The Ultimate Gold Purity Guide
If you are in the market to buy gold, one thing you will want to find out about is its purity. The purity of gold refers to the amount of gold in the product in comparison to the other metals or alloys present…and the purer it is, the more expensive it will be. Read on to find out more about how you can determine the purity of the gold you are buying.
What are Karats?
When you are buying jewelry, if you inspect it closely, most times there will be a tiny engravement on it. This is called a hallmark.
Hallmarks may appear as numbers like .585, which will show you that gold is .585 in purity, they may be shapes, or they may be a mix of numbers and letters like 14K, 18K or 24K.
When thinking of the letters and numbers mix, the letter ‘K’ that is used stands for karats. Karats are used to measure the ratio of gold to other metals or alloys present. These could include copper, nickel, silver or palladium.
Karats are measured on a scale from 0 to 24 so that 24 k is the purest kind of gold you can buy.
So, for example, a 10K piece will be 10 out of 24 parts gold for a total percentage of 41.7% gold purity. Other karats have a gold percentage as follows:
- 14K: 14/24 parts gold, 58.3% purity
- 18K: 18/24 parts gold, 75% purity
- 24K 24/24 parts gold, 99.9% purity
Different Types of Gold
Gold is malleable in its pure form. Sometimes, metals are added to it to enhance its color and strength. Rose gold, for example, is a mix of copper and gold. White gold is made up of pure gold as well as metals that are silvery or white in appearance like palladium and silver.
Because rose gold and white gold feature these mixes, they can never be 24K. White gold may be up to 80-90% pure but even that is pushing it a bit.
Rose gold is usually found in the 14K or 18K range for a 58.3-75% of pure gold. Rose gold that has a higher copper content will be redder in color while pieces that have more gold will be more of a champagne tone.
Although we might think yellow gold is pure gold, it is often mixed with zinc and copper. If the gold is not mixed with these metals or if there is low amount of these metals present, the gold will be purer, but it will also be less durable.
How Can I Tell How Pure My Gold Is?
As mentioned before, many pieces of gold have an engraving that lets you know it’s purity. In cases where this engraving is not present, it will be necessary to perform a gold assay or test.
Most jewelers have assays available and they will be able to perform the testing to determine your gold’s purity. However, you can also order an assay test to use at home.
The assay kit consists of different solutions, a dilute acid and a touchstone. The touchstone is made of a dark acid resistant rock.
To perform the test, you must rub the gold so that it leaves a streak mark. Acid solutions are applied to the mark. Pieces with a higher of gold will see less of the streak vanish when the acid is applied.
Although the assay will be the most reliable way to tell if your gold is pure, there are other factors to look for in the jewelry store that will give you a hint of how pure the gold is or whether it is real at all.
A gold item will feel heavy in your hands. If the item feels exceptionally lightweight, it may only be gold plated. Purer gold will also be malleable and dent easily.
Does a Higher Karat Mean the Gold is Higher Quality?
Purer gold will always be worth more money. However, when considering quality, pure gold is not always the preferred choice due to its malleability.
On the other hand, lower karat gold is not as resistant to tarnish as higher karat pieces are. Higher karat pieces will also have more of a vibrant yellow appearance which some jewelry owners may prefer.
Now that you are armed with this information, you will better be able to tell which pieces are pure and which are mixed with other metals. The type you choose is up to you. But whatever choice you make, we hope that you find a piece that you love.