14K vs. 18K Gold: What is the Difference

Sharif Khan
Sharif Khan
Last Updated    EST 
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Gold is an age-old precious metal hailed for its monetary and aesthetic value. Approximately 90 percent of wedding bands and engagement rings have gold as part of their component metals. Going by these statistics, jewelers are more likely to use a variety of pure gold than other metals to craft fine jewelry.

Karat (k) is the universal measurement unit of gold; pure gold is said to be 24k. Apart from ceremonial pieces, a buyer is unlikely to come across jewelry made of pure gold. It is soft, malleable, and prone to scratches, dents, and deforming (loss of shape), especially when not properly handled.

This is where the variations of gold come in white, yellow, and rose gold. All these forms of gold come from mixing pure 24k gold with certain metals. Jewelers will alloy gold with copper, zinc, silver, palladium, or nickel, depending on the desired color.

A variation of gold in any karat size can be made, but 10k, 14k, and 18k gold are the most prominent and popular gold setting offerings in digital jewelry shops. 18k gold is particularly a shoppers’ favorite in Europe and Asia, though 14k has a bigger fan base in the US. Why? Its alloy proportions give it optimal levels of corrosion resistance, resulting in better durability than 18k gold.

So, what are the prices of 14k and 18k gold settings? What are the pros and cons of 14k and 18k yellow, white, and rose gold bands and settings? Which of the three is best for colorless stones, and which enhances colored gems? The type of skin tone that a customer has will also play a part in deciding which gold color to don. A gold karat rating should be chosen based on known reasons and fashion preferences. But before an order is made for gold jewelry online, considering the advice below will prove beneficial to go in well-informed.

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14k Gold vs. 18k Gold: Alloys and Range of Colors

How does one know whether a certain ring, pendant, earring, or bracelet is genuine gold? The first thing to be done when picking up a piece of jewelry from a jeweler’s display stand is to check for a credibility mark (certified hallmark). It all has to do with the karat size and so requires attention. The jewelry industry, like other markets, has its fair share of crooks.

pear antique engagement ring 

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It is easy for a ring to be gold coated and marketed as 14k or 18k gold jewelry, making it a prerequisite to examine the piece and look for the karat marking carefully. If it is 14k gold jewelry, it will have a 14k label—the same applies to 18k jewelry. Alternatively, a numeric stamp might also be seen: 585 and 750 for 14k and 18k gold, respectively. The certified hallmark could have a “P” beside it. In the jewelry industry, this is plumb gold (the exact karat rating).

Dig a little deeper if the official identification mark is the karat size. A silver ring plated in white gold treated with a rhodium flash can easily pass for a 14k or 18k white gold engagement ring. The only way to escape being ripped off is to deal with a credible jeweler. In some cases, accredited jewelry houses and vendors will include their logo as an added feature to prove that the customer is buying real yellow, white, or rose gold.

Jewelry made with 14k yellow gold contains 58.5 percent pure gold, which explains the 585 numeric stamps. The rest is an alloy of copper, silver, and zinc. Pure gold is always the base metal used to produce gold in different colors. For white gold, the alloy will carry a predetermined portion of white metals such as silver, palladium, or nickel. White gold jewelry may be rhodium coated for extra strength and protection against rust.

14k rose gold blends pure gold, copper, and zinc. The alloy can be manipulated to create a family of gold colors, usually pinkish, red, and rose gold. The same metal/element composition goes into making 18k yellow, white, and rose gold jewelry pieces.

The only difference is the ratio used for the alloys. Any 18k gold jewelry has a 75 percent pure gold base, hence the 750 numeric stamps. The rest is an alloy of metals (copper, zinc, and a white or bleach metal), whose volume is altered to manufacture different colors of 18k gold.

14k Gold vs. 18k Gold: Wear and Tear

Pure gold can tarnish and even lose shape within days if not weeks of buying and wearing it and hence is not the best choice of daily wear jewelry for any given jewelry shop. Although engagement ring shoppers might not know anything about it, authentic jewelers know this well, so they quickly blend gold with the appropriate alloy quantities. Such jewelers also have adequate yellow, white, and rose 14k and 18k gold inventory to win over a customer’s business with various offerings.

The higher the level of pure gold contained in gold jewelry, the lower the score in durability points. Pure gold is overly supple and bendable. Its inherent malleability and susceptibility to discoloration mean that pure gold deteriorates fast. For this reason, 18k gold jewelry needs more maintenance attention than 14k gold pieces.

14k and 18k yellow gold have just the right amounts of copper and silver alloy to preserve their elegant yellow color. The copper and silver here are purposefully used to make the yellow gold sturdy. 14k yellow gold has a more significant portion of hard-wearing metals and takes the crown as the long-lasting jewelry alloy of the two.

The situation is different for white gold because it contains far better palladium than a white gold alloy of silver or nickel. Palladium is part of the platinum group of metals, making it noble (naturally corrosion-resistant).

14k and 18k white gold score high in durability. But an 18k gold ring owner would probably be the first to visit their local jewelry shop for retouching and polishing. It is even better when the white gold is rhodium dipped because rhodium—also a noble metal—adds to the pieces' durability arsenal. Rhodium flashing ensures that the underlying pure gold does not show due to the inevitable wearing out from regular day-to-day use.

Rose gold is relatively durable compared to yellow gold. More substantial amounts of the copper element go into rose gold alloys to get a vibrant rose gold color. Copper has astounding durability, and when the product’s longevity is a primary objective, it is the metal for the job. With occasional cleaning and polishing, a customer can rest assured that a rose gold engagement ring will last a reasonably long time.


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It may already be known that pure gold is not exactly the most durable of jewelry-making metals. This fact shows lower karat gold (such as 10k gold) is sturdier than higher karat gold (14k and above). This being the case, how come 18k gold rings still cost more than 14k gold rings? Should the more durable gold metal not fetch more dollars?

It does not work like that. Despite having superior wear and tear ranking, 14k gold still costs less than 18k gold. The pricing structure of gold jewelry stems from the pure gold component of a yellow, white, or rose gold alloy.

Jewelers can buy 24k gold, which currently costs $47.67 (US) per gram, and raw copper, zinc, silver, nickel, and palladium to create yellow, white, or rose gold pieces from scratch. Alternatively, the same jewelers can directly source 14k and 18k gold for $27.81 and $35.75 per gram, respectively. The gold becomes the raw material, which is melted and built into standard and custom 14k and 18k fine jewelry.

Gold is a significant commodity in the precious metal markets whose market price continuously fluctuates. The market price of gold sets the markup strategy for jewelers. When a 14k gold setting design is a tad fancier, it can have a slightly higher price tag than a casual 18k gold ring.

But typically, when the designs are consistent, an 18k gold engagement ring costs more than a 14k ring at the  Blue Nile or Whiteflash online jewelry stores due to a difference in levels of pure gold. The purer gold in an alloy, the higher the jewelry price. Consequently, 10k gold pieces are cheaper than 14k gold pieces. The same verdict holds for 18k and 20k gold jewelry price comparisons.

Bottom line: Yellow 14k and 18k gold have a striking resemblance, and so do rose gold pieces or white gold jewelry (14k and 18k) when placed side-by-side. However, 10k gold looks paler due to only having ten parts of gold out of the total 24 parts.

This is industry jargon for gold jewelry. 24k gold, on the other hand, has 22 parts pure gold and only two parts of the hardening metal alloy. Whether in white, yellow or rose gold variants, it will appear darker and richer in color.

A customer does not have to pay more by purchasing 18k gold settings when 14k gold options are readily available, affordable, and just as elegant. 14k gold perfectly balances jewelry lifespan and a trendy look and can be purchased on a budget. Therefore, it is important not to fall victim to the social stigma that often personifies 14k gold jewelry as ‘cheap.’

Complementing the Gemstone and Your Skin Tone

Generally, 14k and 18k yellow gold rings and pendants enhance the look of a tinted diamond. Lower-color scale stones with a yellow hue nicely fuse into the backdrop of a yellow-gold ring to create a homogenous effect. The yellow tint corresponds to the yellow gold setting, which makes for a solid look. The same stone on a white gold ring has an awkward feel and may not be easy on the eyes.

Use white 14k or 18k gold settings for near-colorless diamonds. The shiny white appearance of the rhodium flashed white gold ring helps to enhance the light performance of an F color stone. If you love, rose gold or yellow gold, go for a white prong setting. The white prongs achieve the same brilliance boost in the stone’s brilliance as a white gold setting.

Fancy colors and other differently colored (any color outside the GIA color scale) stones are meant to end up on a rose gold setting. Of the three colors (white, yellow, and rose), rose gold undisputedly provides a better background for a stone of color.

A champagne diamond set in a 14k rose gold Halo Pendant is an excellent example of that fancy color and rose gold combo. In the other example, the bezel-set pear-shaped ruby and diamond in a 14k rose gold stacking ring are gorgeous.

Rose gold also integrates well with all skin tones and is like a correctly done tattoo—regardless of the complexion; no worry should loom large. Yellow gold is the ideal color for 14k and 18k gold shoppers. On the contrary, if a buyer is rosy or fair-skin-toned, they should look no further than white 14k or 18k gold jewelry.

Yellow gold is like a ‘veteran’ in the jewelry-making business and has been around for hundreds of years to a point where it is readily recognizable and a bit ‘stale’ fashion-wise. How about spicing up yellow gold with another color of gold in a set design for a trendier look? White gold is a good alternative for a setting similar to platinum but cheaper.

14k and 18k rose gold comes in at number one on the scorecard. It may not be prevalent, but it has “romance” all over it. It guarantees a fresh and contemporary fashion sense lacking in 14k and 18k white and yellow gold. If a customer is on a budget, 14k rose gold will be a no-brainer. But if they want more extravagance and desire a splurge, 18k will get them there.