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Carats vs Karats – What’s the Difference?

If you’re looking for some extra cash and have some gold jewelry about the house you think you might sell, you may be considering just how pure the gold is, and how much money you can make.  Or if you’re looking to buy gold perhaps you want a certain quality for that special loved one.

Karat and carat are both terms you might encounter when buying and selling fine jewelry. They sound similar, is there a difference?


Karat: The proportion of gold in an alloy (out of 24 parts).

For instance: 16k (karat) gold jewelry

Carat: A measurement of weight used for precious gemstones such as diamonds, emeralds and sapphires.

For instance: 1 ct diamond gemstone


In the world of gold buying and selling, karats and carats are sometimes used interchangeably by the general public.  If you use carat to explain the purity of gold, people will still know what you mean and it is generally accepted.


Karats explained

A karat determines the purity of gold, it’s a bit like a percentage amount, except it’s a unique unit of measurement out of 24 parts.  Karats can be converted to percentages easily:

  • 24K = 99.9% Pure Gold
  • 22K = 91.7% Pure Gold
  • 18K = 75% Pure Gold
  • 14K = 58.3% Pure Gold
  • 12K = 50% Pure Gold
  • 10K = 41.7% Pure Gold
  • 9K = 37.5% Pure Gold


The vast majority of gold jewelry bought and sold is made up of an alloy, this means the jewelry contains gold and one or more other metals.

A 18k gold ring is 18/24 parts gold or 75%, the remaining 6 parts are made up of other metals, such as zinc, copper, nickel, iron, silver, platinum and palladium.

The higher the karat, the more gold there is in the jewelry.  Karats are mostly unique to gold and almost always refer to gold jewelry.  Silver for instance does not use the karat system of measurement.


Carats explained

A carat (ct) is a unqiue unit of weight used to measure gemstones such as diamonds and sapphires.   Carats can be converted easily to standard units of measurement, such as grams or ounces.

1 ct = 0.2 grams (200mg)

The most common diamond carat for US engagement rings is between 1.00 ct and 1.2 ct