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Gold Grade: Different Gold Grades: Grading 0f Gold Purity: Carat, Karat: Gold Ore Grades

Updated on December 14, 2012

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Gold Grades, Fineness and Karat / Carat

Gold is graded in karat / carat. A karat (carat) is a measurement of the fineness of gold. The gold grade expresses the proportion of gold in a gold alloy or the quality of that gold alloy. Pure gold or fine gold is 24 karat / 24 carat (24k, 24 kt, 24 ct) gold (.999). 24k gold (999 fineness) is the grade of gold bullion.

Gold Grade Naming Conventions

Name
Definition
Abbrev.
Karat
US nomenclature for the grade of gold.
kt, k
Carat
UK nomenclature for the grade of gold.
ct

Gold Karatages (Caratages)

The grades of gold reduce in karat fineness as more non-gold metal (alloy) is mixed with gold. Pure fine gold is very soft and malleable and does not lend itself well to gold objects that receive a lot of wear, as pure gold wears easily. The next grade down from pure gold is 22 karat (22k) gold (.916) , which is somewhat harder but is still easily worn away, especially if in contact with gold of lower grades. 22k gold is used in some gold coins and investment jewellery (jewelry).

18 karat (18K) gold (.75) is used for high quality jewellery (jewelry) and is the most commonly used grade in Continental European jewellery. It is considerably harder than the two previous grades but still wears more easily than 14k grade gold and lower grades of gold. It is advised that two different grades should not be worn together in order to limit the wear that could occur.

14 karat (14k) gold (.583) is the most common grade of gold used in North America. This is considerably harder than the most common UK gold grade, which is 9 karat (9k) gold (.375). There are other grades of gold, notably 15 karat (15k) gold (.625); 12 karat (12K) gold (.5) and 10 karat (10K) gold (.417). The lowest grade of gold that is acceptable for jewellery is 8 karat (8k) gold (.333)

All jewelry in the USA and jewellery in the UK. is required by law to be stamped so consumers will know the quality of gold used. This has not always been the same, even since the time of compulsory hallmarking in the UK - the reason being that some items are just too small for a hallmark to be useful in identifying the gold purity.

North America usually marks jewelry with the karat grade (10K, 14K, etc.), Other countries have different gold hallmarking conventions, for example jewellery made in the UK or Italy has a fineness stamp (417, 583, etc.).

So any piece of jewellery can have a karat grade or a fineness number stamped on it

Gold Grades at a Glance

Grade
Percentage
Fineness
Notes
8K
33.33%
333
Lowest acceptable for jewellery.
9K
37.50%
375
Most UK jewellery.
10K
41.67%
417
Lower grade Continental Europe jewellery.
12K
50.00%
500
Some older UK jewellery
14K
58.33%
583
Most North American jewellery.
15k
62.50%
625
Some older UK jewellery
18K
75.00%
750
Most Continental European jewellery.
22K
91.66%
917
Some coins and investment jewellery.
24K
99.99%
999
Gold bullion / pure gold.
Gold Grades, Percentages and fineness.

Gold Grade in Relation to Gold Mining

The gold grade, when referred to in connection with the mining of gold ore is the proportion of gold contained in the ore, calculated as grammes of gold ore per tonne (g/t) of extracted material. The grades of gold ore can range from 1 g/t up to 10 g/t or more. The higher the number of grammes / tonne that can be extracted is more profitable the mine, as long as the operating costs of extraction do not deplete the cost per ounce. Some gold mines, such as deep shaft gold mines have high operating costs and are only viable if the gade of gold ore is sufficiently high to offest those cost. Mines that operate on the surface can survive on much lower grades of ore as their extraction costs are likely to be lower.

In recent years the grammes / tonne grading of gold has been increased across the board due to a greater quantity of gold being able to be extracted due to increased capabilities in the extraction process. With the price of gold at it's current levels, it has become viable to utilise these improved techniques to extract gold from gold tailings and gold slag heaps.

Gold Grade in Relation to Gold Coins

Gold coinage is a different matter altogether. Since the late 1950s gold coin traders have graded gold coins by a range of grades evaluating the quality of the condition of the coins. This standard for grading gold coins has a range running from uncirculated (the highest grade) and fair, which is the lowest grade.

Collectors of coins are sold coins on the basis of this grading method. Most gold coinage sold for collection fall into the range fine (F, VF, EF, XF) to mint (AU, Mint). Gold grades such as good (VG, G, AG) and fine (F) are "filler" coins for collectors. A table giving the mint states (MS), description and gold grade range is given below.

Gold Coin Grades

Acronym
Description
Range (MS)
Unc
Uncirculated
70
Mint
Mint state
60-70
AU
Almost uncirculated
50-59
XF, EF
Extra fine
40-49
VF
Very fine
 
F
Fine
 
VG
Very Good
 
G
Good
 
AG
Almost good
 
F
Fair
 
Gold Coin Grades

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Comments

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    • profile image

      Jemi 

      6 years ago

      How about gold sold in Singapore.

      We have chinese gold and indian gold.

      Indian gold is very strong brigth yellow color.

      Chinese gold is lighter. It is said 999 carat or

      24carat.

    • humagaia profile imageAUTHOR

      Charles Fox 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      If you like gold as a colour you are so right. However, there is a move towards more exotic colours, as you note is you read the series of gold hubs I have produced.

    • LeanMan profile image

      Tony 

      7 years ago from At the Gemba

      The gold for sale here in Saudi Arabia is 22K and looks so much better than what I could have bought in the UK..

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