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What Is a Carat? Differences Between Carat and Karat

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You’ve heard the term “carat.” You’ve also heard “karat.” They both sound so similar, and they’re spelled almost exactly the same. Is there a difference between the two? There is! We’ll dive into the differences between the two and explain where the confusion — besides the sound and spelling — came from in the first place.

What Is a Carat?

Before the carat became a universal standard, the gemstone evaluation or weight of diamonds and other gemstones was left to each country. Diamond standards could have been totally different depending on where you were in the world. Today, a carat refers to the weight of diamonds and gemstones. The carat weight doesn’t refer to the visual size of a diamond. For example, a 2.5-carat oval shaped diamond looks similar to a 3-carat round brilliant shaped diamond. A 1-carat diamond will be larger than a 1-carat sapphire because of the density of gemstones. Even though the 6.5mm diamond is the same 1-carat measurement as the 6.0mm sapphire, the sapphire is smaller in terms of measurement by a few millimeters.

  • Carats and the 4Cs — The Gemological Institute of America created the 4Cs of Diamond Quality standard. Carat is just one of the 4Cs. A carat simply refers to the weight of a diamond.
  • Color — A diamond’s color grade refers to the absence of color. While diamonds are naturally found in practically all colors, from red to violet, most diamonds you’ll see for sale to the general public will be a clear white to yellowish. The clearer it is, the higher the color grade. A diamond’s color grade is determined by certified grading professionals.
  • Cut — From the football-shaped marquise cut to the trendy heart-shaped cut, there are plenty of diamond shapes to choose from. The diamond shape is also known as the cut of a diamond. A diamond that is cut or shaped well will produce a shiny effect, allowing for more light to come through the crown of the diamond.
  • Clarity The Gemological Institute of America’s official clarity scale ranges from included to flawless. Clarity refers to how rare a diamond is. This helps jewelry consumers understand how one diamond can be worth more than another.
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Carat Standards

According to diamond expert Anna Jay, the average carat size can vary drastically based on location and demographics. However, the national average in the U.S. is about 1 carat. We’ll look at the most popular carat sizes along with how to pick the best carat for your lifestyle.

  • Popular Carat Sizes — Popular carat sizes range from 0.25 carats to 3 carats, with most people buying about 1 carat. Even if a diamond is only about 1 carat, the diamond can actually look bigger depending on the cut of the diamond. The rule of thumb is that diamonds with an elongated shape look larger. That means diamonds cut in a marquise, pear or oval shape appear bigger than diamonds of a similar size. That means a 2.5-carat oval ring may look just as large — if not larger — than a 3-carat round brilliant cut ring.
  • Lifestyle Considerations — If you or your partner has an active lifestyle or a career that requires them to be hands-on, a large center stone may not be the best fit for them. If they’re a teacher or a doctor, it may be better to buy them a diamond ring with a smaller center stone.
  • Budget — There’s a noticeable difference in price between getting a 2.5-carat ring instead of a larger 3-carat ring. Yet doesn’t that 2.5-carat oval ring look just as big as the 3-carat round brilliant cut ring? Unless you or your partner is set on having a particular diamond shape, it can be worth it to compromise on carat size to save on your budget. Saving money on an engagement ring allows for more wiggle room to spend on the wedding rings for you two.
  • Size Recommendations — People with smaller ring sizes may want to opt for rings that are less than 1.5 carats. Keep in mind that 1.5-carat engagement rings will look bigger on someone with a size 6 finger than on someone with a size 9 finger. If you have larger hands or ring size, a smaller diamond may look even smaller on your hand. You can go for a larger diamond at 1.5 to 2 carats.

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What Is a Karat?

You might have heard Bruno Mars’s popular song “24K Magic.” When he’s singing about 24K, he’s singing about 24-karat pure gold, the highest grade of metal anyone can purchase. A karat is a unit that measures how much gold is in a piece of jewelry compared to how many other metals are present. The higher the karat, the more gold that’s in the jewelry. For example, 18K gold contains 75 percent gold while 9K gold contains about half of what you’d find in 18K gold. Now, how does karatage differ from color and fineness when it comes to gold?

  • Color — While yellow gold remains the most popular color choice for gold jewelry, other gold alloys are becoming increasingly popular, such as rose gold. We’re seeing more couples opt for white gold wedding bands. There are unique gold alloys out there as well, such as black gold, where yellow gold is mixed with cobalt.
  • Fineness — Fineness refers to purity in parts per thousand. For example, a 14K gold ring is 14 karats out of 24 karats or 14 divided by 24, which comes out to 0.583 fine. That means the gold has a 583 fineness. The closest you’ll see to 999 fineness is with actual gold bars, not jewelry, because of how durable the jewelry should be for everyday wear.
  • Karatage — The weight of gold is measured in troy ounces, but the purity is measured in karats. Karatage is the measurement of the purity of gold alloyed with other metals. Lower karatages have less gold. In the U.S., 10 karats is the legal minimum accepted standard for gold karatage, with most people purchasing gold jewelry with about 14K gold.
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Karat Standards

There are different standards for gold karats, depending on the quality you look for. Wearable gold jewelry typically ranges from 9K to 18K. 24K is considered pure gold. While it’s rare, beautiful and has that “24K Magic” that Bruno Mars keeps singing about, it’s also not durable enough to hold up for everyday wearable use. Because it’s so pure, it’s too soft to actually wear. You won’t actually be wearing 24K wedding rings, but you can wear the next best thing with 18K gold wedding rings. That’s why wearable gold jewelry needs to be mixed with other metals, so it’s more durable, such as silver and copper. The percentage of other metals mixed in creates a metal mixture known as an alloy which creates different gold compositions such as yellow gold and rose gold.

  • 18K Gold — For the best color and quality, opt for high-quality 18K gold. This higher karatage is made with 75 percent gold and 25 percent other metals.
  • 14K Gold — One of the most common choices for gold jewelry customers is 14K gold. If you’re looking for an excellent compromise between quality and price, this mixture of about 58 percent gold and 41 percent other metals is just right for you.
  • 10K Gold — For those with a moderate budget looking for a strong and durable metal, you can’t go wrong with 10K gold. This alloy is made with about 41 percent gold and 58 percent other metals. Because the percentage of other metals is more present in the 10K alloy, you’ll find that it’s more durable compared to higher karatages.
  • 9K Gold — 9K gold jewelry is considered entry level gold. It’s one of the lower priced metals because of the low karatage with about 37.5 percent gold and 62.5 percent other metals. You’ll begin to see the reddish color of the copper mixture come through.

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Popular Types of Gold Alloys

White gold is considered a less expensive alternative to platinum, but it also looks a bit like silver. Rose gold has a vintage aesthetic to it that’s come back in fashion in recent years. Nothing’s more classic than a yellow gold ring. Can’t decide on which metal type you want? Try a two tone ring that features two different metal types. Let’s talk about the different popular types of gold alloys.

  • White Gold — White gold is a mixture of pure gold mixed with white metals like palladium and silver. White gold jewelry usually has a rhodium-plating. If you purchase any white gold jewelry, the rhodium plating will wear over time. Visit your jeweler to assist with having your rhodium plated about every six months to once a year.
  • Yellow Gold — Yellow gold is exactly what it sounds like. It’s what you picture when you hear the word “gold.” Yellow gold is normally mixed with metals like copper and zinc. This classic metal is a favorite for anyone looking to wear a ring with that warm glow. When she pictures diamond rings for women, she’s probably picturing that solitaire diamond setting with a yellow gold band.
  • Rose Gold — Rose gold looks similar to yellow gold, but rose gold appears rosier than yellow gold due to the greater proportion of copper. Rose gold gained popularity during the 1920s, when this metal was normally worn with fine jewelry and engagement rings. It’s a romantic and subtle color ideal for anyone looking for an elegant twist for their wedding or engagement ring.
  • Two Tone — A two tone ring has two different metals. The most popular combinations are white and rose gold. However, you’ll see all kinds of different combinations, such as yellow gold and platinum or platinum and rose gold. Two tone rings can also symbolize two lives coming together by the two different metal types.

What’s the Difference Between Carat and Karat?

We’ve talked about what a carat is. We’ve talked about what a karat is. Let’s take a look at the carat vs. karat to have a better understanding of how these two differ.

  • A Carat Is… — A carat is the weight of a stone, which is about 0.2 grams or 200 milligrams. Some systems consider the weight of a diamond to be divided into 100 points, with 100 points being the same as 1 carat. Any diamonds over 1 carat are referred to with their carat value, like a 3.5-carat diamond. The bigger the diamond, the higher the carat.
  • A Karat Is… — A karat is the amount of gold in an alloy. In the U.S., we call it a “karat.” In the UK, they call it a “carat.” The mix is divided into 24 karats, so when a piece of jewelry is said to be 14 karat gold, that means the jewelry has 14 parts of gold out of 24 parts, or about 58 percent gold. That’s why there’s nothing higher than 24K gold because it’s 24 parts gold out of a total 24.

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Why the Confusion with Carat vs. Karat?

There are plenty of reasons why people would confuse carat with karat and vice versa. They both sound the same. They’re spelled with one different letter. They’re both terms that are used in the jewelry and precious metals world. Here’s how the confusion started.

  • The History of Carat vs. Karat — Because both karat and carat are used in a similar context, as in units of measure when it comes to precious metals, the average person buying an engagement ring for the first time can easily confuse a carat for a karat. Carat refers to the measure for the weight of gemstones, as in a two-carat diamond. Karat, on the other hand, is used in reference to the purity of gold, as in 24K or 24 karat. This is the difference in the U.S. and some other countries. However, in the UK, “carat” can refer to both purity of gold and the weight of gemstones.

Now that you know the difference between a carat and a karat, you’ll be able to find your diamond engagement ring or wedding ring with confidence. Verragio’s diamond rings are cut to emphasize beauty regardless of carat weight. Just ask any of our jewelry experts by requesting an appointment online or in-person at a local Verragio boutique to find “engagement rings near me.” We have rings available that will wow the most discerning client across a variety of budgets, tastes and preferences.