So you’re looking for the perfect engagement ring – and you find that your choices include not only the diamond, and not only the ring setting, but also the type of gold.
Making the right choice in the type of gold can affect your (and your loved one’s) overall satisfaction for decades.
So it pays to consider:
- Long term durability is affected by the kind of gold you choose
- Appearance is affected
- The way it feels and wears can be affected
- Most of all your choices within a budget can be affected
For example, try experimenting with selecting 14k vs 18k gold with this ring.
You’ll see that you could save (at the time of writing) up to $270 by choosing the 14k version vs the 18k version.
But will 14k make you and your beloved happy with the ring?
Should you choose 14k when you could get 18k?
18k is better, right? (Spoiler alert: not necessarily.)
No pressure, right?
Don’t worry, that’s what we’re here for. To take the pressure off of you during your engagement ring shopping odyssey.
By the time you finish this article, you’ll know all you need to know in order to make the best decision for you.
What Does the K in 10k vs 14k vs 18k vs 24k Gold Stand For?
The “k” in 10k gold stands for Karats. Unfortunately, that’s similar to the Carats in which diamond weights are expressed. (A 1-carat diamond weighs exactly 200 milligrams. A 2-carat diamond weighs 400 milligrams. Etc.)
But what about Karats of gold? Karats of gold is an expression of purity. The highest purity in this scale is 24. So, 24k gold is 100% pure gold.
You can find that. But to be honest, it’s not all that common. The highest level of purity is usually 18k. That means the gold is 18 parts pure out of a total of 24 parts. Or, doing the math, it’s 18/24 or 3/4 or 75% pure.
So, as you can see:
- 10k gold is 42% pure
- 14k is 58% pure
- 18k is 75% pure
- 24k is 100% pure
What Alloys Are Mixed With Gold to Make 10k, 14k, or 18k Gold Engagement Rings?
White gold is typically alloyed with nickel, zinc, silver, and/or palladium. It’s also often plated with Rhodium.
Yellow gold is typically mixed with copper and silver.
Why can’t I find a 24k gold engagement ring?
You’ll probably notice that you can’t really find a 24k gold setting. Here are the reasons why:
24k Gold is Too Soft
The main reason is that 24k gold is too soft for use in most jewelry. That’s especially true of an engagement ring, which is worn on the hand and is meant to last a lifetime of daily use.
An 18k gold engagement ring would immediately be scratched and marred. It might even deform when your beloved uses heavy tools, dumbbells or barbells, or plays certain sports.
24k Gold is Expensive
Another reason is cost. It’s not a truly prohibitive problem. But pure gold is expensive. And that cost does discourage the use of 24k gold in engagement rings.
(But the main problem is the durability. You’d be paying significantly more for a ring which was of lower objective quality. It would scratch and deform so easily, it wouldn’t be practical. Not even for Queen Elizabeth maybe — who was a mechanic and a truck driver during WWII.)
24k Gold Doesn’t Have an Attractive Color
And a final reason is that pure gold is a darker and more gaudy color than many people expect for an engagement ring. That’s a subjective matter, of course. And you can bet that if 24k gold were miraculously made more durable, then people would quickly prefer its color. (But it can’t be made more durable, except by mixing it with other metals. And there we are today.)
So Virtually All Engagement Rings Are Made of Gold Which Isn’t “Pure”?
That’s right. And that doesn’t mean the rings are “impure,” of course. That’s the wrong way to look at it.
It means they’re strengthened. It means they’re alloyed with metals that make the ring stronger, more durable, and add subjective beauty and color.
What’s the Most Common Choice of Gold for Engagement Rings?
The most common levels of gold purity in engagement rings are 14k and 18k. They hit a happy medium. Comparing a 10k vs 14k gold engagement ring, the 14k is still durable, but has a subjectively better gold color. Similarly, comparing a 14k vs 18k gold ring, the 14k still has a beautiful golden hue, but is significantly more durable vs the relatively soft 18k ring.
What is 1k Gold?
Sounds awesome, right? I mean, a 1-carat diamond is incredibly awesome, so what about a 1k gold ring or 1k gold bangle bracelet?
It’s a trick. It’s unscrupulous. A 1k gold anything is just 1/24 or 4% gold.
Which means it’s 96% something else. And trust your reasoning. If that 96% were silver, or any other respectable metal for jewelry, they’d call it a silver ring.
Pro and Con Guide to the Question of 10k vs 14k vs 18k Gold Engagement Rings
Here are some pros and cons for each types of gold:
- It’s still gold. It’s 10/24 or 42% gold. It’s generally mixed with copper and silver, in the yellow gol variety. That’s real. That’s respectable.
- It costs less than 14k or 18k.
- And it’s the most durable of all. (We’re excluding the truly out-of-the-question metals, for engagement rings, such as 8k or 1k gold. Besides, an honest, forthright 10k gold metal is probably more durable than the shady 8k or 1k metals. Who knows what they’re mixing them with. It could be tin for all we know.)
- Disadvantages include a more pale golden color.
- And because there are more other metals in it than gold, it’s more likely to trigger inflammation responses in anyone who is allergic to the metals in the alloy such as (possibly) zinc, silver, etc.
- 14k gold is also durable, and has more gold. It’s 58% gold, mixed with copper and silver, usually, in the yellow gold variety. That means it has a richer, more golden color vs 10k gold.
- It strikes a happy medium, for most couples, between durability and beauty. It’s also not as expensive vs 18k gold.
- The vast majority of engagement rings sold are 14k yellow gold. And there’s a reason for that: they’re very well suited to daily use over decades of time, while retaining the beauty of gold with minimal maintenance.
- There really isn’t anything bad to say about 14k gold for an engagement ring
So if you have no special preference, and you just want to make a good, fast, respectable choice, you really can’t go wrong with a 14k yellow gold engagement ring.
White gold, even at 14k, requires more care in your selection of it. Yellow gold typically is alloyed only with copper and silver. But White gold may be alloyed with some zinc, which is allergenic for some more people.
White gold is often also plated with Rhodium, to even out its color. That Rhodium plating will wear and scratch over time, and needs to be redone every few years.
We also have a great guide on choosing between different gold colors (white vs yellow vs rose).
- 18k yellow gold is — according to most people’s tastes — the most beautiful gold you can find for a diamond engagement ring.
- Some people find that the extra care enforced by the softness of 18k gold is ok with them. This leads to more care for the ring in general. That would seem to minimize even further any risk of damaging the mounts (of any ring) and losing the gemstones (of any ring).
- But it’s quite soft, so it scratches and mars more easily. Over time, that tends to cost it more beauty points than it gains by having the slightly better color of 18k yellow gold.
- The wearer might need to be much more careful if gifted an 18k gold engagement ring — removing it for many activities.
What’s the Best Type of Gold for Engagement Rings?
As you’ve seen, there’s no single one best type of gold. People’s situations and lifestyles differ. Only you can decide.
However, with the experience we have in helping people choose diamond engagement rings, I can tell you exactly what fits most people’s situations.
A 14k Yellow Gold Ring Is a Great Choice for Most People
- Most people choose 14k yellow gold. It’s the wisdom of crowds, in this case.
- 14k vs 10k isn’t very much more expensive.
- 14k vs 18k is a substantial savings. (You can put that toward a larger diamond. Or spend it on the honeymoon. Or invest it in stocks for your first child’s college fund. The point is: saving money doesn’t mean you’re about the money. It means you’re about value in life.)
- 18k vs 14k is a poor choice, for most people. They get a ring of substantially less durability, but with a slightly “better” golden hue.
- Nothing truly negative can be said about choosing a 14k yellow gold ring vs 10k or 18k.
But whatever type of gold you choose, with forethought, perhaps together with your beloved, is by definition the right choice for you.