For so many shoppers, gold is a no-brainer. Sure, there are other beautiful, lustrous, and luxurious-looking metals out there, but none of them hold a torch to gold if you’ve already fallen for its deep, rich color and unique cultural significance.
As you get closer to designing a ring of your own, 10K (or 10 karat) gold is something you’re likely to come across pretty early on in your research. While it’s definitely not the most popular choice, it’s still important to understand its unique characteristics before you make your mind up completely.
Here’s what you need to know.
10K jewelry features a very low ratio of gold to alloy and, at just under 42% purity, is typically regarded as the lowest purity option for shoppers.
If you have read our guide to gold already, then you will know the importance of alloying pure gold with other, stronger metals before it is used in jewelry. Doing so means that your engagement ring, wedding band, or any other gold jewelry you have is capable of withstanding more than a few hours on your body without getting bent, scratched, dented, or broken.
24K is pure gold and, naturally, adding a small amount of alloy to it lowers its purity. Adding more alloy lowers its purity significantly more until it reaches a point where the level of alloy in any solid piece of gold surpasses the level of actual gold.
This is what 10K gold is: 10 parts gold to 14 parts alloy.
Until recently, 10K was the lowest karat type that could be advertised as gold within the United States. These days, sellers simply have to be upfront about the low gold content – although most jewelers continue to treat 10K as the lowest karat type on offer.
Alloying gold affects its appearance pretty significantly – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. With such a low level of purity, 10K gold is quite a distinctive choice, but whether or noy you value that distinctiveness, or hate it, is entirely down to you. Here’s what you need to know.
While you can be sure that 10K gold features a certain amount of real gold, it doesn’t offer the same level of vibrancy or color that most shoppers are looking for when they choose to shop for gold.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with 10K gold. It’s got some benefits, which we’ll look at below, but the main ‘downside’ to picking 10 karats rather than 14 or 18 is the fact that you could easily be disappointed by its appearance.
Why? Because alloying gold ‘dilutes’ its original color. While most of us aren’t used to seeing it, pure gold is incredibly rich in color; it’s closer to orange than yellow and, for most people, too bright to pose any real appeal for jewelry, regardless of its strength.
We’re a lot more used to seeing gold after it has already been alloyed: warm and vibrant, but more of an elegant yellow hue than a full-bodied orange.
10K gold is significantly paler than the gold you are likely used to seeing. To many people, its lack of color means that it appears a lot lower in quality than higher karat types meaning that, when it comes to the question of 10K gold vs 14K gold, most people fall in favor of the latter.
Of course, others prefer the more muted appearance of 10K gold. While there’s no denying that pieces featuring this karat type contain a lot less gold (and, accordingly, value) than 14K, 18K, and 22K jewelry, there is something to be said for the gentler, softer appearance of 10K gold.
No. 10K gold’s color is a lot paler than other karat types, but it won’t change over time – or even with constant wear.
10K gold is more liable to tarnish over time, but this doesn’t have to be a permanent change, and can easily be polished away by a jeweler. Some people appreciate the patina that forms on the surface, since it symbolizes the many years the item has been worn for, but others prefer to preserve the ‘new out the box’ look.
No, provided it is a piece of solid gold and not ‘gold plated’ or ‘gold filled’ jewelry.
A piece of gold plated, for instance, is less likely to withstand the test of time. Featuring only a fine layer of gold on the very surface, many of these pieces will only last a few years before the gold begins to wear off. It’s a popular choice for lower end jewelry, particularly if the pieces are intended to be worn on an occasional basis, and not every day.
When it comes to solid gold, there is no ‘upper layer’ to wear away – unless you’re talking about white gold, which features a thin layer of rhodium to enhance its bright color. When this wears away, the gold can begin to look yellower in places, but this rhodium layer can be easily replaced every few years, however.
Not necessarily, but it doesn’t look as lavish or luxurious as the higher karat types. While it is paler than higher karat types, 10K yellow gold still features the distinctive color of gold that no other metal is truly able to rival.
Some people find that 10K gold carries an attractively ‘antiquated’ look. Of course, whether you see that as a mark in favor of it, or a strong mark against it, is totally down to personal preference, so don’t jump at the 10K option just because your partner favors retro styles or vintage engagement ring designs.
One of the things that makes 18 karat gold such a popular choice for engagement rings and wedding bands is its incredibly strong, vibrant, and opulent appearance. The same goes, to a slightly lesser extent, for 14K gold.
Once you see it in person, you’ll likely agree that 10K gold appears as though someone has someone has turned down the dimmer switch. For some, it will appear cheaper; for others, it will simply appear older or duller.
One of the main reasons we alloy gold in the first place is to make sure it’s strong enough to be worn. The more we alloy it, the stronger it gets, so it stands to reason that 10K gold offers some pretty compelling properties for anyone who would rather be on the safe side…
10K is the strongest karat type you’re likely to find at any jewelry store.
Unlike pure gold, you would find it pretty much impossible to bend, warp or do any significant damage to 10K gold without putting a lot of effort into it.
Yes, 10K gold is more than capable of withstanding regular wear.
For many, the strength of 10 karat gold represents its primary appeal. Rather than worrying that your wedding band will warp or scratch easy, or that your diamond will suddenly disappear from its setting, you can feel very confident that the high levels of alloy present in your ring will keep everything where it should be.
Then again, keep in mind that 14K gold is also considered more than strong enough to do the same job. Even 18 karat gold, which is 75% pure gold, is used widely within bridal jewelry – so, for many, 10K is just a step too far in the right direction.
Yes, a plain gold 10K band is perfectly safe to wear in the shower, but we wouldn’t recommend it for diamond engagement rings or eternity rings.
Sure, the shower isn’t capable of ruining your diamonds either, but frequently exposing your ring to soap, shampoo, conditioner, and any other products you use in the shower can affect it over time. And, if you haven’t had your prongs checked in a while, we’d hate to think of your diamond working itself loose in the water and going straight down the drain.
Our advice? Leave the wedding band on, but leave the diamond jewelry on your nightstand until you’re done.
No, since some of the most common alloys are highly likely to cause reactions in some wearers.
The alloys used in 18K gold are generally the same alloys used in 10K gold, but they’re used in much, much lower quantities, meaning that many people find them comfortable to wear. Of course, this depends on the severity of your allergy, but it is an option for those who want to wear gold jewelry without any irritation.
Pure gold is not much of an irritant in and of itself but, since 10K gold features a higher ratio of alloy to gold – alloys like nickel, zinc, and copper – it’s a poor choice for those with sensitivities.
Because of its higher purity, platinum is often considered the best choice for brides or grooms with skin sensitivities.
Yes, although it features a very different hue to the one you’ll get at 18 – or even 14 – karats.
Rose gold is created by combining the yellow of gold with the reddish tone of copper, as well as the bright hue of silver. As with any color combination, the quantities of each color used will affect the final color, and its intensity.
18K rose gold features the strongest color – an eye-capturing, warm blush color that still bears a strong resemblance to traditional gold. Once again, 14K represents a sweet spot for many shoppers, with a distinctly rosy blush that so many of us are looking for.
Once again, 10K represents the dullest in terms of intensity and hue. It’s a beautiful color, but not necessarily what we set out looking for when we’ve got rose gold on our minds. This karat type is a popular choice for everyday jewelry, but not so much for bridal pieces like engagement rings or wedding bands.
It’s certainly not the most popular choice for bridal jewelry – but, if you’re aware of its shortfalls and a fan of its paler complexion, it represents good value for money.
10K gold is, after all, a lot cheaper than higher karat types. What’s more, there’s very little doubt that it’s going to last you the rest of your lives – and several generations after that. It’ll keep your diamond safe, and still offer the distinctive yellow of gold.
We wouldn’t recommend that you make up your mind before seeing this gold karat in person, however – and possibly comparing it with a 14K gold, too. This is particularly important if you’re shopping for an engagement ring, and your partner already has a collection of gold jewelry. If her collection includes 14K and 18K pieces, then her engagement ring could look ‘washed out’ and dull next to them – something you don’t want to happen.
A lot of people wouldn’t consider 10K worth the investment, and would much rather move up to 14K in order to invest in a gold ring that features more gold than alloy. That’s not to say, however, that it doesn’t hold value for some shoppers – or that you should write it off just because other options are more popular.