What’s the difference between 10k, 14k and 18k Yellow Gold?

In your search for the perfect yellow gold ring setting you might have stumbled upon 10k, 14k and 18k yellow gold ring settings.

The “k” stands for karat and is a purity measurement associated with gold. It should not be confused with carat (written with “c”) which is a weight measurement for diamonds (One diamond carat equals 0.2 gram).

So, what is the difference between 10k, 14k and 18 yellow gold rings?

differences 10K 14K 18K yellow gold

Obviously it is the percentage of gold that is contained in a piece of gold jewelry. Let’s have a closer look at that!

What is the difference in gold purity in 10k, 14k and 18k yellow gold?

Pure gold has 24 karats. Logically it consists of 100% gold.

18 karat gold therefore only consists of 75% gold. You might therefore sometimes find the inscription “750” somewhere on an 18k gold ring. The remaining 25% are different metal alloys that give more hardness to the gold.

The relationship of gold and metal alloys looks like this for the different karat grades:

Karat Gold Purity Relationship Table

While you can find gold jewelry with any amount of carat the most common karat amounts are 10K, 14K and 18K gold.

Why don’t pure gold rings exist?

Usually, you won’t be able to find 24 Karat gold rings.

This is simply due to the fact that pure gold is a soft metal that tends to bend and scratch very easily. This makes pure gold quite impractical for daily wear. In fact, you would be able to notice scratches and deformations in a 24K gold ring within days of wearing it!

This is why several metal alloys are added to the gold to make it harder and more durable. Yellow gold will usually be mixed with metals such as silver, palladium, platinum, nickel to make it more durable.

Pure gold rings do exist but they are usually used for ceremonial purposes. They are worn very seldom so that they don’t get used up quickly.

While 24K gold is very rare in rings it can be more often encountered in earrings as they get subjected to a smaller amount of wear and tear.

24K gold has the advantage of a very deep yellow color tone. Whereas it is very difficult to distinguish between 10K, 14K and 18K gold with your eyes 24K gold can be distinguished. You can basically imagine the general differences in appearance to be something like that:

14K 18K and 24K yellow gold visual comparison

So let’s have a closer look at 10K, 14K and 18K yellow gold and the andvantages and disadvantages of every yellow gold metal type.

Pros and Cons of 10K gold

The first striking thing about 10K gold is the fact that it contains more alloy than gold. It contains 41.7% gold and 58.3% alloy.

One advantage of 10K gold compared to 14K gold is that it is cheaper. 10K gold may actually be considered discount gold.

The currently best online diamond ring vendor James Allen does not even offer 10K gold. In fact you will find that most major premium-quality vendors will only sell the following ring metals:

Ring Metals offered by James Allen

10K gold looks slightly more pale than 14K gold but usually you won’t be able to see the difference with your bare eyes.

10K gold will also tarnish more quickly than 14K or 18K gold but with regular care this should not be too much of an issue.

Does that mean that you should not buy 10K yellow gold?

No, 10K yellow gold surely offers great value for your money! 10K diamonds are noticeably cheaper than 14K diamonds.

10K gold is more durable than 14K gold although the difference in durability is not as big as in 18K gold vs 14K gold.

All in all 10K gold is the right choice for people looking for the best price!

Pros and Cons of 14K gold

14K gold rings are the most popular choice for wedding rings and engagement rings within the United States. In fact, nearly 90% of all wedding rings and engagements rings sold in the United States consist of 14K gold.

14K gold solitaire diamond ring setting 14K gold diamond tension ring setting

Why exactly is 14K gold so popular?

14K gold contains 58.5% gold and is the perfect compromise for a gold metal: It is still quite durable and will not easily tarnish. It also has a nice yellow gold color and in fact you won’t be able to distinguish 14K and 18K yellow gold just by looking at it.

14K gold is a premium gold and is still comparably cheap. Especially compared to 18K gold.

The difference in durability between 14K and 18K gold is noticeable. It will usually take much longer for an 14K gold ring to show visible marks of wear and tear compared to an 18K gold ring.

It is the best choice for anyone looking for the best balance in durability, price and look.

Pros and Cons of 18K gold

18K gold consists of 75% gold and among commonly sold gold metals it has the highest amount of gold.

You will usually not find gold rings beyond 18K because they would tend to get scratches and deformations too easily.

18K yellow gold etched profile solitaire ring 18K yellow gold channel set ring setting

18K gold is typically used for high-end jewelry like diamond engagement rings.

Obviously 18K gold is the most expensive but it is also the one that is the least likely to tarnish.

It is however more prone to being affected by every-day life wear and tear as it is softer. 18K gold rings therefore require more care than 14K yellow gold rings do.

It is very difficult to see a noticeable difference between a 14k and 18K yellow gold ring with your bare eyes. It therefore rarely pays to buy an 18K gold rings as opposed to an 14K gold ring just for the looks.

18K gold rings are the best choice for anyone who wants to have the most amount of gold in the ring while still having enough durability (compared to 24K gold).

Preferring an 18K gold ring over an 14K gold ring is mostly a mental matter of knowing that the 18K gold ring contains more gold and is therefore more exquisite 🙂

Where to buy gold diamond rings?

The best place to buy particularly gold diamond rings is James Allen.

It offers nearly 500 different ring settins to choose from in 14K yellow gold, 18K yellow gold, 14K white gold, 18K white gold, platinum and rose gold!

As far as diamonds are concerned James Allen is the only place that will let you view all its diamonds in high definition 360° videos in up to 40x magnification!

Browsing through diamonds at James Allen

This feature is particularly useful for making out inclusions in diamonds and can save you a lot of money when you are buying SI1 or SI2 clarity diamonds.

Go and check out James Allen for yourself!

If you have any particular questions about ring metals I will be more than glad to help you out! Just leave me a comment or write me a mail!