Carat vs. Karat - What's the Difference?
The terms karat and carat, two commonly-used words in jewelry vernacular, are often confused with each other. Even though these two terms have the same pronunciation and are both units of measurement used in jewelries, they actually differ from each other. Below is an explanation for that:
Carat vs. Karat - The Difference
Karat, abbreviated as K, is the unit of measurement for the pureness of gold in a particular item, usually in jewelry pieces. One karat means 1 part of 24 parts (1/24) which literally translates that 24 Karat is pure gold. By its nature, gold is a highly-malleable and a very ductile metal and as such, making jewelry pieces, such as bracelets and necklaces, using 24K gold will end up with pieces that are easily deformed with frequent wearing. This is the main reason why gold is mixed or "alloyed" with other metals when making jewelries. The common metals used for this purpose are: palladium, copper, zinc, silver, and, in some cases, titanium. Gold bullion bars and gold coins are the most common forms of 24K gold.
To illustrate further, hereunder are the most common karat values used:
1. 24K - pure gold - 99.9 - 99.9999% gold
Note: Currently, there no such thing as 100% gold. Even with the latest technology in metallurgy, it's still impossible to extract gold from its ores without leaving traces of impurity.
2. 18K - 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metal - 75% gold
3. 14K - 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metal - 58.5% gold
4. 10K - 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metal - 41.7% gold
Note: 10K is the limit in which a jewelry item can still be classified as "legal" gold in the US, although this can be lower in other countries.
Carat, abbreviated as "ct" and pronounced exactly like "karat", is the unit of measurement for the weight of diamonds, pearls, and other precious stones. Furthermore, carat is also called as "carat-weight" or "metric carat" in some instances. One carat is equivalent to 200 milligrams or .20 grams which means that 5 carats is equivalent to one gram. However, it's worthwhile to note that diamonds, pearls, and other gemstones are not valued by their carat-weight alone. The real value of gemstones, more particularly diamonds, are determined by the 4Cs: carat, cut, color, and clarity which, more often than not, can only be precisely determined by a professional gemstone grader.
The primary reason, perhaps, why "carat" is often confused with "karat" lies on the fact that the term "carat" is an ambiguous term outside North America. In the UK and Australia, for example, the term carat can both mean carat-weight or carat-gold depending on the context in which the term is used (i.e., to describe a gold item or to describe a gemstone).
To recap carat vs. karat:
- Karat (with the letter "k"), is the unit of measurement for the purity of gold.
- Carat (with the letter "c"), also known as carat-weight or metric carat, is the unit of measurement for the weight of diamonds, pearls, and other gemstones.
- Outside North America, the term carat, is used as the unit of measurement for both gold purity and gemstone weight.