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Carat vs. Karat: What's The Difference

We all aspire to have our own 24 karat golden statues, silverware, and accessories in our lives one day. But we hear this term “karat” a lot, so what exactly does that even mean?

The world of jewelry is filled with many different terms that might seem foreign at first glance, and it can be overwhelming for a newcomer. Not to mention, jewelry can be measured in both karatsandcarats, which is confusing but a lot easier to understand than you may think.

Even though karat and carat sound the same, they are very different. And these units can completely change the way your next piece looks and feels. Let’s take a look at some things you should know about karats and carats before you go out and buy your next accessory.

Differences Between Karats And Carats

These two words help to describe certain facets of jewelry, specifically when talking about gold and diamond.

Acaratis a unit of weight. This is used to describe gemstones, like diamonds and pearls. You’ve probably seen diamonds in your local jewelry store that are described using carats. Basically, a single carat is equal to 200 milligrams, or 0.2 grams. So if you buy your loved one a two-carat ring, you’re buying them a diamond that weighs 0.4 grams.

Typically, the larger the gemstone, the more expensive the piece. So a three-carat diamond will usually cost more than a one-carat diamond. However, when pricing gemstones, there are a total of 4 Cs: Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat. All of these factors play a role in determining how much your next bracelet will cost or resell for.

Akarat, on the other hand, measures purity. You’ve probably seen this being used to describe gold. The higher the karat, the purer that piece of gold jewelry is. Twenty-four karats is the highest that a piece of gold can be marked, meaning that a 24k piece is 100% pure gold.

Some pieces of jewelry might not be pure gold but are insteadgold plated. This means that a layer of true gold is flushed on top of another layer of metal. These pieces still utilize actual gold in their production.

What Is The Difference Between 24k Gold And 18k Gold?

As we’ve discussed, 24k gold means that the piece is made of pure gold. That is the only metal that was used in creating the base of the piece. However, you’ve probably seen a piece of jewelry that is marked as 18k. Should you be concerned about the quality of the piece?

Gold jewelry that is 18 karats means that the piece is made of 75% gold. The other 25% comes from other metals, like nickel or steel, that bind with the gold to create a more affordable piece. Eighteen karats means that the piece is made with 18 parts pure gold and six parts with other metal alloys. On the other hand, a 24 karat piece is made with 24 parts pure gold.

The only difference between gold of lower karatage and 24k gold really comes down to the price. A 24k gold necklace might sell for thousands of dollars, but gold with lower karatage can be much more accessible. So Big Sean could only be wearing ten karats for all we know, but you’d never be able to tell.

This is because you can’t tell the difference between golds of different karatage by just looking at them. You’d need to look for special insignias on the piece or have it appraised by a professional. This means that you can purchase lower karatage jewelry for a much lower price yet still have an identical luxury appearance.

Below is a quick chart to identify gold purity based on karatage alone:

  • 24k: 99.5% gold and above
  • 22k: 91.7% gold
  • 18k: 75% gold
  • 14k: 58.3% gold
  • 12k: 50% gold
  • 10k: 41.7% gold

It’s important to remember that lower karatage doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a lower quality piece. Check to see what other metals the gold is being plated on top of to really check the durability. For example, thisDiamond Tennis Chain is 18k gold plated over stainless steel, which is an extremely durable and tarnish resistant material, ensuring high quality.

Carat vs. Karat: What’s the Difference?

3mm Round Cut Diamond Tennis Chain 18k Gold

Are There Different Types Of Gold?

Natural, pure gold has a warm,brass-colored finish that cannot be altered with other metals. So, if a piece is pure 24 karats, it wouldn’t take on any different hues. This is yet another benefit of jewelry with a lower karatage, as it gives jewelers more freedom and creative expression when making new pieces.

A popular gold variant is known as white gold. This is a platinum-like color that is achieved by combining gold with nickel or palladium. These look especially good out when combined with gemstones, making for a clean, prestige finish. Check out thisDiamond Prong Cuban Bracelet White Gold to see what we mean.

Carat vs. Karat: What’s the Difference?

12mm Diamond Prong Cuban Bracelet White Gold

For a more nuanced look, you might consider something in rose gold. Rose gold has become prominent in recent years due to the popularity of the new iPhone. Of course, that isn’t plated with real gold, but its color is similar to an authentic rose gold piece of jewelry. The pink finish of this metal is achieved by adding more copper alloy to the gold. ThisCluttered Tennis Chain in Rose Gold is a great example of the elegance that this hue can convey.

Carat vs. Karat: What’s the Difference?

Clustered Tennis Chain Rose Gold

You could even make green gold by adding some zinc and silver to the alloy during production. Since gold is such a malleable and versatile metal, you can combine gold with anything. This allows for quality pieces of jewelry that can’t be replicated using solid gold by itself.

Does Karatage Affect The Quality Of The Piece?

Gold is one of the most valuable metals because of itsdurability. The substance is resistant to tarnishing and doesn’t require much maintenance to keep it looking good. However, when gold is combined with other high-quality metals, such as silver or steel, it can be just as long-lasting.

One of the best ways to level up any piece of jewelry is by adding some gemstones. Crystals like diamonds are some of the most sought after gems in the world, making them expensive to buy. However, much like gold, you can easily keep an identical quality and appearance with diamond alternatives.

A popular diamond replacement is known as cubic zirconia (CZ). Due to its durability, low cost, and nearly identical likeness to a real diamond, this crystal is one of diamond’s toughest competitors in the market. CZ is often used in conjunction with gold bases, as it makes for a stunning and prestigious look on any bracelet or necklace.

You might see diamonds or synthetic alternatives being described as VVS or VS. This stands for Very Very Slightly and Very Slightly, respectively. This refers to the clarity of the gem, denoting small fractures or blemishes that are entirely invisible to the naked eye. A flawless gem is just that: it has no flaws. But one that is described using these terms might have small nicks that can only be seen under a microscope.

Gems with VVS signifiers are yet again nothing different from a flawless gem. No one would ever be able to look at it with a naked eye and know that there is anything wrong with it. This allows for the gemstone to be even more affordable, and this shouldn’t dissuade you from purchasing a piece.

A jeweler needs to use just as much time and effort to craft CZ gems as they would with a real diamond. Since they look the same and have the same finishes, jewelry using CZ can look just like the real deal without the price tag. Take a look at thisIced Band Bracelet for proof that synthetic gems look just like the real thing.


Carats and Karats can be confusing facets of the jewelry world at first glance, but they’re important descriptors in determining the details of your next piece. While 24k pure gold is a durable option, it is extremely expensive and pretty much impossible to discern from a cheaper, less pure alternative.

Likewise, synthetic gemstones can coincide with lower karatage gold for a piece that looks authentic but costs only a fraction of the price. Plus, using metals that are not 100% pure allows for more freedom in jewelry design, meaning that manufacturers can make more luxurious pieces than usual.