14k vs 18k Gold Chains for Men: Which One Should You Choose?
Lester Fangonilo - October 19, 2021
Gold chains are not created equal. So between 14k vs 18k gold chains for men - which is the better choice?
Legendary fantasy author JRR Tolkien may have said “all that is gold does not glitter,” but most men agree that adding a bit of gold to their outfits of the day does make a heck of a lot of difference.
Simple gold chains worn as necklaces have long been part of men’s wardrobes, either worn individually or, if you’re to look at ancient stone carvings from Mesopotamia or flash back to Mr. T’s over-the-top bling from the ‘80s, layered one on top of another.
But gold chains are not made equal. While faux chains or gold-plated chains may look good enough for some men, those who appreciate the finer things in life need to take a closer look at the precious metal that goes into making their accessories. Indeed, the first thing jewelers ask potential clients is whether they prefer 14k to 18k gold chains for men and vice versa.
For the uninitiated, the big question is “What are you talking about?”
A Bit of a Backgrounder
The “k” in 14k and 18k is an abbreviation of “karat.”
The karat is the unit of measurement for purity when it comes to precious metals and items made from them. To say that gold, silver, or platinum are 24k means that these are in their purest, unalloyed state. To know how much gold or precious metal is in a piece of jewelry, a jeweler divides its karat by 24 and multiplies the remainder by 100.
Most gold chains are made of an alloy of gold mixed with other metals, so how do you know how much gold is in the item? Here’s a concrete example: if a jeweler tells you that the chain you intend to buy is 12k gold, you are essentially buying a chain that is 50% gold.
The higher the karat rating means that the piece was made with a greater amount of gold. Sounds good, doesn’t it; you get more bang for your bucks? Don’t get your wallet ready just yet: sometimes, having more gold in a piece of jewelry, particularly a chain necklace, may actually put you at a disadvantage.
The Case for 14k Gold
14k gold is practically the standard when it comes to modern jewelry. Indeed, over 90% of all wedding bands sold in the United States are made with 14k gold.
Usually crafted with an alloy of gold mixed with copper, nickel, palladium, silver, or zinc, 14k is essentially 58.3% of gold and 41.7% of other metals. The amounts of the lesser metals in the alloy may vary, but the 58.3% gold content is a standard that jewelers adhere to strictly.
14k gold comes in various colors: classic yellow, an almost silvery-white, the au courant rose, and - surprisingly - even black. On an aesthetic level, people prefer it to higher- and lower-karat gold as it has a softer and warmer color tone that is complementary to one's complexion and looks gorgeous regardless of one's skin color.
In terms of price and durability, 14k gold is also the metal of choice for many jewelry buyers. For one thing, the fact that it contains just over 50% gold brings its price down considerably and it is also more commonly available.
For another, the greater percentage of lesser metals in a 14k gold alloy actually makes it stronger. Gold is a soft metal and the addition of these metals enhances its strength and durability. Thus, chains made with the alloy are sturdier, scratch-proof, dent-proof, and snap-resistant.
For this reason, many jewelers recommend 14k gold to those looking for pieces they can wear on a daily basis. Unlike alloys with a greater amount of gold, these are less likely to tarnish and, even with minimal care, will continue to look good for years to come.
The Case for 18k Gold
So, what would give 18k gold chains for men the edge here? Purity, for one; aesthetic value for another.
Given the jeweler’s formula stated above, 18k gold chain alloys contain exactly 75% of the precious metal. While this considerably jacks up its price, it also makes the piece safer to wear, particularly for those who have sensitive skin.
Having more gold in a chain means that the piece is more hypo-allergenic, which means that people whose skin gets irritated by zinc and copper can wear their bling without breaking out into an unsightly rash.
Likewise, 18k gold polishes to a brilliant sheen. Whether you go classic with yellow gold or take a more unconventional route with either white or rose, your necklace or any other piece is bound to be more visible and more stunning to behold.
However, the purity of 18k gold chains for men means it is not as durable as its 14k counterpart. More gold means that the piece is softer and more prone to damage. Gold chains, in particular, may snap off and break more easily. Pendants and rings made with 18k gold can also get scuffed and tarnished if used for daily wear. Indeed, many jewelers say that the bulk of repair requests they get are for the cleaning of 18k gold jewelry or to reshape dented pieces.
For this reason, a lot of people prefer to buy 18k gold jewelry more as statement pieces as opposed to jewelry for daily wear. Those in the business of legacy management and jewelry appraisal will also tell you that 18k pieces are the ones usually left behind as heirlooms to be passed on to the next generation.
Also, many of the brilliant pieces worn by celebrities at events like the Academy Awards, the Grammies, and even the MET Gala are made with 18k or 24k gold as opposed to 14k gold as these are events that call for opulence and glamor.
A Few Rules of Thumb
When buying a gold chain for men, be sure to keep the following points in mind:
- If you have sensitive skin, consider an 18k chain as this will contain fewer metallic allergens that could irritate your skin;
- If you’re on a budget, note that you can actually buy a bigger or longer 14k chain at the same price as a standard 18k chain;
- 14k chains are bound to be more durable if you’re wearing them daily; and
- 18k pieces should nevertheless be considered as jewelry for special occasions.
Where To Find High-Quality Men’s Necklaces
To achieve the masculine minimal look, Oliver Cabell is the go-to jeweler for you. With 2mm and 3mm thick men’s chain necklaces in 18k gold or silver, Oliver Cabell enhances your look without complicating things. Famous for its minimal and ethical line of menswear and men’s shoes, Oliver Cabell now aims to complete your look with necklaces and compelling pendants.