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Bottom Line Recommendation
10K gold is the most affordable type of gold used for engagement rings and other jewelry. It’s also the most durable. Because of this, it’s worth considering if you’re on a strict budget, or if you or your fiancé-to-be have an active lifestyle and need a ring that won’t scratch easily.
Aesthetically, 10K gold isn’t the best choice. Since it’s less than 50% pure gold, it has a fairly pale color that looks significantly less rich and impressive than the color of 14K gold. It’s also more likely to trigger skin allergies than 14K and 18K gold.
As a general rule, we recommend going for 14K gold instead of 10K gold if you’re shopping for an engagement ring or other fine jewelry. The difference in price is small and the higher purity level will make the ring look significantly more beautiful.
Consider a 14K yellow gold setting like this pavé engagement ring, a white gold halo setting like this or a solitaire rose gold setting like this. These settings are durable and well priced, all while providing better aesthetics than those in lower purity 10K gold.
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Gold is by far the most common material used to make engagement rings and other high-end jewelry. Like many other precious metals, gold comes in a variety of purity levels.
The purity level of gold is categorized using the karat system. Pure gold is 24 karat, with all 24 out of 24 parts consisting of pure, non-alloyed gold.
As we’ve covered in our comparison of 10k, 14k, 18k and 24k gold, pure gold isn’t a very good metal for making jewelry. It’s soft, easy to bend and prone to scratching, which means that any ring made out of pure gold isn’t likely to last for very long.
Pure gold is also extremely bright, with an orange color that doesn’t look very attractive when it’s used for jewelry.
Because of this, gold is almost always alloyed with other metals before it’s used for jewelry. The purity of the gold alloy is then categorized using the karat system.
10K gold consists of 10 parts gold and 14 parts other alloys. Depending on the specific color of the gold, 10K gold is usually a mixture of pure gold and metals such as silver, nickel, palladium, zinc or copper.
In comparison, 14K and 18K gold are made up of 14 and 18 parts gold, respectively. The exact ratio of pure gold to other metals affects the strength and color of the engagement ring of other piece of jewelry, giving 10K gold certain characteristics.
For example, since 10K gold is less pure than 24K gold, it’s less likely to bend, warp or become dented due to pressure or impact. It’s also less likely to scratch. This occurs because the other metals used to produce 10K gold are more durable than pure gold.
10K gold’s relatively low purity level also affects its appearance. As there are only 10 parts pure gold per 24, 10K gold has paler, subtler and less pronounced coloration than 14K, 18K and 24K gold.
10 karat gold is made up of 41.7% gold and 58.3% alloy. In the United States and many other countries, 10K gold is the lowest level of purity that can be legally marketed and sold using the word “gold.”
In comparison, 14K gold is 58.3% pure gold and 18K gold is 75% pure gold. This means that less than half of the metal content of a 10K gold ring is actually gold — most is made up of the other metals used for the alloy.
Because of its low purity level, 10K gold isn’t commonly used for engagement rings and other fine, high-end jewelry. Instead, it’s mostly used for items like earrings, bracelets and affordable jewelry.
One reason for this is that the additional metals used to create 10K gold have the potential to trigger allergic skin reactions. For example, some people are allergic to metals like nickel and may experience contact dermatitis from jewelry that contains this metal.
Because these metals are present in higher quantities in 10K gold than in other, purer types of gold, 10K gold is the most likely to trigger these allergies.
Just like other types of gold, 10K gold comes in three color options: white gold, yellow gold and rose gold. Each color is made using a slightly different blend of metals that, when blended with the gold, can change its appearance.
Of these three colors, there’s no best option for everyone. If you’re shopping for a 10K gold ring or other jewelry, it’s best to choose the color based on you or your fiancé-to-be’s own tastes and preferences.
Below, we’ve listed the main advantages and disadvantages of each 10K gold color to help you choose the best option for your tastes and needs.
10K white gold is an alloy of 41.7% gold and other metals such as silver, zinc and palladium. A ring or other piece of jewelry made out of 10K white gold will usually contain as much as 47.4% silver, 10% palladium and 0.9% zinc, meaning less than half of the metal is pure gold.
Like other types of white gold, it’s common for a rhodium coating to be applied to 10K white gold jewelry. This coating helps to protect the gold against corrosion and make it more durable.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no such thing as “pure” white gold. All white gold, whether it’s 10K, 14K or 18K, develops its white tone from the mix of silver, zinc and other metals used in its production.
Advantages of 10K white gold:
Disadvantages of 10K white gold:
10K yellow gold is an alloy of 41.7% gold, as well as silver and copper. Most 10K yellow gold is made up of 52% silver and 6.3% copper in addition to its gold content. This means that there’s actually more silver in 10K yellow gold than there is pure gold.
Like other types of 10K gold, yellow gold of this purity level isn’t a very common choice for high quality engagement rings. Instead, most reputable engagement ring vendors offer 14K as their lowest purity level for yellow gold.
Advantages of 10K yellow gold:
Disadvantages of 10K yellow gold:
10K rose gold is an alloy of 41.7% gold, as well as silver and copper. The most common alloy composition for 10K rose gold is 20% silver and 38.3% copper. Because of its copper content, rose gold has a warm, attractive pinkish-red color.
Just like white and yellow gold, 10K rose gold isn’t very pure. As a result, it’s color is noticeably duller than 14K and 18K rose gold. It’s slightly more durable than 14K rose gold and is popular for earrings and other mid-range jewelry, but isn’t widely used for engagement rings.
Advantages of 10K rose gold:
Disadvantages of 10K rose gold:
Because 10 karat gold only contains 41.7% pure gold, it’s one of the most affordable types of gold that’s available for sale. Generally, you’ll pay less for a 10K gold ring than you would for the equivalent ring in 14K or 18K gold.
While this might make it seem like 10K gold offers the best value for money, this isn’t always the case for several reasons.
First, 10K gold typically isn’t used for high quality engagement rings and other fine jewelry. This means that the number of vendors from whom you can purchase a 10K gold ring is quite small, and might not contain the best vendors on the market.
Second, there’s the quality issue. Because 10K gold is very cheap, it’s often used for pre-made rings that contain diamonds and other gemstones of questionable quality.
Third, there’s the actual value for money offered. While 10K gold is cheaper than 14K gold, it’s not that much cheaper. Most of the time, the price difference is negligible, while the differences in quality and appearance are obvious to the naked eye.
10K gold is a great choice for an affordable bracelet, pendant, a pair of earrings or other jewelry, especially if you value durability over gold purity. However, it’s usually not the best choice for an engagement ring.
Trusted online engagement ring vendors like James Allen and Blue Nile don’t offer their settings in 10K gold, largely due to its low purity level. This means that if you opt for 10K gold, you won’t be able to buy from two of the best value for money vendors in the industry.
If you’re looking for a durable, affordable type of gold, we recommend choosing a setting that’s made from 14K gold instead. Not only will it look better, but the difference in price will be close to nothing.
Need help choosing the right metal for your fiancé-to-be’s engagement ring? Learn more about the different types of gold in our comparison guide to 10K, 14K and 18K gold, or contact us for personalized advice on the best jewelry for your tastes and budget.
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