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What Does Karat Mean In Gold Jewelry?

A solid 14k yellow gold filigree wedding band on a dark blue background

What does Karat mean?

The origin of the words Karat and Carat have a delicious history, they come from “carob”, the same tree that gives us chocolate. Hundreds of years ago, a single seed from the carob tree was used as a standard for weight against a small gemstone. This unit of measurement eventually became the standard for measuring the purity of gold as well. Over time the different spellings were created to differentiate between the two, with Karat (“kt” for short) being the measure of gold purity and Carat (“ct” for short) being the measure of a gem's weight.

What is gold purity?

Gold in its natural state is soft and malleable so it’s often alloyed with other metals to increase its strength. Although the percentage of precious metal present in jewelry can be any number, just a select few standards are commonly used. All gold jewelry should carry a stamp indicating the purity of the gold, essentially stating how much gold is in the piece. A Karat stamp (10k, 14k, and so on) is an American standard, while a Three-Digit Stamp (417, 585, etc ...) is a European standard. They look different, but they both mean the same thing.

Common percentages of gold purity

10k or 417 = 41.7% of pure gold
14k or 585 = 58.5% of pure gold
18k or 750 = 75% of pure gold
24k or 999 = 100% of pure gold

These karats apply to any color of gold - meaning that 14k yellow and 14k rose gold will have the same percentage of gold, 58.5%. For more information on the colors of gold, check out our blog post.


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