Ask our goldsmith: Chewing on the Meaning of Karat and Carat

GP8A5069_edit2Ever watch an old western and wonder why people bite gold coins? Tom, Stones Jewelry’s long-time goldsmith (and resident genius, as one customer lovingly refers to him), has the answer for us in our first “Ask our Goldsmith”!

We asked Tom to explain what “karats” represent in gold and why it is important to know. We also asked him to explain the difference between a “karat” and “carat.”

Here’s what Tom had to say:

“Well, 24 karat is pure gold. You often hear about 18-karat gold, which is 18 parts gold and six parts alloy. This could be ounces, grams, pounds or tons (if you’re lucky) but the two numbers are always going to add up to equal 24 again. If you have a 14-karat gold piece, that means there are 14 parts gold and 10 parts alloy.

For jewelry, 24 karat is too soft. It’ll just wear away. Alloy and other metals are put in to keep the ring or piece stable. The classic example of 24-karat gold is when someone in an old western flick would come into a bar and throw a gold coin on the bar. The bartender looks at it, picks it up and bites it. If it’s soft enough, that means he can put a tooth mark in it and that it is real gold.

As for karat versus carat, ‘karat’ with a k refers to the amount of actual gold. ‘Carat’ with a c refers to the weight of the stone, not gold.”

Stay tuned next month for more with Tom! As always, send us any questions you’ve wanted to know about gold, jewelry or repair work! We’ll be glad to answer anything we can.