Your sweetie only deserves the very best. So this Valentine’s you decided to invest in jewelry for your significant other.
There’s just one problem. When you arrive at the jewelry store (or Amazon, as the case may be), you discover that the price of gold jewelry is based largely on the grade of the gold. And they all look the same, in pictures and in person.
Gold grades are measured in karats, with 24 karat gold being 100 (or actually 99.99) percent pure gold. You can calculate the purity of other grades of gold with some simple math. For example, 18 is 75 percent of 24, so 18 karat gold is 75 percent pure.
Your first instinct might be to splurge and buy a 24 karat gold ring. Well, you’re not going to find a 24 karat gold ring and even if you could, you wouldn’t want it. Gold is a very soft metal and thus, a 24 karat gold ring would be highly prone to bends and nicks. For this reason, 24 karat gold is seldom used to make jewelry.
If other grades of gold aren’t pure gold, what else is in there? They’re actually a mixture of gold and other alloys. Silver, palladium, platinum and nickel are all common gold additives. Mixing in these other alloys has two effects.
First, the alloys make the gold harder, i.e., less prone to bends and nicks. That bodes well for the life of the jewelry and for the loved one you’re giving it to.
Second, and perhaps more important, adding more alloy lowers the cost of the gold. That’s why 10 karat gold is cheaper than 14 karat gold, which is cheaper than 18 karat gold. Keep in mind that although it may cost less, cheaper gold jewelry is actually more durable.
Which gold should you buy? We’re not quite ready to answer that. That’s because you also need to think about other shades of gold besides yellow gold. There’s rose gold, which is gold that’s cut mostly with copper, and white gold that’s cut with mostly nickel or palladium.
Let’s assume, however, that you decide on yellow gold. What should you buy?
Jewelry snobs thumb their noses at 10 karat gold. In fact, the more elite jewelers don’t even carry 10 karat gold. However, if you’re on a budget, it’s highly unlikely that your honey will demand to know what grade of gold you bought, nor will he or she be likely to tell the difference. Don’t feel bad about buying 10 karat gold.
If the thought of being a cheapskate will haunt you through eternity, but you still can’t afford to go crazy, take a look at 14 karat gold. If you really squint, you might be able to see that it’s a wee bit golder than 10 karat gold.
Finally, if your luvver-buvver really likes shiny, expensive things, spring for the 18 karat gold. While it may cost more and be less durable, 18 karat gold can be considered an investment piece.