If you ever felt confused in carat weights, wondered what is plating and how it affects the value of jewelry, this article will help you!
Basics: What are precious metals
A precious metal is a rare, naturally-born metal of high economic value. Chemically, the precious metals are less reactive than most other metals, have high lustre, are softer or more ductile, and have higher melting points than other metals. The most common precious metals are Gold, Silver and Platinum.
What is a karat?
Jewelry rarely is made of pure, solid precious metal. Why? There are reasons:
Gold is a very soft metal. It is extremely hard to make delicate, small jewelry items from pure gold – they will break, bend and be very fragile. Mixing copper, silver, palladium or other metals increases hardness of the jewelry made of such alloy.
Rose gold, Yellow gold, White gold, even Blue and Purple gold – all of those shades of gold are alloys with various metals. For example, Rose gold is made adding copper to alloy; White gold is made with nickel or palladium.
As percentage of the gold used in final product varies, so varies the karat weight. Lets us take a look at example:
White gold is made by mixing gold and nickel in 9 to 1 proportion. That means that the final product will have 90% of gold and 10% of nickel. In jewelry it would be called 900 gold – 90.0% of gold.
“White Gold is Often Made Using Nickel”
The more commonly used (although more confusing) system uses ‘karats’, where 24 karat gold is basically pure 100.0% gold. 90.0% of 24 would be approximately 22 – that means that gold in our example, containing 90.0% of gold, will be called 22k gold.
Descending lower, we will get 18k for metal with 75.0% of pure gold and 14k for metal with 58.5% of pure gold.
Understanding karats is very important in jewelry – the higher is the percentage of gold, the bigger is the price for the item.
What karats do exist?
Although percentage of precious metal in alloy can be any, just few standards are used. Karats usually refer to gold, but platinum and silver have their own grades too. Below is the table demonstrating most commonly used karats:
10k – 41.7% gold
14k – 58.5%
18k – 75%
24k – 99%
900 – 90% platinum
950 – 95%