Solid gold (24K) is durable so it’s a better choice for jewelry you’ll wear regularly. It also never goes out of style. Pure gold doesn’t react with other elements to create tarnish, the residue that accumulates on some metals. If you have allergies to nickel or other metals, choose items that have high gold content, such as 18K or 22K gold jewelry. Some people have an allergy or staining problems with metals that are combined with gold, but the gold itself is rarely a problem.
Gold jewelry is marked 18K, 14K, or 10K. The K stands for karat, which describes the percentage of pure gold an item contains. The higher the karat number, the greater the percentage of gold in jewelry.
If it’s 24K that means pure gold; 8K gold contains 18 parts gold and 6 parts of one or more additional metals, making it 75% gold; 14K gold contains 14 parts gold and 10 parts of one or more additional metals, making it 58.3% gold; 12K gold contains 12 parts gold and 12 parts of one or more additional metals, making it 50% gold; and 10K gold contains 10 parts gold and 14 parts of one or more additional metals, making it 41.7% gold.
Other metals are mixed with gold because pure gold is soft and isn’t practical for daily wear. Other metals are also mixed with it to make it more durable and to lower its cost. Adding other metals also allows metallurgists to change the color of gold. Palladium or nickel can be added to create white gold. Adding copper produces a rose or pink tint. Silver gives gold a greenish cast.
The karat marking on gold jewelry should be accompanied by a hallmark or trademark. It identifies its maker.
Gold filled or plated jewelry is suitable for jewelry that you wear occasionally. Everyday use would eventually diminish the gold layer, exposing the metal below, which might stain your skin or cause an allergic reaction.