This post is the first in my in-depth 5-part series on gold, which will teach you vital information to never be cheated by unscrupulous gold sellers and get the exact piece you want at a fair price. In this guide, you will learn what is pure gold and solid gold, the different gold grades, and how to tell if something is real gold.
WHAT IS PURE GOLD? HOW MANY KARATS IS PURE GOLD?
Gold purity is measured by karat, which is an unit of purity. The maximum karat for gold is 24 karat. Therefore, pure gold is 24 karats, or 24k gold. However, you will hardly find 24k pure gold in jewelry. As pure gold is too soft, jewellers usually mix gold with a metal like copper or silver to make a gold alloy of lower karat such as 18k or 14k gold.
GOLD PURITY MEASURE
The most common gold grades are 18k, 14k, 12k and 10k gold. Their number indicates the percentage of gold in the grade; the higher the number, the more gold it has. An 18k gold piece is 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metals, a 14k gold is 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metals, so on and so forth.
The value should goes up with the number, so a 10K gold item is much less valuable than an 18K gold item of the same design.
Different gold grade 10k, 12k, 14k, 18k explained
- 18k is 75% (=18/24) pure gold
- 14k is 58.3% (=14/24) pure gold*
—> 18k & 14k gold is ideal for fine jewelry.
- 12k is 50% (=12/24) pure gold
- 10k is 41.7% (=10/24) pure gold^
—> 12k & 10k gold is not acceptable for fine jewelry.
*14k gold is the gold grade most frequently used in jewelry making.
^10k is the minimum karat limit to be legally considered as real gold in the US.
PURE GOLD VS SOLID GOLD
Many people commonly mistake “solid gold” to mean pure gold. However, the term “solid gold” only means the piece of jewelry is made entirely with minimum 10k gold and is not hollow or “filled” with any other metal. A 10k solid gold piece is far from being as valuable as a 24k pure solid gold piece of the same build.
Unscrupulous sellers often try to pass off a piece of low purity gold at ridiculous price by muddling up “solid gold” with “pure gold” or “high quality gold” (Like this top search result or this– notice how they dance around the definition of solid gold and jumble it up with mentions of gold grades and purity). Be aware – it’s true that solid gold is far more valuable than gold filled or hollow gold, but the accurate value must be estimated using information about its karat or percentage of pure gold too.
CARAT VS KARAT
Sometimes you will see questions such as “how many carats is pure gold?” It can be a little confusing, because the British and Australian spells “karat” as “carat”. On the other hand, carat is also an unit equal to 200 milligram, used for measuring gemstones and pearls. Therefore, if you are in the US, stick with “karat” for gold.
HOW TO TELL IF GOLD IS REAL?
These following tests will determine if the item is not real gold, or not solid gold. Further tests are needed to determine if it’s real and solid.
1. Magnetic test: Use a strong magnet and hold it up to the item. If it attracts the magnet, it’s fake or plated.
2. Stamp test: Gold jewelry is often stamped with jewelry hallmarks that indicates its fineness. If it says “HGP” – Heavy Gold Plate, “HEG” Heavy Electroplated Gold or “GF” – Gold Filled, it is not real gold.
3. Ceramic plate test*: On an unglazed ceramic plate, drag your item across its surface. A black streak means your gold is not real.
1. Acid test*: If you need to tell whether gold is real and true to their purity marking (10k, 14k, 18k etc.) you can purchase this acid testing kit.
Follow the instruction manual. This video illustrates how to use the kit step-by-step:
Due to the safety risk of handling acid, it may be best to leave this test to a jeweler.
*Important note: This gold test can ruin your gold jewelry, so consider taking your jewelry to a professional jeweller if you are concerned about potential damages.
SHOP OUR RANGE OF 18K GOLD PLATED JEWELRY:
In my next post, I will explain how the different colors of gold such as white gold, rose gold or green gold are formed and whether one is more valuable than the other. If you are buying gold and have any other question, just leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer them.