Jewelry Guide

18K vs. 14K Gold – Which is Better and How to Choose

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Choosing the metal for your ring or jewelry piece is usually the simpler step compared to picking the right gemstone but even then there are some points of confusion people face. 

For example, what is the difference between 18K and 14K gold? Which is better for you and how should you choose between them? In fact, what do these measurements even mean? Let’s go over all these questions one by one below. 

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What Are Gold Karats? 

The karat system for measuring gold purity comes from the old unit of mass measurement – the carat (ct). A single carat is equivalent to 200 mg or 0.00705 oz. But why does this matter? 

The connection between carats and karats comes from Germany where pure gold coins were expected to weigh 24 carats, hence why the number 24 got equivocated with gold purity. 

From there, the karat system – with a k – started being used instead of a potentially simpler percentage-based system. So, 24 Karats gold means gold that’s 100% pure (or 99.99%, really), and gold alloys that included some silver, copper, palladium, nickel, zinc, or other metals for extra hardness were dubbed 18K, 14K, 10K, and so on, based on how much gold there was in the alloy. 

What Is 18K Gold? 

white gold leaf engagement ring
18K white gold leaf halo engagement ring. See it here. 

If 24K indicates pure gold with no additional metals, then 18K gold is an alloy that’s made of 75% gold and 25% other metals. The exact contents of that remaining 25% can vary depending on the exact color and properties of the alloy needed to be. 

  • For Yellow Gold – More often than not, that 25% is made out of silver, copper, zinc, nickel, and palladium. So, when the 18K gold alloy needed to be yellow and similar in appearance to 24K gold, the 25% would be 10% to 12% copper, 12% to 15% silver, and 0% to 3% zinc or nickel. 
  • For Rose Gold – If the gold needed to have a rose color, however, that 25% would be almost entirely copper (22% to 23%) with just 2% or 3% silver.  
  • For White Gold – Similarly, for white gold, the alloy would include no copper but 0% to 10% silver and 15% to 25% palladium. 

Regardless of the exact color and mixture, the key properties that make 18K special are that it’s harder than 24K gold and therefore much more durable and more suitable for jewelry use. That’s because, as valuable as 24K gold is, it’s just way too soft and gets easily damaged when worn as jewelry. 

So, for a lot of people, 18K gold is the perfect marriage between beauty and durability. 

What is 14k Gold? 

14k rose gold wedding ring
14K rose gold wedding ring. See it here. 

14K gold alloys are created for the same reason as 18K gold – to give people gold that looks as stunning as 24K gold but is much more durable and long-lasting even if you wear it every day for years. 

With 14K gold, the percentages go like this – 58.3% gold and 41.7% other metals: 

  • Silver, copper, zinc, and nickel for yellow gold 
  • Copper and silver for rose gold 
  • Palladium and silver for white gold 

Once again, the exact percentages can fluctuate depending on the exact look the jeweler is going for. Most of the time, the goal is to make the 14K gold look as bright and shiny, and as close to 18K and 24K gold as possible, while using the 41.7% of other metals to make 14K gold jewelry sturdy enough to last for decades and centuries. 

So, let’s explore the exact differences between 14K vs. 18K gold below. 

18K Vs 14K Gold – Differences 

The pros and cons of 18K and 14K gold alloys can easily be summarized from the above descriptions of their contents. Yet even though we’re talking about just 16.7% less gold in 14K alloys compared to 18K ones, that difference is easy to underestimate. This is why we’ll emphasize the four key points: 

1. Durability 

14K rose gold ring james allen
14K rose gold ring by James Allen. See it here. 

Just like 18K gold is significantly harder and more durable than 24K gold, so is 14K noticeably more durable and long-lasting than 18K gold.  

Is the difference so major that 18K gold is ill-advised for jewelry? No, 18K gold is hardy enough for most types of jewelry.  

Yet, most experts would still recommend 14K gold for rings, in particular, and especially for people who work with their hands, as that’s where you really need the extra durability. Of course, this isn’t to say that you won’t need to be careful with a 14K gold ring – it’s still gold and it can still be scratched – just not quite as easily. 

2. Value 

Naturally, since 18K alloys have 16.7% more gold in them, they are more valuable monetarily than 14K gold alloys. In practical terms, this means a few things for you, the buyer: 

  • 18K gold jewelry will always be a bit more expensive than 14K gold jewelry that’s equivalent to it in any other way. Compare this 14K white gold ring with this equivalent 18K white gold ring.
  • Notice the difference in price, which is a noteworthy $150. 
  • 18K gold can be seen as a “better investment” if you’re buying your gold jewelry not so much to wear it but for its resale value. 
  • By being lighter on your budget, 14K gold is not only more affordable but can also leave you with some extra coins for a bigger diamond, a more luxurious setting, and other such perks.  

In other words, the fact that 18K is more valuable than 14K can be seen as both a pro and a con, depending on what exactly you want from your jewelry.  

3. Color 

14k-white-gold-ring-james-allen
14K diamond ring from Whiteflash. See more here.

The color of each alloy can vary greatly depending on the exact contents of that non-gold 25 % and 41.7%.  

Overall, however, 18K gold is usually expected to be a bit shinier than 14K gold simply because of the extra gold in it. But, again, that’s not always necessarily the case as 14K gold alloys can also have a gorgeous shine when they are mixed with the right proportions.  

So, while a jeweler or another expert will usually be able to tell the difference between 18K and 14K gold, that difference isn’t all that significant for most people.  

The much more important color distinction is that between yellow, rose, white, and other gold colors – but those can all come in either 18K or 14K anyway. 

4. Lifestyle  

The big difference between 18K and 14K is the one that stems from their durability and that’s the very reason we recommend both 18K and 14K alloys over 24K gold – it’s that both 18K and 14K alloys are better for everyday use. 

14K gold, in particular, is especially recommended for people with active lifestyles, people who love to play sports, those that work with their hands, and so on.  

Which Should I Choose?  

18K vs. 14K Gold rings

In most situations, we would recommend 14K gold over 18K gold when it comes to jewelry you want to wear regularly. If instead, you’re looking for a piece you’ll only wear occasionally and you’re willing to pay extra for a higher value, 18K gold is the way to go. Most jewelry purchases are made with everyday use in mind, however, which is why 14K alloys are more common than any other type of gold nowadays.  

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Wrapping Up  

Both 14K and 18K gold alloys are excellent for jewelry pieces of all kinds – engagement and wedding rings, earrings, necklaces, and more. There are some slight differences in hardiness and value between these two purity grades and those are worth considering but, all in all, you’ll probably be happy with either.  

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