People who don’t do a whole lot of jewelry shopping might occasionally be confused as to what exactly a karat is. Most people know that it has a correlation with value and that 24 karat gold is pure gold, but what does that mean for how the metal is used and how exactly is there a correlation between karats and value?
A karat (also occasionally spelled carat), when used for jewelry purposes, is a unit of purity. As most people know, 24-karat gold is pure gold. However, 24-karat gold is far too soft to use in jewelry, so usually gold gets mixed with a sturdier metal like copper or silver when making pins or jewelry.
Every karat in a piece of jewelry is 1/24th of the whole purity. So let’s say you order a pin from Pinsource that is 10 parts gold and 14 parts silver. That would mean that it is 10-karat gold.
This method of measuring purity of precious metals dates back about a thousand years to Germany. At the time, Germany was using gold marks for its currency. Another use for karats is as a unit of mass, and in that form a karat is the same as 200 milligrams (so yes, you could figure out your own mass in karats!). Germany’s gold marks weight 24 karats, or 4.8 grams. Measuring the purity of the gold within that coin was therefore done in karats.
Of course, karats don’t only apply to gold; this is just the most common example. If you have ever purchased an engagement ring (or will be soon), you have likely been overwhelmed by karat numbers while doing your shopping. Generally the higher the number of karats, the more expensive the metal or jewel will be, because most people place an emphasis on purity when it comes to valuating precious metals.