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Gold Purity (karat)
The percentage of gold in a piece of jewelry is measured in karats. Pure gold is 24K, however is generally too soft to work with and therefore is often mixed with other metals creating a harder alloy.
The metals used with the pure gold create different gold colors and shades. The higher the Karat is, higher the percentage of pure gold there is in the piece. It is important to note that pure gold or 24K gold is very soft, so it also follows that the higher the Karat is the softer the piece will be.
14 karat gold is often marked '585' to indicate the gold percentage of 58.5% pure gold in the piece of jewelry. 14K gold is slightly harder and whiter than the 18K option, but is slightly lighter, due to the lower gold purity.
10K gold is the minimum Karat that is still considered to be gold in most countries. It is 10 parts pure gold and 14 parts other metals, that means that the piece of jewelry is 41.7% pure gold. 10K gold is often marked with 417 to indicate the percentage of gold in the piece.
18K gold is 18 parts pure gold and 6 parts other metals. This mix makes the gold jewelry 75% pure gold. 18K jewelry is often marked as '750' to indicate the pure gold percentage.
White gold is pure (yellow) gold mixed with white metals such as silver, palladium and nickel. The result is a gold alloy mixture of off-white color. To achieve a dazzling white finish, white gold is polished and dipped in pure rhodium. To maintain this beautiful white look, it's recommended to have your white gold jewelry cleaned and re-dipped in rhodium every few years.
Platinum is a naturally white metal with the same dazzling white finish as white gold after it's been rhodium plated. Platinum is more dense and stronger metal compared to gold and is used in high purity (over 95%). Platinum jewelry is stamped 'PLAT' or '950'.
The main advantage of platinum, beyond its heavy feel and high purity, is that it keeps its white finish and doesn't require periodic maintenance like white gold.