Gold is a popular metal as a material for jewelry. The metallic shine of gold, along with its rarity and value, make it a popular choice for things like wedding bands.
However, most of the gold you see day-to-day isn’t the purest gold possible, but rather an alloy called 18K gold.
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18K Gold Definition
18K gold, or 18 karat gold, is a high-percentage alloy of gold and other metals. Gold receives a rating using the karat number grading system popularized by the jewelry industry.
This number gives jewelers information about the gold in question and describes the purity of gold.
What Properties are in 18K Gold?
As mentioned, 18K gold is mostly made up of gold itself. In addition to gold, 18K gold contains other metals depending on the type of gold the jeweler wants to use and the wearer’s preferences.
Regardless of the color of gold, other metals mixed in with the gold provide some benefits compared to using pure gold.
Pure gold is too soft for everyday use, making it a poor choice for jewelry since the jewelry would damage faster without the extra metals.
For the most part, nickel and silver make up most of the other metals in 18kt gold. These metals add some hardiness to the gold without taking away from gold’s iconic luster.
However, other metals can alloy with gold to create other colors of gold jewelry.
Uses of 18K Gold
18K gold makes up the majority of gold jewelry designed for everyday wear. This gold purity type utilizes the harder metals making up the remaining quarter of the alloy’s weight to strengthen the gold and harden it against wear and tear.
As a result, most jewelry made from 18K gold lasts a lifetime. 18K gold also benefits from being mostly non-reactive to other chemicals.
While some folks exhibit metal allergies, poor reactions to 18-karat gold are exceedingly rare. Thus, 18K gold is great even for those with skin sensitivity when in contact with metal.
Some of the common places you will see 18K gold recommended are:
- Plain gold jewelry
- Engagement or wedding rings
- Other gold rings
- Gold chains
Finally, 18K gold is great for having the aesthetic appeal of gold without the drawbacks of pure gold. Alloying a small number of other metals with gold doesn’t take away from the shine and color of the gold.
Thus, 18K gold plating is common for jewelers looking for the glint of gold in their pieces without creating the entire item out of gold.
Types of 18K Gold
There are three main types of gold at this gold percentage: yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold.
The traditional form of 18 karat gold is yellow gold. This type of gold refers to the brilliant yellow tone inherent to the gold after the other metals in the alloy enhance it.
While all gold has a beautiful sheen, yellow gold is considered by consumers as one of the more aesthetically pleasing golds because of the yellow color.
Silver and nickel usually make up the rest of this gold alloy.
White gold refers to a form of gold with a silvery appearance. Rather than the brilliant yellow shine of yellow gold, white gold has a refined appearance, not unlike pure silver.
Jewelers achieve this color using an alloy of gold, silver, nickel, and palladium. Sometimes, white gold receives a rhodium plating to further enhance the silvery shine of the alloy.
The final type of gold is rose gold. This gold is a relatively new form of gold alloy made from a mixture of silver and copper going into the standard alloy blend.
The copper tints the gold to a soft, pink color while offering many of the structural and durability benefits other metals give the gold alloy.
Rose gold sees use in many fashions, making it versatile and elegant at the same time.
How to Clean 18K Gold
18K gold pieces require some upkeep to maintain their luster. However, this purity of gold has some of pure gold’s softness, making home maintenance a little scary.
The good news is that you can clean 18K gold at home with a little prep work and care.
Follow these steps to clean your 18-karat gold piece of jewelry:
- Mix a small amount of gold-safe dish detergent with warm water.
- Add a drop or two of ammonia to the warm water.
- Brush the jewelry with a new infant-sized toothbrush.
- Place the item in lukewarm water to rinse it off.
- Air dry or carefully dry the jewelry with a hand towel.
24K vs. 18K: Which Gold is Better?
24-karat gold refers to the purest form of gold. Gold of this rating is over 99.9 percent gold by weight, making it highly valuable.
Many consider it to be real gold due to its high purity. However, gold of this purity exhibits all of gold’s usual properties, including its softness and lack of durability.
Therefore, while this percentage of gold has its value reduced by the alloyed metals, the utility of 18K gold cannot be understated.
Overall, the mix of purity in your gold comes down to its use. The alloy content of 18K gold is perfect for everyday use.
In comparison, 24K gold is best for transferring value and acting as a manufacturing material for medical devices and other electronics. 18K also tends to be the affordable option of the two purities.
Is 18K Gold Any Good?
18K is a great gold purity choice for most jewelry. The alloy content of 18K gold allows for various colors and styles without losing out on what makes gold beautiful.
It’s a popular choice for people that want to add the glint of gold to their look without worrying about hurting the gold due to its softness.
So, investing in gold jewelry with this karat rating is a great choice from both a monetary and aesthetic standpoint.
Here are answers to some of the common questions out there about 18K gold: