What Is Karat Gold and How Can You Find Out What Yours Is Worth?

The karat measure that’s used to indicate the purity of gold can be pretty confusing. You open your jewelry drawer, look at some old cufflinks, watches and tie tacks, and notice that some items are stamped as 18K (18 karat) gold, others as 10K, and on it goes. Then a ring comes rolling out and it is marked with the European measure “417.” What does that mean?

Image of an assortment of karat gold jewelry, which Specialty Metals can recycle and refine for the best prices for individuals and businesses.

It’s confusing – and it only gets worse if you have a large number of gold and gold-plated items that you would like to recycle. What’s going on here?

We just found a helpful article entitled “Gold: Know the Difference between Karats, Carats and Carrots” on Jewelry.com. It clears up a lot of the confusion about karat and other content ratings. Let me share a few highlights with you.

Karats Are Not the Same as Carats

Karats are used to specify the purity of gold; Carats are used to measure the weight of diamonds. Despite the similarity of those two words, there is no correlation or connection between them.

Karats Offer a Measure of the Purity of the Gold

Here are some explanations of common karat gold designations, all based on the number 24, that are standard in the United States:

  • 24K is pure 100% gold.
  • 18K is 18/24ths gold content, or 75% gold.
  • 14K is 14/24ths gold content, or about 58.5% gold.
  • 10K is 10/24ths gold content, or 41.7% gold.
  • 9K is 9/24ths gold content, or 37.5% gold. Although this karat rating is popular in some countries, jewelry with this low content percentage cannot be labeled “gold” for sale in the United States.

Different Countries Specify Gold’s Purity in Different Ways

As the article explains, the U.S. system uses karat designations to specify purity. Europe has another system, using numbers to designate the percentage of gold content. For example, 10K gold is marked “417,” indicating that it contains 41.7% gold; 14K is marked "585" for 58.5% gold, and so on. That can make it even more challenging to understand the amount of gold that is contained in the gold items that you own.

If you have gold or gold-plated jewelry, or any other gold items that you would like to recycle using America's best gold refiners, Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners can help you understand their potential value. Gather your gold items and call us 800-426-2344.

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