What Is the Difference Between 10-Karat and 14-Karat Gold?

The major difference between 10- and 14-karat gold is the amount of gold contained in each. They are both considered gold alloys, which means a mixture of gold and other metals. Pure gold is 24 karats; 10-karat gold contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metals; 14-karat gold contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metals.

Both 10-karat and 14-karat gold contain other metals such as silver, nickel, zinc or copper. Upon first glance, it appears 14-karat gold is automatically a superior choice, but there are a few reasons why 10-karat gold may be more suitable. Gold is a softer, less durable metal by nature, meaning that the higher the gold content, the more delicate the resulting alloy will be. 10-karat gold is more durable and longer-lasting than 14-karat gold, albeit not as dazzling. This makes 10-karat gold the better choice for jewelry items that receive daily wear and tear, such as a men's wedding band. 10-karat gold is also less expensive than 14-karat gold, making it the preferred option for those looking for long-term value.

Ten karat gold is the minimum concentration that jewelers can market as gold jewelry in the United States. Fourteen karat gold is generally the standard for American jewelry makers. High-end gold jewelry in Europe and the United States is often made from 18-karat gold. Higher karat gold, such as 21-karat gold, has a brilliant yellow color and is popular throughout parts of Asia. Twenty-four-karat gold is not very practical for use in jewelry because pure gold is very malleable.

The major drawback of 10-karat gold is that it is less suitable for people with nickel allergies. Because this alloy has higher concentrations in its mixture than 14-karat gold, it is more likely to irritate sensitive skin and cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals.

Another difference between 10- and 14-karat gold is appearance. 10-karat gold is paler, while 14-karat is warmer and more yellow in appearance. This factor is personal preference.