Types of Gold in Jewelry, Explained

Types of Gold in Jewelry Explained

Solid gold jewelry comes in variations of colors and karatage. This article explains the differences in solid gold variations so you understand exactly what you have or what you’re shopping for! 

Solid Gold Jewelry Characteristics 

Gold is a precious metal with characteristics that make it perfect for jewelry…

  • Appearance: Beautiful shining & lustrous appearance
  • Anti-Tarnish: Lower reactivity than other metals, which means it anti-tarnish
  • Workability: It is a soft metal that can be melted & worked into different forms
  • Repairability: Can be repaired & resized 
  • Value: Retains a market value over time 
  • Longevity: Solid gold jewelry can last forever with proper care 

Solid Gold Metal Alloys

Pure gold (the element you see on the periodic table) is so soft & malleable that it is not a good fit for jewelry. Jewelry made of pure gold would easily bend, dent & morph. The solid gold used to make jewelry is made of a mix of metals; pure gold mixed with other metals. These mixtures are called metal alloys. 

Solid Gold Karatage (14k, 18k, etc.) 

Solid gold jewelry is denoted with its ‘karatage’, such as 14K, 18K, 20K, etc. But what do these numbers mean?

Let’s start with the meaning of gold karatage. Karatage is a measurement of how much pure gold is in a metal. It is measured by parts of a whole. 24K is completely pure gold. The proportion of pure gold decreases from there with other metals types mixed in. 

Here’s how the math breaks down... 

 

The percentages of pure gold vs. other metals contribute to differences in characteristics in jewelry, such as color tone and durability (including malleability & scratch resistance). 

Here’s how jewelry characteristics change based on karatage…

 

What metal karatage is right for you? 

The most durable variation of solid gold is 14K. Madberet recommends 14K solid gold for jewelry that will be worn every day. 18K is recommended for high end pieces that are worn less frequently and for people with sensitivity to other types of metals. 24K & 20K are so malleable that they are very uncommon and are not recommended for most types of jewelry.

Solid Gold Colors (Yellow, Rose & White) 

Solid gold jewelry comes in three beautiful color variations; yellow, rose & white gold. People have different gold color preferences for what best compliments their complexion and what looks best with the gemstones in a piece. The different colors come from the other metals that are mixed with gold in the metal alloy. 

Here are the mixtures of metals that make the different gold colors...

What metal color is right for you? 

All of the colors are beautiful, so metal color is truly a preference! In addition to appearance, a few considerations are skin sensitivity & color combination with gemstones. For people with more sensitive skin, Madberet recommends going with yellow or rose gold over white gold. For color combinations with gemstones, the metal color will interact with the gemstone appearance. For example, a diamond in a yellow gold setting will make the diamond appear more yellow than if it is set in a white metal like white gold or platinum. 

Choosing the Solid Gold for You

When it comes to jewelry, you can’t go wrong with solid gold! Its characteristics make solid gold perfect for jewelry that can be worn and loved every day and for years to come (with the proper care). When buying a piece of solid gold jewelry, consider the karatage (purity) and the color that works best for you! 

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