You’ll see lots of abbreviations as you shop for gold jewelry! 14K is one example. Understanding what it means and how it differs from 10k, 12k, 18k, and other options is important.
What is 14k gold jewelry? 14 karat gold is an alloy containing 58.3% yellow gold. The rest is made up of other metals, like Copper and Zinc. These metals make the gold harder and influence color. Higher purity gold is softer than lower purity gold, so 14k is less hard than 10k—but it’s more durable than 18k, 22k, or 24k.
Now that you understand some of the basics, I’ll share some other important information on what 14 karat jewelry is, how it’s used, and why it’s FAR BETTER than 24k gold for jewelry. Before getting to that, I need to give you a little context.
Is 14K Gold Real?
14k IS real gold, but it isn’t PURE gold. As I mentioned a little earlier, pure gold is a soft metal. It isn’t suitable for jewelry because it would get scratched and worn out too quickly. To solve this problem, other metals are added in specific ratios to increase the hardness (durability) of gold that’s used for things like jewelry.
Not being ENTIRELY gold, doesn’t it make it ‘FAKE’ gold. Again, other metals are added to make the gold mixture more practical for wearing as jewelry daily.
How 14K Gold is Made?
Gold is mined from the earth. All gold starts out as yellow gold. White Gold, Black Gold, and Rose Gold are created through metal mix-ins and/or plating. We’ll talk more about these various gold color options a little later.
Pure gold is referred to as 24 karat gold (24 parts, out of a possible 24, consist of gold). 24 karat gold has NO other metals mixed in. Gold of lesser purity (that DOES have other metals mixed in) has its purity expressed as the number of parts (out of a possible 24) that are made up of gold. 14K gold contains 14 parts pure gold and 10 parts other metals. That makes it 58.3% pure gold.
Copper is the second largest ingredient in 14k gold. Zinc is another common mix in, but it’s added in much smaller quantities.
Before digging into additional information, I should mention that there’s a difference between ‘karats’ and ‘carats’. Karats is a measure of gold purity, while Carats is a weight-based measurement used for diamonds. The term Karat is often abbreviated as either ‘k’ or ‘kt’.
How is 14K WHITE GOLD Made?
White gold is NOT a natural product. All gold starts out yellow. Various metals (like Silver and Nickel) can be added to a gold alloy to not only make it more durable, but also to lighten the color.
While the shade of white gold may be lighter than classic yellow gold, it’s still a far cry from actually being ‘white’. The color and finish that you’re used to seeing on white gold jewelry actually comes from Rhodium. Rhodium is a metal from the Platinum family (you can probably see the family resemblance).
Rhodium isn’t mixed into White Gold, it’s plated on top. The plating means that the finish is temporary. Plating eventually wears through and needs to be reapplied. Because of this, White Gold IS NOT a low maintenance ring to own.
White Gold is made in a wide variety of purities. You can get 14 karat White Gold, but you can also get in 10k, 12k, 18k etc. What you CAN’T get is 24k White Gold—it doesn’t exist! The reason that you can’t get 24 karat white gold, is that white gold always has to have other metals mixed in, so by definition, it CAN’T be pure gold (or 24k).
How is 14K ROSE GOLD Made?
Rose Gold has a unique coloring that ranges from ‘pinkish’ to ‘reddish.’ The coloring is created by adding Copper to yellow gold in various ratios. If you increase the Copper percentage of the alloy, you’ll get a metal mixture that has a more red, Copper-like, appearance.
If you dial the Copper and add more gold, you may end up with a beautiful strawberry blonde gold that has a pretty pink tint to it. As with White Gold, you can get 14 karat Rose Gold, along with a variety of other purity levels, but 24k Rose Gold doesn’t exist. Rose Gold has to be an alloy, but 24k gold is pure gold without anything mixed in—which is why you’ll never see 24k Rose Gold offered (legitimately).
If you’d like to learn more about this popular metal, read the article that I recently published covering Rose Gold in great detail.
Which Center Stones Work Well with 14K Jewelry?
14 kt gold can work well for any kind of center stone. You may choose yellow, white, or rose gold to pair with various gem colors, but you should be able to find a great match that complements the stone well. White Diamond, Moissanite, Sapphire, Morganite, and Cubic Zirconia can all look beautiful set against 14-karat gold!
4 Reasons Why 14K Gold is Better Than 24K for Jewelry
24k gold is the purest form of gold, but even affluent people often choose 14k gold over 24k for their jewelry. In this section, we’ll talk about some of the reasons why.
Here are FOUR very common reasons:
1. 14k Gold is Harder Than 24k Gold
We’ve already touched on this, but it’s a big factor! Some jewelry is more than just a fashion accessory—it has real sentimental value. For example, A jewelry fashion trend among celebrities right now, is wearing a Necklace, chain, or bracelet that has initials on it. Those initials often represent someone special to them (a partner or child for example).
24k gold is soft and scratches easily. 14k is MUCH harder! When you want the beautiful look of quality gold, but also want durability, 14k becomes a wonderful option. Even people with enough money for 24k, often choose 14k because of its added durability!
2. 14k Gold Offers a Better Blend of Safety and Durability
Because 24k gold doesn’t have metals mixed in, it’s the safest type of gold for sensitive skin, but again, it’s too soft for many jewelry applications. Because of that, people with sensitivity to some metals often turn to either 14k or 18k. While both of those options DO have other metals mixed in, they aren’t a high enough percentage to cause reactions for many people.
The added advantage of choosing 14k over 18k, is that it’s more durable. Again, who doesn’t want as much durability as possible for jewelry with high sentimental value?
Be aware, that White Gold is something that people with sensitive skin often try to avoid regardless of the karat value. White Gold often has some amount of Nickel added. Nickel is the metal that most commonly gives people skin reactions. If you have metal allergies, you may want to stick with either yellow gold or rose gold.
3. White Gold and Rose Gold AREN’T Available in 24k
Jewelry shoppers are forced to consider something other than 24k gold if they ever want White Gold or Rose Gold. Rose Gold is HOT right now…just look at how rose gold iPhones have been flying off the shelf in recent years—selling like hotcakes to both men and women!
Because White gold and Rose gold aren’t available in 24k, either 14k or 18k become the most common (high-quality) options available. Here again, 14k delivers better durability—and durability is often top-of-mind when considering a new piece of jewelry with high sentimental value.
4. 14 karat Gold is Less Expensive Than 24k
Money is a central focus for some, and an afterthought for others. Both groups have compelling reasons to choose 14k gold jewelry over 24k gold jewelry. The financial savings for choosing 14k for gold jewelry comes in TWO forms.
- A lower initial purchase price.
- Lower lifetime costs for repair and replacement
Pure gold is great for gold bricks that sit in a safe, but not for jewelry that’s worn daily. In the course of normal activities, it would come in direct contact with hundreds of everyday objects that could easily scratch it.
The Cons of 14k Jewelry
I’ve shared some of the advantages of 14k Gold (the pros), but what are the disadvantages (the cons) of choosing this option? Remember that song from the late ‘80’s ‘Every Rose Has its Thorn’? What are the ‘thorns’ of 14k gold? Here are a couple of ‘thorns’ that critics sometimes bring up.
Used 14K Jewelry Has a Lower Resale Value
On the surface, this looks like a drawback of 14k gold, but is it really? You pay less for 14k than you would pay for 24k jewelry, so it only makes sense that they would also resell as used jewelry for a lower price as well. After all, because 14k is less pure, there’s less actual gold in it, so it’s melt value (the actual value of the gold that you can get out of it) would also be lower.
Since you paid less for the 14k when it was new, I don’t see this as a true drawback or flaw. How many people think it’s smart to pay too much tax throughout the year…just so you can get a tax refund at some point in the future? It’s much better to pay less in tax now and NOT get a refund later, right?
This issue is similar! Paying more for 24k gold, just so you can have a higher resale value in the future, doesn’t sound very smart if you ask me!
14k Jewelry isn’t as Hard as 10k
It’s true that 10k is more durable than 14k, however, less than 50% of 10k is comprised of gold. Because the ratio of alloy mix-ins is so high, it can often cause skin irritation for people with sensitivity. 14k is the hardest, and least expensive, type of gold that’s generally safe for wearers with skin sensitivity.
How to Test 14K Gold and Recognize Fake Gold
First and foremost, I recommend shopping with credible and trusted retailers. It’s safest to avoid auction sites and other sites where you can buy from unknown ‘mom and pop’ retailers. They often import their inventory without testing the shipment. They rely on claims from the manufacturer about the product they’re shipping to you. These retailers can intentionally, or unintentionally, mislead you about the jewelry that you buy from them.
We’ll talk about how to test your jewelry in a moment, to confirm the purity of your gold. Testing doesn’t take the place of normal ‘due diligence’ though, like checking the reputation of the retailer, reading reviews from past buyers, and looking for the seller’s return policy. After reviewing all that, testing your metal can provide further confirmation. The processes you’ll want to follow are outlined below.
Start by touching the side of your 14k gold ring or 14k gold chain, for example, with a powerful magnet (like a Neodymium magnet). If the ring is gold, there shouldn’t be an attraction. If the ring sticks to the magnet, it likely has a base metal under the surface layer of gold. If that wasn’t disclosed, you should return the product and get a refund immediately.
Next, you can test the gold with a drop of 14k acid. This is a testing acid that won’t have any effect on 14k gold, but it will bubble and change colors (typically turning green or black) if there’s a lower grade gold (or a fake gold) on the surface.
14k gold jewelry is beautiful, durable, and more affordable than many other gold options. If you care for your 14 karat gold jewelly, it should last for a lifetime! Because of its relative hardness, the ability to be used for both Rose Gold and White Gold, and it’s more affordable nature, 14k is the BEST choice for many jewelry pieces.