FAQs About Gold Jewelry

We are eternally grateful for James Wilson Marshall’s discovery of gold on January 24, 1848 at Sutter's Mill in Coloma Valley, near Sacramento, California. His find 169 years ago marked the beginning of the California Gold Rush, the largest mass migration in American history. Needless to say, gold is a staple for any jeweler and, in the spirit of this golden anniversary, we pulled together some answers to some FAQs about gold jewelry.

What is the Difference Between 10K, 14K, 18K and 24K Gold Jewelry?

The “K” stands for karat, which represents the percentage of pure gold in the metal alloy. Because pure gold is very malleable, jewelers mix it with other alloys to make it more durable and harder. Needless to say, 24k gold is rarely used in jewelry because it's too soft.

Purity: The higher the karat number, the higher percentage of pure gold exists in the jewelry. 10K = 41.7% 14K = 58.5% 18K = 75% 22K = 91.7% 24K = 100%

Cost: The higher the karat, the higher the cost. Price is based on the percentage of pure gold. At Jewelry by Johan, our prices are based on the current market value of gold.

Color: Because pure gold is naturally yellow, the higher the karat, the more yellow the item will be.

Durability: The higher the karat, the softer and more scratch-prone the alloy becomes. This is important to consider if you’re setting a gemstone in small prongs that you don’t want to bend easily.

What is the Difference Between 10KT Gold and 10CT Gold?

There is no difference. This is an example of how gold attributes are applied differently around the globe. The proper attribute applied to gold is “karat” abbreviated with “k” or “kt.” In countries outside of North America, “carat,” abbreviated “c” or “ct” is used in its place, despite it being incorrect. Carat is, in proper application, a unit of weight that applies to precious stones.

What is the Natural Color of Gold?

Pure gold is yellow. Needless to say, the higher the karat of gold jewelry, the more yellowish hue it will have. Yellow gold is still a popular, traditional choice for men's wedding bands as the primary metal or featured in a pinstripe or inner sleeve. Browse our selection of yellow gold wedding bands featuring a variety of designs.

Gold & Meteorite Wedding Band

Black Zirconium Ring With Gold Inside

Guitar String Ring With Gold Pinstripe

What is Rose Gold?

Rose gold, sometimes called pink gold, is an alloy created by adding copper to pure gold, which results in a pinkish metallic hue. Rose gold engagement rings and rose gold wedding bands saw a spike in popularity in 2015 and continue to be in demand. Opt for a rose gold wedding ring set for the ultimate in coordination.

Moonstone Engagement Ring

Rose Gold Halo Engagement Ring

His & Hers Rose Gold Rings

What is White Gold?

Developed to imitate platinum, white gold it is typically created by adding 25% nickel and zinc to pure gold. The lower the karat, the more “white” it will retain because the karat is increased by adding more pure, yellow gold. White gold rings are a lower-cost, lighter-weight alternative to platinum and palladium.

Emerald Cut Halo Engagement Ring

Meteorite Engagement Ring

Turquoise Bridal Set

Why Are White Gold Rings Plated with Rhodium?

Gold jewelry is plated with rhodium to make it look whiter, enhance its shine, and to give it a harder surface. Keep in mind, the plating will wear away and requires ongoing maintenance. It’s recommended to re-plate your jewelry every 1-2 years to keep it looking its best. Jewelry by Johan does not plate our white gold rings with rhodium, but will upon request.

Here's a magnified look at the difference in color between a plated and unplated white gold ring.

To the naked eye, when an unplated ring isn't being closely compared to a plated white gold ring, the metal still looks white and requires no extra maintenance like its plated counterpart.

How Can I Tell if My Gold Jewelry is Real?

When in doubt, the most accurate way to tell is to take your item to a jeweler for appraisal, but here are several tests you could do at home to help you determine if your gold is real.

Does it have a gold karat stamp? If it IS real gold, it will have one of the followings stamps (typically on its inner sleeve) that represents the percentage of gold it contains:

16, 417, 10ct, 10kt, 10K, 10KP = 10 Karat

583, 585, 14ct, 14kt, 14K, 14KP = 14 Karat

750, 18ct, 18kt, 18K, 18KP = 18 Karat

916, 917, 22ct, 22kt, 22K = 22 Karat

999, 24K = 24 Karat


Note: Lack of one of the above stamps doesn’t always mean your gold jewelry isn’t pure. For example, if a ring was resized, the stamp may have been polished out or removed. And, not all jewelry designers add a stamp.

If it IS NOT solid gold, it will have one of these stamps alone or along with the karat information that pertains to the part of the item that is gold plated:

1/20, 14/20 or GF = Gold-filled (Brass core with a surface of 5% gold alloy)

GP = Gold-plated (Brass core with a thinner surface of .05% or less gold alloy)

HGE = Hydrostatic gold electroplating

GEP = Gold electroplating

Gold plated jewelry has very little value; the amount of actual gold in the composition is very trace. Read more about gold plated wedding bands, including gold tungsten, and why we advise not to buy them.

Does it make a black streak on ceramic? If it is real gold, it will make a gold mark on unfinished ceramic. If it’s not, it will leave a black streak.

Is it heavy? If it is real gold, it will be heavier than a piece of non-gold jewelry that is of equal size.

Is it discolored? If the surface of the jewelry is tarnished or discolored, it’s less likely to be pure as this is not typical of most gold.

Does the surface show scratches? Gold is soft and will scratch. If the surface is scratched, but the color is still uniform, it is likely solid gold vs. a plated ring. If the scratches expose another color, it's plated.

Is Gold Jewelry Hypoallergenic?

No and Yes. Unless it’s 24K pure gold, it is an alloy and likely mixed with nickel - a common metal allergen - to make it stronger and less malleable. If you like the look of white gold, opt for hypoallergenic titanium as an alternative (and it costs less). If you are partial to yellow gold and don’t have an extreme metal allergy, the higher Karats of gold may work for you.

Is Gold a Precious Metal?

Yes, because it is considered to be rare and have a high economic value. Other precious metals include silver, platinum and palladium.
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