Karat Cake – How Fine is Your Gold?

Fineness of Gold

Since gold is such a soft metal, it is generally combined with different alloys in order to increase strength. The higher the percentage of gold, the more malleable it will be. For this reason, 100% gold jewelry generally isn’t a good idea. It would bend, break and lose shape rather quickly with wear. So, a standard system of rating, called hallmarking, was created to show the percentage of gold in any given piece of jewelry.

A hallmark (also called an assay or standard marking) indicates the fineness or purity of the metal.

Fineness = the hallmark = which shows the percentage of gold used.

Rings, for instance, are traditionally created using 10 to 14 karat gold because they need to be stronger to hold up to daily wear and tear.  While it also tells you how much gold was used in the creation of the piece, the karat is also an important factor in deciphering whether or not a piece is right for you.

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Shopping for gold jewelry doesn’t have to overload your head, because hallmarking makes it easy to determine how to choose the perfect piece.

If you’re an active person, an 18 karat gold ring would be a bad idea.   Do you live in your jewelry and never take it off (tisk, tisk)? Well, start looking for 10 or 14 karat gold.  Need a piece for a special event? You can think less about the fineness and more about the style.  Go for whatever piques your interest.  Have a child who tugs on your necklaces?  You’ll need a heavy duty chain made stronger by alloys (aka, less gold and a lower karat number).

You can find out what type your jewelry is by looking for the hallmark generally found on the inside of a ring, the back of a pendant, the clasp of a chain or necklace and on a link or closure of a bracelet. But what do those numbers mean?

Gold is measured in parts per 24.  So 24 karat is 24/24 or 100%.  The chart below outlines the most common U.S. hallmarks in the karat system.

Karat Percentage of Gold
24 KT 100% (Winner for most malleable metal)
18 KT 75%
14 KT 58.3% (middle ground)
12 KT 50%
10 KT 41% (Strong like an ox)

Hallmarks and karats have long been scrutinized as a way to quickly determine the value of a piece of gold jewelry – the higher the number the higher the cost – and while this is true, there’s more to the hallmark.  It won’t simply help you determine a piece’s monetary worth, but wether it will work for you, which si the msot important part.  Choose the right gold for yourself and your lifestyle and start by using the hallmark to show you the way.  To remember which means which, just remember that a low number means it’s up to the labor.

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