Women's Rings 18k Gold vs 14k Gold: Which to Buy?
Lester Fangonilo - November 22, 2021
Remember the old nursery rhyme Ride a Cock-horse to Banbury Cross where the narrator describes a finely-dressed woman with “rings on her fingers and bells on her toes”? The phrase is a sign that she is on her way to a banquet or some other celebration that demands a glamorous appearance on her part.
But the fine lady in the rhyme is just one of many in both fact and fiction who have used rings to adorn themselves. Indeed, some of the greatest archeological finds in Egypt and Central America have yielded treasure troves full of necklaces, bracelets, and finely wrought rings that have adorned queens, princesses, and women of high standing.
These days, gold rings are still a necessary component of any stylish woman’s jewelry box, but today’s women are more discerning when it comes to the materials that go into their jewelry, particularly when it comes to gemstones, embellishments, and even the type of precious metal that goes into their favorite pieces.
In this feature, we determine which type of gold is a better buy (or a more worthy investment) when it comes to women’s rings. In this context, we will delve into the differences between 14k and 18k gold.
Women’s Rings 18k Gold vs 14k Gold
A Few Technical Pointers
The letter “k” in both cases is an abbreviation of the word “karat,” the standard unit of measurement when it comes to the purity of precious metals. For the most part, the baseline number is 24 which denotes a metal in its purest and unalloyed (unadulterated) state. The standard jeweler’s formula to determine how much gold, silver, or platinum went into a piece is to divide the karat by 24 and multiply the remainder by 100.
For example, a ring made with 14k gold will contain at least 58.3% gold, while one made with 12k gold will only have 50%.
In the context of jewelry-making, the standard karats per piece range between 12 and 18. Any less, and the piece may be contemptuously set aside as merely gilded or gold-plated. Any more, and you’ll have an item that may break easily, seeing how gold is a much softer material than other metals. That said, it doesn’t exactly follow that you’ll get your money’s worth if you insist on buying big-ticket pieces made with 24k gold.
14k Gold: Beautiful Yet Budget-Friendly
14k gold is the most popular material when it comes to jewelry, particularly in the United States. Many keepsakes are made with 14k and more than 90% of all wedding rings sold in the country are crafted with it.
Obviously, as it has but 58.3% gold in its composition, 14k is an alloy where the remaining 41.7% of the piece is made up of lesser metals like copper, silver, or palladium. While the amounts of these lesser metals may vary, the 58.3% of gold is a standard across the industry.
Available in gold’s classic yellow, 14k gold rings may also be silvery white or even rose. The sheen it gives off has a softer and warmer tone to it that beautifully sets off one’s complexion - something that women find quite desirable, especially if their rings are worn on shapely, well-manicured hands and fingers.
But one of the real reasons why 14k gold jewelry is more popular is because it is considerably less expensive than pieces made with either 18k or 24k gold. The percentage of lesser metals that go into its composition also means it is harder and more durable; less prone to scuffing or denting.
For this reason, women are quite comfortable wearing 14k gold rings on a daily basis - they still look good even after a long day at work and are dressy enough to wear on a night out on the town.
18k Gold: Pricier But More Appropriate for Sensitive Skin
There are many women who would love to wear dressy jewelry but tend to balk at it as wearing costume pieces or even some fine artisanal rings tends to leave unsightly rashes on their skin. This is mostly due to an allergic reaction to the zinc or copper used for strengthening rings or chains made with a lower percentage of gold.
But this is where 18k is given the opportunity to shine. Much purer than its 14k counterparts, 18k contains 75% pure gold, making it essentially hypoallergenic.
In terms of aesthetics, an 18k gold ring also looks more spectacular: it polishes beautifully and the shine on it is absolutely glorious. It’s also more malleable than 14K, which enables jewelers and goldsmiths to form it into fabulous shapes.
But even a material this good has its drawbacks. 18k gold is less durable than its 14k counterpart: it is softer and can sustain considerably scuffing and dulling if worn on a daily basis. For this reason, rings made of the material tend to get bent out of shape if they’re caught on something.
This is why many people reserve their 18k rings for special occasions as opposed to wearing them every day. Rings made with the material are particularly stunning and feature more massive gemstone settings or more elaborate embellishments.
It’s also interesting to note that 18k pieces are among the most commonly set aside as family heirlooms for passing on to the next generation.
Pro Tips for Choosing Gold Rings
- Be sure to purchase your pieces through reputable jewelers and artisans;
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions, particularly if you know that you have sensitivities or allergies to zinc and copper;
- Don’t limit yourself to one shop - be sure to check out the work of other ateliers and see whether or not these suit you;
- Be sure to know your ring size because a lot of buyers’ remorse comes from people who buy rings that are either too large or too small for their fingers; and
- Consider this purchase an investment: 14k pieces may be less expensive, but 18k rings are more precious.
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