.

Top Tip: if you have a dangerous nickel allergy, you’re better off finding rings that don’t contain nickel at all. Typically, this kind of jewelry is  labeled as “nickel free.”

silver-colored ring with gemstone in a box

14K Gold: A Brief Summary

You can source fabulous 14k rings for exceptional quality, at a reasonable cost. 14k gold is best for people with active lifestyles because its durable. It’s also better for wearers who prefer a beautifully rich, yellow luster to their jewelry.

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18K Gold: A Brief Summary

The Pros: 18k gold rings showcase a gorgeously rich golden hue, and are amazing for those with ultra-sensitive of skin.

The Cons: 18k gold is way more likely to scratch, and it’s usually more expensive than 14k gold. This means you’ll need a pretty big budget to afford this kind of jewelry. For example, if you compare a simple solitaire ring sold by James Allen, you can see the crazy difference in price. The 14k white gold version cost $180 whereas, the same ring in 18k white gold sells at a whopping $620- the price difference is insane!

person giving ring to another hand during daytime

Why I LOVE Beverly Diamonds Price There are MANY only diamond and jewelry retailers, but only one that I love and trust for those big purchases. That's Beverly Diamonds. They are ALSO top rated by The Knot and WeddingWire. Check them out! View Selections Why I LOVE Beverly Diamonds We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Final Thoughts

Both alloys are beautiful.

So, really and truly, as long as you purchase your ring from a high-quality jeweler, you won’t go too far wrong.

Therefore, you’re probably better off saving yourself a pretty penny or two by opting for the 14k gold, instead of the 18k. It looks just as good, it’s sturdier, and it’s cheaper- what’s not to love?!

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Rosie Greaves

Rosie Greaves is a professional freelance writer and content strategist. She specializes in all things weddings and lifestyle. Having previously written for Cake and Lace and worked as a wedding planner, there’s nothing she enjoys blogging about more!

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