A side by side comparison: 14K vs 18K gold

January 11, 2017

A side by side comparison: 14K vs 18K gold

Whether you're looking for a simple pair of earrings or a custom engagement ring, it's important for you to know what metal options you have and what might be best choice for you.

It's common knowledge that pure gold is 24 karats but in the jewelry world, the most common alloy for rings is 14 karat gold and 18 karat gold. Pure 24K gold is very soft and doesn't have the hardness to stand up to daily wear. To work around that, pure gold is alloyed, or mixed, with other metals to help make it strong enough to take on the daily burden of being worn and colliding with other hard objects on a frequent basis. 

14K gold is around 58% pure gold while the remaining 42% consists of a mix of metals, usually copper, silver, zinc, and/or nickel (white gold only). These metals, while less precious, create a strong gold alloy that are fit for daily wear. 18K gold is about 75% pure gold with the remaining 25% being comprised of copper, silver, zinc, and/or nickel (used in white gold only). If you are looking for a white gold, please be aware that nickel (found in white golds but not yellow) can cause an allergic reaction for a small handful of people so if this applies to you, contact us to learn about nickel-free white metal options. 

So what do these different alloys mean for you? 


Gold does slowly tarnish over time and 14K gold will tarnish less quickly than 18K. If you wear your jewelry every day, tarnish is not usually an issue you need to worry about since our natural skin oils help delay tarnish overall. Gold is a natural element and thus both 14K and 18K alloys will be affected by harsh chemicals like chlorine and cleaning agents. You can take a look at our jewelry care guide here.


All gold rings will scratch, bend, and scuff over time because that's the nature of gold. Due to the higher percentage of other metals, 14K gold will be harder than 18K gold. If you are particularly active (sports, manual labor, etc.) and know that your rings may take a beating from time to time, 14K gold is great option for you because it is harder and will not scuff, bend, or scratch as easily as an 18K gold ring might.  


Sometimes it can be hard to see a perceptible difference in 14K vs 18K yellow gold. The richer, yellower 18K gold looks great on dark, tan, and olive skin tones. If you want colored stones in your jewelry, you should consider whether the alloy you prefer is a good color match. 18K gold will always have a stronger yellow hue, even in white and rose golds. If you like a warmer yellow gold, a whiter white gold or a pinker rose gold, 14K gold is a good choice for you.


A majority of gold rings worn in the US are 14K gold. 18K is more popular in Europe and in Asia. Also, 18K is often used when higher quality gemstones and diamonds are set. 


14K rings will be less expensive than 18K gold rings due to the lower amount of pure gold in the alloy. 

 Both alloys are beautiful and we can make most of our rings in both alloys as well as platinum. Have a question? Please feel free to contact us any time and we'd be happy to help.