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The Butter Analogy – 18kt vs 14kt Gold

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14 vs 18 Karat Gold - What are the differences?

So you’ve decided you want a gold wedding ring – what is the difference between the karats? And what does this have to do with butter?

Pure gold is soft – not as soft as butter, but quite soft as far as metals go. Think of the iconic trader biting a gold coin to determine its authenticity. In the jewelry world, this super suppleness is not ideal for creating the little details of jewelry, which need to stand up to everyday wear and tear. In order to toughen it up, and also make it more affordable, other less-expensive alloys are added in. Different percentages can be added to make the gold different “karats.” For example, 18kt gold is 75% gold, 25% other alloys, whereas 14k gold is 58% gold. The lowest karat measure that is allowed to be called gold in the USA is 10kt, which contains only 42% gold. (We currently don’t offer 10kt gold.) Though they can look very similar, this variation in gold purity produces some very real differences, most notably in color and strength.

Gold Jewelry Purities 14kt vs 18kt | The Alchemy Bench

18kt vs 14kt Color

If you truly love the look of yellow gold, then you will love the deep rich golden hue of 18kt yellow gold. The higher percentage of gold in 18kt jewelry will produce a more natural gold color. Of course, this won’t really matter if you are opting for white gold, which is rhodium plated anyway. “What is rhodium plating?” you ask. For the sake of the butter analogy, it’s a little like dipping a stick of butter (yellow gold) into white chocolate (rhodium). The outside is a different material, and a different color, but the inside is still butter. Follow the previous link for more information about that.

18kt vs 14kt Strength

The other factor to consider when choosing your gold karat is strength. Because 18kt gold contains more gold, it is softer than 14kt gold, which means that it will scratch easier. But, hold on! This is where it gets a little more complicated… and this is where the butter analogy comes into play. Because of its relative suppleness, the way it scratches will be a little different than 14kt gold. While it will accumulate more scratches in a shorter amount of time, the scratches won’t be quite as bold as those in 14k jewelry.

Here we go: Imagine that 18kt gold is room-temperature butter and 14kt gold is cold butter. If you drag a knife through cold butter, a bold obvious trench will form; however, if you drag a knife through room-temperature butter, there is some give and the butter “bounces back” slightly, creating a soft line. Over time, 18kt gold will accumulate many of these soft scratches, giving it a beautiful patina. It loses its strong reflective quality and acquires more of an antique “brushed” look, which many find even more beautiful than smooth shiny gold. Of course, this can be easily buffed out if the high-shine look is preferred.

Keep in mind that gold strength is preferred for fine details, such as rings with filigree and small intricate designs. After all, it is harder to sculpt and retain fine details with soft butter. For such rings, we would suggest 14kt gold.

Though there are numerous factors to consider, in the end, both 14kt and 18kt gold will create a stunning engagement ring or wedding band, so don't lose too much sleep over the decision!

*Please Note: Outside the USA, karat is spelled, "carat." This is the same way diamond "carat" is spelled, although they have different meanings.

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