What Do the Numbers and Letters in Gold Actually Mean?

Let’s rewind for a moment and go back to around the mid 15th century. The unit used to measure the purity of gold is “carat” or “k” for short. It is the most efficient metric in use since then. In the simplest form, the higher the value of “k”, the greater is the portion of gold.

First we need to understand that actually gold can be differentiated on the basis of their color. Firstly, the color green is rendered to gold as a result of adding generous amounts of silver and zinc. Secondly, pink or rose gold is formed by substituting the alloy with more copper. And lastly, white gold is fabricated by mixing nickel or palladium with gold. In the following section, we will jot down a detailed explanation of the different carats of gold available in the market and their levels of purity.

999.9 — Gold Bullion

The term gold bullion is used to refer to a bar of gold that has been delineated by at least 99.5% of gold when compared to its other versions. The gold bullion is primarily held by banks or implemented by institutional investors to create a safeguard against market inflation. Additionally, gold bullions are also held by banks to settle their international debts or in situations where the economy needs to be triggered through gold lending. These days, however, consumers are also buying gold bullion in small coins or bars.

999 — 24k or 24 Karat

24 karat or 24k gold refers to the purest form of gold that contains around 99.9% of the same metal. It has a bright yellow hue which means that all the 24 portions of gold are cladded with this unadulterated metal. Remember it for a fact that your jewellery cannot have any higher carat than this and, this means that the 24k version will be the most expensive. 24k gold has lesser density than 916 or 18k and is too soft for complicated jewellery manufacturing.

916 — 22k or 22 Karat

22 karat or 22k gold means that out of the 24 parts, 22 of them are made out of pure metal and the other 2 are alloyed with some other metal. 22k gold is the most common purity found in most gold jewellery sold at the stores. It is very strong and durable and can be used to produce colours such as white gold and rose gold. Calculating the composition by percentage, it actually contains 91.67% pure gold, and hence, commonly or commercially termed as 916 or 22k gold.

750 — 18k or 18 Karat

18 karat or 18k gold is invariably used in heavily studded jewelry owing to their high density and capacity to support the heavy weight stones. Only 75% of the metal is made of pure gold while the other 25% is alloyed with metals like zinc, silver, copper etc. This variety of gold is the cheapest amongst all the other others mentioned thus far, and can be easily recognized by stamps like 18k, 18K, 18kt, 750 or 0.75 which is the signifier of the 75% purity.

Every reputable gold jeweller will have the manufacturer as well as the purity of gold imprinted on the gold jewellery itself. Look carefully and see what number does your gold indicate. Match it against the number above and you will discover the level of fineness in the gold.