18K Gold: The Insider’s Guide

by Willyou.net * Mar 17, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • While 22K gold is available, 18K is generally the highest karat type jewelers will recommend for bridal jewelry.
  • 18K gold is not as strong as 14K, but it can withstand years and years of wear. It also offers a much richer hue, which a lot of people find they prefer.
  • Some people do, however, prefer the softer tone of 14K gold, so it’s worth looking at both options in person before you make up your mind.
  • Don’t bother with 18K if you’re going for white gold. It’s a waste of money, since you’re not looking to preserve that warm, bright glow that buyers of yellow gold want to see in their pieces.
18K Gold rings

For a lot of shoppers looking to invest in fine jewelry, gold is the obvious choice. Its warmth and richness of are highly complementary to wearers, and to a clear and bright diamond. It’s also got a lot of romantic connotations, and a high status around the world as one of the most precious – if not the most precious – metals there are.

We’ve already written a full guide to gold as a broad subject but, if you’re at the stage of looking, you will be keenly aware of the choice you have to make if you go with gold: what karat type is best for your ring?

One of the most obvious (and most popular) choices is 18 karat gold, but what is it, and why is it a good (or not so good) choice for your ring? Read more below.

18 Karats

Before you jump to settle on the more prestigious 18K gold, get your head around exactly what 18 karats entails for you, as a buyer, and for the ring’s intended wearer – as well as the ring itself.

Is 18K Gold Real Gold?

Yes, in order for a product to be labelled and sold as 18K gold, it must contain a high level of real gold.

Vendors are not allowed to advertise any piece of jewelry as being made from gold – whether 18K or 10K, 14K or 24K – if it is not actually gold.

Of course, as a shopper, you’ll want to look out for the subtle differences between solid gold jewelry, and jewelry that may not contain quite as much gold as you’d think from just looking at it. 18K gold plated or vermeil jewelry, for instance, will contain 18K gold, but only a small amount – just enough to coat the surface of (typically) a sterling silver band with that distinctively warm, vivid shine.

The same goes for gold filled jewelry – the total weight of the item is not indicative of the total weight of gold in the item, whatever karat type is advertised.

In most instances, jewelers are not trying to ‘trick’ you into investing in a product that is not solid gold – these are simply alternative options, often appealing to those in search of cheaper fashion jewelry, rather than fine pieces designed to last a lifetime.

How do You Tell if 18K Gold is Real?

First, study the inside of the band. 18K gold will be stamped as such, or with the number 750.

If it features the numbers 417 or 585, these refer to 10K gold and 14K gold respectively. If, however, it is stamped with 925 (sterling silver), GP (gold plated), or GF (gold filled), then it is not solid 18K gold, and is worth significantly less.

It is rare for fake jewelry to be stamped with 750 or 18K, and very, very (very) unlikely if you’re shopping from a reputable jeweler, who will not attempt to pass of an inferior metal as 18K gold (or any other karat type).

If you want some extra reassurance, however, try holding your band up to a magnet. Gold is non-magnetic, and the high concentration of gold in 18 karats will mean that your band won’t react to a magnet being placed nearby.

There are other at-home tests you can do but, ultimately, the best option is always to buy your gold jewelry from a jeweler you trust. They have no interest in swapping out real gold for fake gold, or duping customers into spending hundreds of dollars on an inferior product, so don’t get too caught up on testing the gold for yourself.

Is 18K Gold Good Quality?

Karat type is not a measure of quality, so we’ll put it this way: 18K is the highest degree of purity that most people will find practical for their jewelry.

As we mentioned earlier, 22K features a much higher degree of purity than 18K gold, but that does not mean it’s ‘better quality’ – merely that buyers investing in a 22K piece will receive more gold total than buyers investing in the same piece at 18K gold. They will, of course, pay a lot more for this, and have to deal with some of the setbacks of wearing and owning gold that is very close to pure.

But it is important to remember that gold is gold, and that quality does not waver between karat types like some first-time shoppers think it does.

18K is a good investment, and an 18K gold piece will continue to appear to be ‘good quality’ for many years to come. On the other hand, when worn regularly, a 22K piece of gold jewelry will start to look decidedly lower in quality, since it is likely to become scratched, warped and dented over the months and years.

Strength and Durability

Even the most beautiful engagement ring will be a poor choice if it’s not safe to wear more than once in a while. 18K gold isn’t the strongest choice, but it’s not the weakest, either.

Can You Wear 18k Gold Every Day?

Yes, provided it is not an 18K gold plating or vermeil.

It can sound a little productive to say ‘solid gold’ when you know that, in reality, most of the gold you encounter will be an alloy, and not a piece of pure gold. But the truth is that solid gold can come at any karat type, whether 24K or 10K.

We talked about gold plating, gold filled jewelry, and gold vermeil above, and how, for pieces designed to last a lifetime, they’re simply not up to the task. The fine layer of gold will eventually fade. It can take months, or just weeks, of continuous wear – and, if the piece was destined to be worn forever, it can be very disappointing.

A solid 18K gold ring will not suffer from that problem. From the outer to the inner surface of the band, the entire ring will be created from the same piece of 18K gold and will not fade or wear away no matter how many years it is worn.

And, while 18K gold is not totally impervious to damage, it’s a lot stronger than 22K or 24K gold. A lot of people still prefer to go for 14K, simply because it can withstand more potential damage, but 18K remains a strong choice (literally).

Does 18K Gold Scratch Easily?

Compared with 24K gold, no, but it is still considerably more vulnerable than lower karat types.

To put it into perspective, it’s worth knowing that it is possible to dent and scratch pure gold with your fingernail, or to bend it with ease. If your band were made from 24K gold, firm pressure could easily bend that perfect circle out of shape and make it unwearable.

18K gold is reinforced by alloying metals, but regular wear will start to leave marks across the surface of the band. Most wearers actually find themselves quite attached to the little scratches that appear on the surface, since they signify the number of years the ring has been worn for.

If you’re not convinced, however, 14K will probably turn out to be the better choice for this reason alone.

Will 18K Gold Turn Skin Green?

It’s possible, but far less likely than it is in lower karat types. It’s not a sign of a fake or poor-quality ring, simply a natural chemical reaction between certain alloying metals like nickel and copper, and oxygen particles in the air.

When the skin turns green under jewelry, this is typically the result of a reaction between certain metals, like copper and nickel, and oxygen particles in the air. The green patina that can occur on these metals is easily transferred (temporarily) onto the skin.

The reaction is often associated with cheap costume jewelry, since these items are rarely made from precious (and non-reactive) metals like platinum and gold with a high karat type, but it’s not true that high quality jewelry can’t have the same effect.

Rose gold, which requires a relatively a high volume of copper in order to take on that rosy hue, is a common culprit for turning the skin green for that exact reason – particularly because most rose golds tend to be 14K or 10K, rather than 18K.

18K gold contains a far smaller amount of alloying metal, and reactions are far less likely.

If your partner has allergies or sensitive skin, however, platinum is always the better choice, since it’s almost totally pure when used in jewelry.

Is 18K White Gold Plated?

In most instances, yes, white gold of any karat type is usually plated with a thin layer of rhodium to achieve that bright white coloration reminiscent of platinum.

Like gold plating, this rhodium plating will eventually wear away and reveal a slightly yellow-toned white metal underneath. This does not mean that the ring is not solid gold, and the rhodium-plating can be replaced very easily by a jeweler whenever it starts to wear away.

Not all white gold is rhodium-plated, but most people prefer this extra layer because it removes the warm undertones from the metal and creates a more desirable appearance.

You can read our full guide to white gold here.


18K gold is strong enough to be worn regularly, but so are 10K gold and 14K gold, so what’s the key difference between them? Why do some shoppers spend more, just to get 18 karat gold?

What Does 18K Gold Look Like?

18 karat gold is noticeably paler than pure gold, but it is also considerably richer and warmer in color than 14K and 10K gold. It features a strong yellow hue, but without the (at times) overpoweringly rich orange of pure gold.

For many people, 18 karat gold is actually more desirable in appearance than pure gold – at least when it comes to jewelry. Its weaker coloration means that it appears more natural on the skin and suits a wider variety of colors.

As we’ve said before, it’s highly unlikely you’ve encountered any 24K gold jewelry – or even 22K gold jewelry – in everyday life, and this is predominantly down to the fact that it’s just too soft and malleable for casual wear. But, even if that were not the case, we imagine 18 karat and 14 karat gold would have still risen to popularity, since they offer a more understated (though still highly distinctive and luxurious) alternative to the overpowering color of pure gold.

Can You Tell the Difference Between 18K and 22K Gold?

Yes, when you look at them side-by-side you will be able to notice the difference between them – although karat type is less obvious when the ring is viewed in isolation.

22 karat gold is incredibly close to pure, and, as a result, retains a lot of gold’s very powerful coloration. While 18K is still very vivid, it’s not at all difficult to identify which is which in a lineup.

For non-experts, however, identifying the karat type of any piece of gold jewelry is pretty much guesswork, unless you have another piece of gold to compare it with.

Also, if you were to compare 18K with 22K, you would probably notice that the 22K gold features more signs of wear, particularly if it has spent much time outside of the jeweler’s case.

How Much is 18K Gold worth?

At the time of writing, 18K gold is worth a little over $45 per gram.

Remember that gold prices are constantly changing, although this is rarely a drastic change. 18 karat gold will, of course, always cost significantly less than 24 karat gold, but it is the most expensive option for anyone looking to design a piece of jewelry intended for everyday (or even regular) wear.

14 karat gold is the more economical choice if you’re looking to save money, but, as we mentioned above, it can also come down to preference. Sure, there’s a certain amount of prestige attached to 18 karat gold because of its higher value and higher gold content, but that needn’t be a reason to spend more.

It’s worth the cost if you feel drawn to its appearance (and comfortable with its greater vulnerability to wear and tear) – and, most importantly, if you can accommodate it in your budget without making any sacrifices over the quality or beauty of your diamond.

Our Summary

We can understand why so many shoppers naturally gravitate towards 18 karat gold at first – but also why, for the most part, 14 karat gold remains the most popular choice. With so much sentimental value attached to gold, it is only natural that many of us want to find the highest gold content possible, without sacrificing the strength and integrity of the ring.

Besides, there’s nothing wrong with settling on 18 karat gold. While we’re eager to warn readers about its relative weakness when compared with lower karat types, it’s not exactly on the verge of warping and denting every minute of the day, and it really is strong enough to withstand years and years of daily wear.

Also, remember that white gold and rose gold are often better at a lower karat type – for the most part, 14K. Since white gold is rhodium plated, and rose gold is supposed to lose that intensely yellow coloration, neither require a high karat type to look good – and may even look better without that extra gold component.

Ultimately, the choice is down to you, your design, and what you take to be most important in a ring: strength, beauty, or prestige.