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— by Cullen Jewellery — Reading time 9 minutes

Gold Rings: What Are the Differences Between 9k, 14k, and 18k Gold?

Yellow gold jewellery has been cherished by people across cultures, times, and countries. Yellow gold can be crafted into countless breathtaking pieces, making it one of the world’s most versatile and well-loved precious metals.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the rich variety of yellow gold rings: exploring colour, durability, and style.
  • Differentiate between 9k, 14k, and 18k gold rings, and make it simpler to decide on karats that will work best with your ring design and purpose.
Julia, Bianca, Felicity, Dallas, and Joanna rings in 18k yellow gold. Source: Cullen Jewellery

The Rich Variety of Yellow Gold

Yellow gold jewellery is available in a spectrum of colours and strengths, which means every piece is as unique as we are.

It also means that there are several considerations to keep in mind when choosing a yellow gold ring, including richness of colour, karats, and design.

In this guide, we’ll make sure you know all you need to about yellow gold karats, to help you find your perfect ring.

Why Yellow Gold?

Yellow gold is the most popular colour choice for gold jewellery – it’s the shade of gold we know from wedding rings, and associate with classic, timeless style.

The popularity of yellow gold jewellery is obvious to those who have already fallen head over heels: its unmistakable lustre, sun-coloured finish, and ability to complement gemstones of any colour make it very special.

Yellow gold rings come in a range of types – from 9k to 24k gold. With such a variety of yellow gold ring types available, choosing one might feel complicated. But this variety means a bit of searching can lead you to the ring that’s not just right – but perfect. From wedding, to statement, to engagement rings – you deserve one that will shine as long and as brightly as you want it to.

Understanding Gold Karats

In its pure form, gold is a naturally soft element, making it less durable than other metals. Before crafting it into jewellery, the gold is usually alloyed with other metals, which increase its durability and lengthen its wearability.

The type of elements gold is alloyed with, and the ratio of gold to other elements, affect the colour and hardness of a piece of jewellery.

Karats (k) express the percentage of gold present in an alloy. These measurements are given as a fraction out of 24: so, a 9k ring contains 37.5 percent pure gold, with a 24k ring being pure gold.

Engagement ring in 18k yellow gold. Source: Cullen Jewellery

Do Karats Indicate Gold Quality?

Although a higher karat indicates a higher percentage of pure gold present in the ring – it can also mean that it will be softer and more prone to scratching than lower-karat rings.

The highest number isn’t necessarily the best when we’re talking about gold karats. Depending on the composition of a gold alloy – jewellery pieces may be more hypoallergenic, bendable, and resistant to breakage than others. The karats of your jewellery piece will depend on the occasion, your aesthetic preferences, and your lifestyle, too.

Yellow, White, and Rose Gold: Why Gold Comes in so Many Colours

Gold comes in a range of beautiful hues, from classic yellow gold, to white gold, rose gold, and even black gold.

But what makes yellow gold yellow, and white gold white?

When gold is alloyed, a range of different metals are added to the mixture to create different effects. The hues of the elements added, and the ratio of pure gold to other elements, affect the colour of the final piece.

Adding platinum, palladium, and other white or silver-toned metals to gold creates white gold – which is a popular choice for an engagement ring, eternity ring, or other statement jewellery pieces. Rose gold, another favourite in fashion rings or when stacking rings, is made by mixing copper with gold. The classic, rich, and warm tone of yellow gold is created by alloying the gold with a small amount of silver, copper, and zinc.

Although yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold are the most popular colours for gold jewellery, gold can also have a green, purple, or grey hue, depending on the elements added.

18k yellow gold and rose gold engagement rings. Source: Cullen Jewellery

Why Choose 18k Over 14k Yellow Gold Rings?

No matter what kind of yellow gold ring we are looking for – from engagement rings, to wedding bands, to statement jewellery – most of us hope to find a piece that matches luxurious shine with long-lasting wearability.

18k and 14k yellow gold rings are similar in price point, and you may be curious about how comparable they are in terms of durability and lustre.

18k yellow gold is the alloy of choice used by most high-end jewellers. Due to their higher gold content, 18k gold rings have a richer gold colour than 14k gold rings, and they are also less likely to break. Why is this? It all comes down to the hardness of yellow gold (its ability to resist scratching), its tensile strength, and its elongation percentage.

As measured on the standardised Vickers hardness scale, 18k gold and 14k gold are both 150HV. The tensile strength of each is also similar – at 520 for 18k gold, and 590 for 14k. Because 14k and 18k gold rings are similarly hard and strong, their resistance to showing scratches will be alike. Their durability is not completely matched, though. 14k gold is more likely to corrode than 18k gold due to its microporosity, making it less ideal for long-lasting wear.

However, 18k gold has a significantly higher elongation percentage (40%) than 14k gold (17%). Rings with a higher elongation percentage are more likely to bend, not break. The ability of the gold to bend means that stones are more likely to stay in place and not fall out.

Another reason why jewellers tend to choose 18k gold for rings instead of 14k gold is that 18k gold is more hypoallergenic than 14k gold. High-karat yellow gold rings have a lower percentage of metals in the alloy, making them safer for people with metal allergies.

Matching the Karat to the Occasion

The karat of your yellow gold ring will affect two main aspects of the ring: its durability and its appearance.

Before you visit a showroom or book a ring fitting, it can be helpful to ask yourself a few questions, so you have a clear sense of what you’re looking for. How often will you wear your yellow gold ring? Do you want a classic piece for everyday wear, like a wedding band or an engagement ring – something you know will last over years and decades without showing scratches or damage? Or do you want something to wear on special occasions – a statement piece or fashion ring that will really dazzle?

When to Choose 18k Gold

A higher karat indicates a higher percentage of gold in the alloy, making for a richer colour. Higher karats may be more important to you if you’re choosing a ring for a special occasion – a 14k or 18k gold ring will possess an exceptional richness that will catch glances and make hearts beat faster.

How Many Karats Should Wedding and Engagement Rings Have?

Wedding rings are often worn every day, which means they need to be able to last and keep their shine.

Remember that although pure, 24k gold is beautiful – it’s also naturally soft. 18k gold and lower karats contain a higher percentage of other metals, which makes for stronger and longer-lasting gold jewellery. Because gold of higher karats can be prone to scratches, many couples choose a lower-karat yellow gold for their wedding rings.

Alloyed gold rings do not scratch as easily as pure gold, so for a ring you plan on wearing every day, such as a wedding band or engagement ring, lower-karat gold such as 14k or 18k is a better choice than something closer to 24k, pure gold.

If you want to wear your engagement ring all the time, opting for 18k or below will also help to keep it in perfect condition.

18k yellow gold wedding ring being crafted. Source: Cullen Jewellery
Demi ring and pear-shaped wedding ring in 18k yellow gold. Source: Cullen Jewellery

Yellow Gold Eternity Rings

While yellow gold is popular in wedding bands and engagement rings, many couples also mark milestones or special occasions with gold rings. An eternity ring is traditionally given as a gift on a first or tenth wedding anniversary. Traditionally made with yellow gold and an inlay of diamonds wrapping around the band, they symbolise eternal love and commitment.

Eternity rings can be stacked beautifully with engagement rings and wedding bands – a breathtaking reminder of the many special years you and your partner have cherished together. If you want to stack your rings, keeping their colour and karats the same will create a more harmonious look.

Finding a Balance Between Shine, Durability, and Personal Style

The variety of yellow gold rings available today means that your perfect ring is out there – or if not, it can be dreamed up by a jewellery designer in a personalised appointment.

If you’re looking for a yellow gold ring you can wear every day, but don’t want to compromise on shine, choosing a more durable low-karat ring with intricate detailing will elevate the piece and create eye-catching sparkle. Introducing diamonds or other gemstones will also draw in the eye and bend the light beautifully.

18k yellow gold is both strong and lustrous. Close to pure gold, 18k gold rings are of high value, and their classic beauty is evident in just a glance.

Yellow gold rings are for every kind of person. From classic and elegant styles to long-lasting, bright, and brilliant – your gold ring can always be uniquely yours.

Fashion rings in 18k yellow gold. Source: Cullen Jewellery
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Frequently Asked Questions

Your questions, answered.

All our rings are made to order and are usually ready in 40 Business Days. Read more

Cullen Jewellery offers a free Lifetime Warranty from the date of invoice against any manufacturing defects on all gold and platinum jewellery. Read more about our full warranty terms and conditions here.

Absolutely! We understand that many of our products are purchased as surprise gifts for events such as an engagement. For this reason, we use subtle packaging that will not give away the contents of the package.

Please let us know if we can help you in any other way to keep your purchase a surprise!