Precious Metals

Karat vs Carat

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This article explains all the similarities and differences between karat and carat when it comes to gold. Find out the facts before you start investing heavily in any precious metals. If you’re looking to learn, then this is the article for you.

Karat vs Carat

When you hear someone say “carat”, you may wonder if they’re talking about gems, gold… or vegetables. While all three words sound exactly alike, each has a different meaning and each means something entirely different. 

First, this article has nothing to do with the veggie, so we’ll just knock that out right now. Go eat your vegetables and improve your eyesight so you can read this blog post to learn a bit more about the jewelry industry and their method of measurements for precious metals and gemstones. This can be very important when you’re planning on buying jewelry.

Hopefully, by the end of it, you’ll know what the answer is to the question:  What is the Difference Between Carat and Karat?

What is a Carat?

Carat and karat sound similar and many people assume that these two terms are interchangeable. However, those people would be completely wrong. Carat is used in gemstones to describe the weight of the gem, not the size, which is another misconception. 

When gem traders are dealing in gemstones, they will consider the 4 important “C’s” of the quality of the gemstone. These include:

  • Carat
  • Color
  • Cut 
  • Clarity

Each carat is equal to 200 milligrams and with a higher carat weight will come a higher price tag. While this rise in price rises with the carat weight, it doesn’t occur in a linear manner. The cost will also be affected by the other “C’s” as well. 

For example, a smaller, colorless diamond in a classic cut will likely demand higher prices than a large, cloudy, rough-cut diamond. The most popular stone used in engagement rings is obviously the one-carat diamond, but the sky (and your budget)  are the limit.

The cut and clarity affect the price of gemstones; clearer gemstones often demand higher prices (unless it is a gemstone that is prized for inclusions or “shouldn’t” look “too” clear such as Rutilated Quartz, Tourmaline, Selenite, Obsidian, Ruby, and Amber). The skill of the jeweler doing the cutting and designing of the jewelry will help determine the value as much as the carat weight.

Karat

The word “karat” pertains to the purity of gold. Goldsmiths and jewelers measure gold purity by the proportion of gold using a scale of 24 parts, or karats. 24-karat gold would be considered 100% pure gold because all 24 of its components are pure gold. They will also use “karat” to describe gold alloys, or gold that is mixed with other metals, including silver, platinum, and/or palladium. 

Because gold is so highly malleable, it is rare to find jewelry that is 24-karat gold. 24-karat gold will lose its shape easily, making it an unreliable metal for the jewelry you’re going to wear daily, such as engagement rings.

Any bump or ding could cause the ring to become misshapen, which is definitely something you don’t want to happen with your expensive jewelry. Instead, a jeweler will often create a piece of jewelry using a high-quality gold alloy or another, tougher metal to make the piece of jewelry stronger and more practical. 

These alloys and karat levels will also affect the color of the metal. A higher gold content will yield a more yellow appearance while mixing in metals such as silver or copper will produce a whiter or more rosy-colored piece. High-end jewelry will typically range from 10- to 20-karat gold, with 14-karat gold being the most popular and extremely durable. 

24-Karat Gold, Is it Worth Purchasing?

While it may seem like a luxury item, 24-karat gold isn’t always the smartest purchase, especially for a piece of jewelry you’re going to be wearing constantly, such as wedding suites. In fact, 54% of buyers have said they prefer their wedding set to be in white color as opposed to yellow gold. 

White gold is commonly used in wedding jewelry and is made of 75% yellow gold combined with 25% zinc and nickel. Even if you are someone that prefers yellow gold for your metal, goldsmiths still combine other metals with the gold to ensure the piece will be stable, keep its shape, and decrease the chances of losing your jewels. 

Carat vs. Karat. A Brief History

Prior to the 16th century, gem traders had no real standards of measurement. With this limited means of determining a stone’s worth, traders had to resort to weighing each gemstone alongside items of similar size or weight.

In Africa, traders would use carob seeds from the fruit of carob trees that grew along the Mediterranean in the process of diamond weighing and calculating the difference in weight between other precious stones. Gem traders found that the seeds were similar in size to some of the gems that they traded in.

Eventually, gem traders and jewelers created more specific measurements by using counterweights,  and comparing carob seeds to stones. They determined that an individual carob seed weighed roughly 0.20 grams. This measurement is where the standard carat weight of 200 milligrams comes from and has morphed from “carob” to “carat” and “karat”. 

Final Thoughts: Carat vs. Karat

If you’re purchasing jewelry, it is important to understand the differences between carat vs. karat. You may even see the two terms used interchangeably, which is incorrect and can confuse you or lead you to make a mistake when making a purchase. 

The easiest way to remember The Difference Between Carat and Karat is to think of the “4 C’s of Diamonds” which also applies to many gemstones. And if you’re interested in learning more about the gemstone and jewelry industry, consider this site run by the Gemological Institute of America.

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MF Metal Team

At MF Metal, we research and analyze retirement investment options for individuals who want to control and protect their financial future. We strongly focus on precious metals and gold IRA accounts.