Gem School: Let's talk about GOLD


It’s a commonly asked question – what type of gold should I choose? Below, read on as Natasha demystifies and shares her knowledge to help shed some light!


First up: What is the difference between 9 carat and 18 carat gold?

Essentially, the carat value of a ring denotes how much gold it contains. Why? Gold is an alloy, meaning it’s mixed with other materials to make it durable and stable for jewellery making. The higher the carat the more gold is in the alloy. So, for example, an 18 carat gold ring contains more gold than a 9 carat ring. This will have an effect on the gold’s cost, appearance and durability.

In terms of cost, 9 carat gold is cheaper than any carat with a higher numerical value (think 14ct, 18ct, 22ct etc) as it contains the lowest amount of actual gold in its alloy. Then, aesthetically, the more gold a ring contains, the more yellow the colour, which is why 18 carat gold is more yellow than 9 carat gold. But, in terms of durability, the more gold a ring contains, the softer the gold is – meaning it can be prone to bending or scratching. So an 18 carat ring will be softer than a 9 carat ring. Equally, jewellery made from 9 carat gold is paler in appearance but is more durable. White gold follows the same rules in terms of cost and durability, however the colour of finished pieces will be the same no matter the carat weight.




What carat gold is best for an engagement ring? 

18 carat gold is synonymous with luxury and for that reason is popular for engagement and wedding rings. It balances beauty and durability perfectly - the colour is a true gold, but more durable than higher 22ct or 24ct options, making it the perfect choice for an engagement or wedding ring. That being said, if you have a preference for paler gold, 9 carat gold is an option that is both beautiful and durable.


What carat gold is best for everyday jewellery?

When it comes to the current vogue for delicate jewellery, 9 carat is more durable than 18 carat gold and therefore is perfect for everyday use. The price of gold is currently on the rise, and so 9ct also offers the option for a much sharper price point than a higher carat. The ready to wear jewellery we sell on site such as the From Here To Eternity bangle is made from 9 carat gold, making it perfect to wear all the time!



What about 14 carat gold?

We make 14 carat gold pieces on request. While 14 carat gold is widely used in the US (where they also spell carat with a 'k' for further confusion!), we’re starting to see it used more and more over here. Why? 14 carat gold marks a sweet spot in terms of price point between 18 carat and 9 carat gold, particularly if someone is looking for something slightly elevated beyond a 9 carat ranking.


Can I mix carats?

Short answer: it’s best not to. It’s advisable to pair the same carats together – firstly the colours will look the same and, secondly, so they wear in the same way. For example, if you are stacking rings and you have a 9 carat wedding band rubbing off an 18 carat engagement ring, the wedding band would eat into the engagement ring over time and pose a threat to the durability of the prongs. We’ve seen people pairing an 18 carat pendant with a 9 carat chain because the chain will be a better price - but it’s a false economy: as that pendant swings up and down on the chain, the chain will eat through the pendant bail and you will potentially lose your pendant.




How do I check what carat gold my existing pieces are?

In Ireland, by law, all contemporary jewellery sold must be hallmarked - that means, it must be stamped with its metal type. That means you should able to ascertain the carat value by looking at its markings - for a ring, it could be on the inner band, necklaces and bracelets will often be stamped on the links while earrings might have it on the posts. As gold is an alloy, i.e. a mixture of gold and other metals, the numbers you will see stand for the percentage of gold each one contains. The stamp for 18ct is 750, denoting that an 18 carat gold ring comprises 75% gold, 25% other materials; 14 carat will be stamped 585 to indicate 58.5% gold; 9ct is 375 for 37.5% gold. If you are unsure, or simply can’t see (sometimes the markings are teeny tiny!) the carat value of your pieces, you can always bring it in to us and we’d be happy to help. Antique pieces, as well as jewellery made abroad might have different markings so we would be delighted to help you decipher what you have.


Further reading: White gold versus platinum – what’s the difference?