Karat Gold - Understanding Purity in Real Gold Chain Men's Jewelry

Lester Fangonilo - October 19, 2021


Buying jewelry requires knowing the best quality you can get. But what is a karat, and how do we know what they mean in the jewelry industry? 

What is Karat in Gold? 

Karat measures the purity percentage of gold alloy included in the making of the jewelry. It is estimated for every 24 parts, with 24K being pure gold. Gold at its purest form can have 24K, but this pure form is soft and malleable, which means it can’t be made as a piece of solid jewelry. 

That’s why jewelers and other manufacturers include metal alloys like silver, copper, zinc, etc., to add a more substantial component to the jewelry. Lower gold contained in the jewelry means a higher number of metal alloys and a lower karat number.

Most real gold chain men's jewelry is made with alloys like silver, copper, zinc, palladium, among others, and with this, the karat number changes and the resulting colors of the jewelry. Traditional karat numbers that are commonly seen in the market are 24K (pure gold), 22K (91.7% gold), 18K (75% gold), 14K (58.3% gold), 12K (50% gold), 10K (41.7% gold), and 9K (37.5 % gold). 

Higher karat numbers do not guarantee real gold chain men's jewelry, but the percentage of gold is very valuable. However, pure gold isn’t used as much in jewelry-making because of its soft composition. With metal alloys being added to the mix, men’s jewelry becomes stronger and more durable. On the other hand, lower karat numbers with lower gold percentages are less so.


Alan Cuff in 14k Gold by Oliver Cabell

To put things simply:

  • Higher karat number = higher gold content; while lower karat number = lower gold content
  • Higher karat gold tarnish quickly, while lower karat gold doesn’t
  • Higher karat gold is more valuable because it is pure, while lower karat gold has a lower value since it is mostly comprised of metal alloys
  • Higher karat gold has brighter yellow color than the lower karat gold

 Since higher karat gold is more valuable, it also costs more. Consequently, 24k is expensive, which pushes most people to opt for cheaper ones without compromising the quality of the gold. 

The most popular grade of jewelry is 18K jewelry, composed of 75% gold and 25% metal alloy. Its composition guarantees both its value and durability. The three-fourths gold portion of it will be more valuable, and the one-quarter portion will make it stronger and durable. As a result, you can use an 18k gold jewelry piece regularly.


Dove Pendant Necklace in 18k Gold


Stamps in Gold

Karat numbers are important when buying real gold chain mens jewelry - that’s a no-brainer. But another important thing that you should know is the stamp in the jewelry. Stamps are marks in jewelry, known as hallmarks, to indicate the jewelry’s karat numbers or gold content. 


4mm Cuban Chain Bracelet in 18k Gold


People use stamps as a reference to purchasing jewelry. Most of the stamps have different formats depending on the manufacturer. They will also vary depending on a country’s laws on stamping. For example, some countries mark the jewelry with just their karat number (e.g. 14K, 18K, 24K) while others stamp with three digits such as 585, 750, and others.

The numbers indicate the gold percentage in the thousandth, like 750 means 75.0% gold.  Others stamp their jewelry with “GE,” which means ‘gold electroplate.’ This stamp signifies that a metal base is being plated with gold to achieve ‘gold jewelry’. 

Manufacturers also stamped a piece of jewelry with the company’s name, or the assay office where it was tested and stamped. It is rare, but some jewelry is unstamped. They can either be fake or they can be vintage since stamping wasn’t much of a big deal during the old days. An indicator of fake and unstamped jewelry is its price. If they are pricey then it's possible that it's vintage. Conversely, if it's cheap, then that could mean it's fake. 

How to know if a piece of gold jewelry is fake or not?

  1. Look for the hallmark. 

The hallmark indicates the karat number or the percentage of gold. Sometimes the manufacturing company is included in the hallmark, so you’ll know if it's legit or not.

  1. Use gold testing kits.

There are so many ways to test the gold content in jewelry. We prefer using acids to test the authenticity of the gold. However, there is also a low-quality way to check if it’s true gold: by putting it in a bowl of water. If the jewelry floats, it is likely to be fake. Since gold is a heavy metal, it will sink.

  1. Look at the color.

If the color is off, there is a high chance that it's fake. But sometimes, it can mean it’s just tarnished. High karat gold is easily tarnished, so there is also a possibility that a tarnished piece of gold jewelry can be legit.

  1. Ask a jeweler

The best way to know if a piece of gold jewelry is fake or real is to ask a jeweler. Jewelers are professionals in this field, so they know what to do. They run tests to determine the authenticity of the jewelry. 

Gold jewelry is a must-have in fashion trends nowadays. It just doesn’t go out of style! You can adorn it to present a casual or elegant style. Either way, wearing gold jewelry makes a whole lot of difference to one’s overall look. Therefore, learning about gold purity, including the nitty-gritty of gold authenticity, will help you the next time you buy another piece of jewelry.