Have you ever wondered what is meant by a karat of gold? Are you new to the process of shopping for gold jewelry and other items and you are unsure of how to assess the quality of gold? Have you ever asked yourself why does the presentation of a 14 karat or 18 karat gold piece get people so excited? What do these numbers mean?
If you are completely in the dark on this subject, you need not be so any longer. The meaning of karats in gold is no great mystery. Below you will find what you need to know.
Simply put, the karat measures the fineness of gold. Gold is a metal. Like other metals wrought from the earth it contains a mix of all kinds of substances.
In addition to what industry designates as fine metal, most gold pieces contain alloyed metals and other impurities. The karat number is a representation of the weight of the fine metal as a proportion of the total weight of the piece.
The higher the karat the purer the gold. Thus, a piece of 24 karat gold has not been mixed with any other kind of metal.
You should keep in mind, however, that pure gold has limited uses. For example, you are unlikely to find 24 karat gold jewelry. It is much too soft to be used for this purpose, as it can be easily scratched and damaged.
The best karat – is there such a thing?
If you are shopping for jewelry or your business has taken you into the realm of gold buying, the best gold for your purposes cannot be assessed by karat; it must be determined by use.
Gold is often mixed with silver, zin, copper, and palladium to make it more durable and fit for everyday use. The kind of gold found in rings, necklaces, earrings, watches, and other accessories is impure by design. It is the only way that such items can be worn and still retain their aesthetic value.
Gold is also used in medicine and dentistry, electronics and statues, and medals and statues. These industries also blend gold with other substances to make them stronger and more suitable for use.
Then why is purer gold more expensive?
If most industries do not seek or work with pure gold, it is natural to question why it is so valuable on the market. The simple answer is that gold is a commodity that is traded on the world market.
Pure gold is scarce, which makes it valuable. And there are places in the world in which pure gold is highly sought after. In East Asian countries such as India—one of the largest markets in the world—22K or 24K gold is highly valued and sought after.
There is also a sizeable market in Western countries for pure gold. Some people are allergic to the alloys used in most gold jewelry and can only wear gold items that are on the higher end of the purity scale.
The karat number system runs from 9 to 24. Here is a breakdown of karat and the percentage of gold purity:
How is gold purity tested?
If you intend to shop for gold jewelry or must purchase gold for commercial use, you should become familiar with the terms used to determine the fineness of gold. Here is some of the terminology you are likely to come across and what it means:
A test that assesses metal content and quality.
This is simply a chunk, a mass, an uncut and uncoined bulk of gold metal.
This is a unit of measurement for precious stones. It should not be confused with Karat, which does the same thing for gold.
The ease with which a metal can be manipulated using tensile force. In other words, how easy it is to stretch.
The stamp on a piece of gold that certifies its purity.
The ease with which a metal can be compressed into thin sheets.
Most gold pieces are stamped with hallmarks. The latter attests to their purity. Authentic gold jewelry is stamped with a hallmark that indicates its karat and gold content.
To make it easy for retailers and shoppers, most gold is stamped in a recognizable format: 9KT, 14KT, 22KT, and so forth. However, some gold is stamped in a 3-digit format to indicate its purity.
For example, a 583 stamp means that that gold is 58.3% pure and thus 14K gold. There is no way to be certain about the purity of a piece of gold without a hallmark. With a hallmark, the purity of the gold is guaranteed.
You may also find gold pieces that signify whether the gold has been plated with another metal. Certain pieces of gold are set on a base that is made of another metal. Brass is the most common metal used in these instances.
Many hallmark stamps show the company that submitted the piece for stamping and the office that tested the gold. It is even possible to date the piece with the information provided on the stamp.
The purpose of the hallmark is to give buyers confidence that the piece of gold they have purchased has been tested and certified.
Real vs. fake gold
Hallmarks are the best way to determine whether gold is real. Real gold jewelry is stamped with hallmarks. You will find the stamp on the clasp of a necklace or bracelet and the inner band of a ring.
If you are dealing with other gold metal, such as gold bars, you should look out for the hallmarks EPNS, EPBM, and GF. These stamps indicate that the gold is not real.
There are other ways to test the authenticity of the piece you have purchased. Gold is a heavy metal and will sink in water. If you drop your piece into a jug of water and it goes to the bottom, then it is probably made of real gold.
There is also the skin test. The test requires you to hold a piece of jewelry between your hands for a couple of minutes. Fake gold will cause your skin to turn black, blue, or green.
Real gold will leave it unaffected. You should remove all makeup before you carry out this test. Gold is non-reactive so it should not discolor your skin or become discolored itself at any point.
Here are some other ways to test for real gold
1. Magnet test
Gold is non-magnetic. If you hold a strong magnet next to the piece you have purchased and there is strong attraction, then you don’t have real gold. However, this is not a definitive test.
Even if there is no reaction, you can still have a fake, as some of the base metals mixed with gold are also non-magnetic.
2. Vinegar test
This test requires you to disperse a few drops of vinegar on the gold. If there is no change, then it is real gold. If it changes color, then you have a fake.
3. The nitric acid test
Gold is resistant to corrosion, oxidation, and acid. To perform this test, you will need to rub your piece on a black stone to the point of making a mark on the stone.
Then apply nitric acid on the mark you have left. The acid will dissolve any alloys that aren’t gold. If the entire mark disappears, then your metal is not gold.
While these home tests can give you a good indication of whether your gold is real or fake, none of them are 100% conclusive.
And if you have no expertise in testing gold, you cannot always rely on your judgment in assessing their outcomes.
Taking your gold to a professional and reputable jeweler or other expert is the most reliable way to determine whether it is real.
There is no reason to be uncertain, unclear, or mystified by gold and its purity. You can shop for gold for business or personal reasons with knowledge and confidence. The main takeaways of this article are as follows:
- A karat is a measure of the purity of gold. It indicates neither the value nor the usefulness of a particular piece. The karat scale ranges from 9 to 24. The higher the karat the purer the gold.
- The first thing you should look for on a gold piece is the stamp known as the hallmark. Gold with a hallmark stamp has been tested and certified and its purity can be trusted.
- There are ways of testing the piece you have been given to determine whether it is real or fake. Such tests can be conducted at home. However, the best way to evaluate your gold is to take it to an expert.
No article on this subject can anticipate all possible concerns. If you have any further questions, you should ask them in the comments section.