Karat Introduction

Karats may sound like something that comes from the garden, but it is in fact the way gold is measured. Pure gold or 24 karat gold is extremely soft. When gold is pure it is very malleable and can be easily bent or damaged in jewelry. To make gold stronger, as well as less expensive, it is often alloyed with other metals. Generally, these other metals include copper and silver.

24 karat gold is rarely sold for use in jewelry due to its softness. Most gold jewelry sold ranges from 10 to 18 karats. Anything less than 10 karats cannot be sold as gold legally in the United States.

A piece of jewelry’s hallmark will indicate how much gold it contains. In the United States, this is usually denoted with the number, such as 24, and a k for karat. In other countries, a three number hallmark is used, indicating the parts per thousand of gold. In that case, 750 would indicate gold that was 750 parts pure out of 1000, which equals 18 karats.

Why is the karat of jewelry important? A piece of gold’s karat weight can affect the jewelry in four ways: price, strength, durability and color.

Learn More: Karat Price and Color, Karat Strength and Durability

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Gold was first discovered thousands of years ago in its natural state, in streams, which lead to mining all over the world. Its brilliance, natural beauty, great malleability and resistance to tarnish made it enjoyable to work with. Gold gave rise to the concept of money itself. Today gold is used for jewelry fabrication, industrial application, and medical uses, by governments and central banks and by private investors.

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