To save time and money looking for the best engagement ring, you need to narrow down your options to, say, 2, which is exactly what we’ve done here.
Finding the perfect engagement ring can take a lot out of you, but knowing what your options are and, most importantly, knowing the exact facts about the options and how they differ from each other will go a long way in making sure that you make the right choice for you.
In this article, we’ll help you choose between 14 and 18k engagement rings – what makes them different from each other and why one may be better for you than the other.
Keep in mind that gold comes in many versions, and knowing the difference between all the versions of gold is your first step towards finding the best engagement ring.
So, let’s dive right in!
What is 14k gold?
In your search for the perfect engagement ring online or offline, you may have noticed that one of the biggest differentiators of gold jewelry lies in the type of gold used. You could have also noticed that most of the engagement rings in the US are made using 14k gold. There are a few rings made of 18k gold, and this article will help you decide which of the two is a good fit for you or the love of your life. K is the karatage of the gold, corresponding to the purity level of the gold.
14K gold is the industry standard for good quality gold, and it’s also the most preferred option because it’s largely affordable.
14K gold is created when 58.3% of pure gold is alloyed with 41.7% of other metals like copper, silver, palladium, or nickel alloys. Alloying gold is necessitated by the fact that pure, 24K gold is quite soft and also malleable, meaning that any jewelry crafted out of 24k gold is not only very expensive but also unsustainable because it’s susceptible to scratching and bending. 14k is, therefore, one of the products of alloying. It features 14 parts of pure gold and 10 parts of other metals mixed with the gold to create something more durable and strong.
The metals added to gold to create the alloys are high-strength metals, and they lend this property to the gold alloy, leaving you with something stronger. Notably, alloying changes the color of the resultant gold, and the color change depends on the metals mixed with the gold.
More copper means more of the reddish and pink gold variations like rose gold, while more silver or palladium leaves you with a whiter variation of gold which is then plated with rhodium to create white gold.
The pros and cons of 14k Gold for an engagement ring
- 14k engagement rings are affordable thanks to the lower percentage of gold (58.3% pure gold) and the higher content of the cheaper metal. Less gold means a lower price tag
- It’s quite durable – the higher percentage of added metal impurities make it more durable than 18k gold
- It retains the rich warmth and color of real gold thanks to the gold present in it.
- A popular choice for engagement rings
- It doesn’t look as glamorous as 18k gold
- Higher risk of skin allergies because the metals added may have allergy-inducing amounts of nickel.
What is 18k gold?
Unlike pure, 24k gold, 18k only contains 18 parts out of the 24 parts of the pure gold, and the remainder (6 parts) is made of metal alloys. Put differently, 18k gold is made of 75% pure gold and 25% other metals mixed in the gold.
This means that one of the biggest reasons why most people will choose 18k gold, despite the high price tag, has to do with the higher purity level of gold. The 25% is often made of metals like silver, copper, and zinc.
The pros and cons of 18k Gold for an engagement ring
- 18k is the purest forms of gold used practically in jewelry making
- It boasts a warmer and a more vibrant gold-tone than 14k hold
- Low risk of skin allergies thanks to the higher percentage of pure gold in 18k gold
- Its purity makes it noticeably soft, and it scratches/ dents easier than 14k gold.
- Not ideal for persons leading active lifestyles
- It’s expensive and maybe up to 200% more expensive than 14k gold
What’s the difference between 14k and 18K gold?
There are many differentiating elements between 14 and 18k gold, and being able to understand these differences is what you need to make the right purchase decision.
This is the first point of difference between 14k and 18k jewelry. As mentioned above, pure gold isn’t really used in jewelry making, and even when it’s used, it’s not suitable for everyday wearing. To make gold more durable and to enhance the precious metal’s strength; hence its use in jewelry making, metals like copper, silver, zinc, palladium, and nickel are added to the gold – depending on the gold needed to make 14k or 18k gold. Now, to create 14k gold, you need at least 41.7% of these metals for alloying. Since these metals are already quite strong and durable, they transfer these properties to the gold, which is why 14k gold is significantly more durable than 18k gold.
Note that the metals needed to strengthen pure gold in the creation of 18k gold make up a smaller percentage of the 18k – only 25%, which means more pure gold is present in 18k gold, and the jewelry created won’t be as durable. This also applies to strength, and 14k gold is stronger than 18k gold.
If your engagement ring choice is tied to a budget, you should know that 18k gold costs a lot more than 14k gold. Again, the difference in price is attributed to the purity level of gold in each ring. 18k gold is, therefore, more expensive than 14k gold because of the higher purity level of gold. The metal alloys added to 14k gold are inexpensive, and with the lower percentage of pure gold, the overall cost of engagement rings made of 14k gold is lower.
The addition of a higher percentage of metal alloys to 14k gold means that the vibrant color of yellow gold is somewhat diluted, with the colors of the metal alloys having a significant effect on 14k gold engagement rings. 14K rose gold, for example, bears a deeper hue of red/ pink than 18k rose gold.
18K gold generally takes on more of the gold color- yellow, meaning that you will have soft pinks with yellow undertones for rose gold, and solid yellow gold looks more yellow than the metals it’s alloyed with.
- Effects on the skin
The biggest disadvantage of 14k gold is its high likelihood of causing skin allergies. This has to do with the higher percentage of metal alloys like copper, silver, zinc, and nickel. Even in trace amounts, nickel causes allergies, and if a higher percentage of nickel is needed in the creation of the 14k gold, as is the case in the creation of white gold, the risk of skin allergies goes up exponentially. Also, a high percentage of copper would result in a green discoloration on the skin, especially if your body reacts with copper.
These effects are less pronounced when 18k gold is used. While it doesn’t mean that 18k gold doesn’t cause any allergies, you should know that the risk of skin allergies is reduced because of the smaller percentage of metal alloys and, consequently, allergens.
18K gold tends to tarnish faster than 14k gold because it gets scratches and scuff marks faster, which will speed up the rate of tarnishing.
14 or 18 karat gold for an engagement ring – Choosing between the two?
14k gold and 18k gold both make excellent choices for engagement rings. However, each of the two types of gold suits different people, which means that even with the price differences, some people will still prefer 14k over 18k gold, and vice versa.
Take lifestyles, for example – individuals who lead active lifestyles will opt for 14k gold anytime because it’s more durable. Its rate of tarnishing is also quite slow as it’s resistant to bending, scratching, or scuffing. So, if your lifestyle demands durable jewelry, 14k gold is instantly a preferred choice.
Your skin tones play a role, too – Although 14k and 18k engagement rings look almost similar at first glance, they are different as seen when worn by people with different skin tones. Essentially, 14k gold is preferred by persons with warmer/ cooler skin tones, while 18k gold is yellower and looks great on olive, tan, and darker skin tones.
That said, the choice between 18k and 14k gold is largely a personal choice, and some people will be drawn to 18k or 14k depending on what feels and looks great on them.
Whether you settle on 18k or 14k gold, just make sure that your choice works well with your skin tone, and you must love that engagement ring.
Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.