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February 22, 2023

Understanding Gold: Karats and Colors

Gold remains a precious metal after already being appreciated and cherished for thousands of years.

Gold is rare, beautiful, and durable. When you’re thinking about purchasing gold jewelry, it can help to understand the basics behind the karats and colors to make the best decision – you may want a more durable piece if the recipient is active and will wear it often, for instance.


Gold is measured in karats, in the jewelry world, to indicate the level of purity and quality of the gold.

The highest level of gold purity is 24 karats (24K) and it’s very soft.

Karat weight is expressed as a fraction of the pure 24K, which is why you commonly come across 18K or 14K gold jewelry.

You might think the higher the karat weight, the stronger the piece, but in fact, the opposite is true. The higher the karat weight, the purer the gold and the softer it will be, making it easy to scratch and damage.

Lower karat gold is more durable than pure gold. To make a gold piece of jewelry stronger or more durable and scratch resistant, it’s important to mix in other metals, which is where the other karat weights come into play.

An 18K piece of gold is 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metals (totaling 24K).

A 14K piece of gold is 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metals (totaling 24K).

Using other metals helps improve the durability and longevity of jewelry that is worn often, such as rings and bracelets. Adding other metals tends to change the color of the gold, of course, and that is how various colors of gold, such as yellow, white, and rose are created.

Yellow, white, and rose gold

Yellow is the traditional, most common color of gold. It’s created by adding copper and zinc into the gold alloy. Yellow gold jewelry is versatile and timeless with its warm rich yellow color.

White gold is created by adding silver-colored metals such as nickel, palladium, or manganese into the gold alloy. White gold is notable for its contemporary look with the bright white tone, in part due to being coated with rhodium.

Rose gold comes about from adding copper into the gold alloy. The warm pinkish colored metal has been gaining popularity in the past few years for its elegant and unique appearance. The more copper in the mix, the deeper the rose tint will be.

When it comes to value, yellow gold will remain the most traditional and most valuable. We include a deeper look into each gold color, and talk about platinum and more in our article about durability of jewelry finishes.

Understanding the basics of gold’s karats and colors can help you as you look at various pieces. And now you’re aware of how karat weight impacts a piece’s durability and value.

If the piece is going to be worn occasionally, a piece with higher gold content may make the perfect gift for your special someone. If you are purchasing a ring for an active person, you’ll want to select a piece with a more durable and versatile metal so it won’t damage easily.

If you want to go a step further, you can read some of our tips for keeping your jewelry in the best condition. We’re happy to help you shop and make the best selection for the person on your gift list. Stop in or give us a call today!