The Diamond Pro

18K Gold: Price, Purity and Jewelry Styles

By Michael Fried

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18K gold is one of the best choices for an engagement ring, wedding band or other piece of fine jewelry. Because of its 75% gold content, 18K gold has a richer, warmer color than 10K and 14K gold, making it a good choice if you want your setting to have a rich, impressive color tone. 

Although 18K gold is more expensive than 14K gold, it’s still reasonably priced and offers great value for money. In general, 18K is the highest gold purity level that still remains durable enough for everyday wear, making this the option to go for if you want a pure, durable ring. 

Looking for an 18K gold engagement ring? Consider a stunning 18K yellow gold petite pavé ring like this or a beautiful 18K white gold solitaire setting like this. For personalized help, contact our experts and we’ll help you find the best ring or other jewelry for your tastes and budget. 

What is 18K Gold? 

Gold is one of the most malleable metals, making it a popular choice for fine jewelry dating back as far as 4,000 B.C. 

All gold used in jewelry is categorized using the karat system. Unlike carats, which are a unit for measuring the weight of a diamond or other gemstone, the karat system measures the purity of gold. 

The purest gold is rated 24K, meaning that 24 out of 24 parts are pure gold. 18K gold is, as you have probably already worked out, a type of gold that’s 18 parts gold mixed with six parts other materials.

In its pure form, gold is extremely soft. This makes it easy to scratch, which is obviously a huge disadvantage for a piece of fine jewelry. Pure 24K gold is also easy to bend and warp, making it a poor choice for engagement rings, wedding bands and items pieces that are worn daily. 

There’s also the color factor. Pure 24K gold is extremely bright and orange, giving it a color that, to most people, is too bright for an engagement ring or other jewelry. 

As we covered above, 18K gold is a type of gold that’s made up of 18 parts, or 75%, pure gold, mixed with other metals. The other six parts of 18K gold consist of durable metals such as zinc, nickel, copper and rhodium. 

These alloy metals add to 18K gold’s strength, making it more difficult to scratch, bend, warp or damage than pure gold.

18K gold is one of the most popular types of gold used to produce engagement rings, wedding bands and other high-end jewelry. It offers the highest level of gold purity that’s still practical for everyday wear. 

Beyond engagement rings and wedding bands, 18K gold is also extensively used in other high-quality products. For example, high-end watchmakers such as Rolex and Patek Philippe make extensive use of 18K gold in their dress timepieces. 

Purity

As we mentioned above, 18K gold is made up of 18 parts pure gold, mixed with six parts other metals such as zinc, nickel, silver and copper. Some types of 18K gold are also plated using a  metal called rhodium, a corrosion-resistant element that protects the gold from wear. 

18K gold is 75% pure gold. In comparison, 14K gold — another popular type of gold that’s widely used for jewelry — is 58.3% gold. 10K gold, which is typically the least pure, least expensive and most durable form of gold used in jewelry, is just 41.7% pure gold. 

We’ve explained how these purity differences affect the appearance, durability and value of gold in more detail in our 10K, 14K, 18K and 24K gold comparison

Color

As with other types of gold, 18 karat gold is produced in three different colors: white gold, yellow gold and rose gold. Each color has a different chemical composition, with different metals used in different quantities to give each color its unique appearance.

There’s no optimal color for 18K gold, meaning you should choose the color that you think looks the best for you or your fiancé-to-be. To help you make the best decision, we’ve listed several of the main advantages and disadvantages of each 18K gold color below.

18K White Gold

18K white gold is made using a blend of pure 24K gold with other metals such as silver, nickel and palladium. A rhodium coating is applied to most 18K white gold to protect it from corrosion and improve its durability.

Since white gold is an alloy of pure gold and other metals, there’s no such thing as “pure” white gold. All white gold, regardless of its karat number, is an alloy.  

Advantages of 18K white gold:

  • Currently, white gold is a more popular metal for engagement rings and other jewelry than yellow gold.
  • White gold is more affordable than other white metals such as platinum.
  • The silver, nickel and palladium used to produce 18K white gold are stronger than the metals used for 18K yellow or rose gold, making this quite a durable, scratch-resistant type of gold, especially when it’s rhodium coated.
  • Because white gold has a neutral color, it complements white diamonds without giving them a yellow-looking appearance.
  • 18K white gold looks particularly good on people with rosy or fair skin tones. 

Disadvantages of 18K white gold:

  • The rhodium plating used on 18K white gold wears off over time, meaning it needs to be maintained to look its best. If you opt for a white gold ring, you’ll need to have it “dipped” every few years to retain its color, luster and corrosion resistance.
  • Most white gold alloys contain nickel, which can cause allergic reactions such as contact dermatitis in some people. If you or your fiancé-to-be have a nickel allergy, you’ll need to check that the white gold used in your ring is mixed with alloys other than nickel.

18K Yellow Gold

18K yellow gold is made using a blend of pure 24K gold and other metals such as copper and silver. Most types of 18K yellow gold are made from 75% pure gold mixed with 12.5% copper and 12.5% fine silver. 

Some darker variations of yellow gold are made with a 15% copper content, with silver reduced to 10% of the alloy. 18K yellow gold is one of the most common metals used for rings and other types of fine jewelry. 

Advantages of 18K yellow gold:

  • 18K gold has the purest gold color of all of the gold types, making it a great option if you want a more classic, conventional color for you or your fiancé-to-be’s engagement ring.
  • Because 18K gold has a high purity level, this pure gold color is rich, warm and easy to appreciate, without the slightly dull appearance of 14K or 10K gold.
  • Traditionally, yellow gold has been the most popular choice for engagement rings and wedding bands.
  • Because of its traditional appearance, 18K yellow gold looks excellent for vintage style settings.
  • 18K yellow gold don’t require much maintenance over time to retain its color and luster, making is a good option if you want a ring that’s easy to care for.
  • Since this type of gold doesn’t have a rhodium coating, it’s very malleable and easy for jewelers to manipulate.
  • Yellow gold complements olive and darker skin tones particularly well, making it a good choice if you or your fiancé-to-be have this type of skin tone.
  • Thanks to its warm gold color, yellow gold matches easily with diamonds of a low color grade and can help to hide a yellow color tone in a diamond. 

Disadvantages of 18K yellow gold:

  • Although yellow gold doesn’t need to be dipped in rhodium like white gold, it does need to be polished and cleaned every now and then to maintain its appearance.
  • While it’s more durable than pure gold, 18K yellow gold is still a fairly easy metal to dent or scratch. As such, you or your fiancé-to-be will need to be careful not to brush the ring against other surfaces. 

18K Rose Gold

18K rose gold is made using a blend of pure 24K gold and copper. “Rose gold” refers to all red, rose and pink shades of gold. The specific color of rose gold can vary based on the quantity of copper in the alloy — the more copper, the stronger the red color of the gold.

Most of the time, 18K rose gold consists of 75% gold, 22.25% copper and 2.75% silver. 18K red gold doesn’t contain any silver and instead consists of 75% gold and 25% copper. Pink gold has a higher silver content, giving it a lighter tone and a less pronounced red color. 

Like white gold, there’s no “pure” rose gold. This type of gold is always an alloy, with the specific color varying based on the ratio of copper to silver. 

Advantages of 18K rose gold:

  • Rose gold is a stylish, popular choice for both men’s and women’s jewelry. It’s widely considered to be a romantic metal due to its warm, pinkish-red hue.
  • As 18K gold has a high purity level, the warm pinkish-red color of rose gold stands out clearly in 18K, particularly compared to 14K and 10K gold.
  • Because copper is a relatively inexpensive alloy, rose gold is usually more affordable than white gold, yellow gold and other metals. 
  • Rose gold is tougher and harder to scratch than yellow or white gold of the same purity level, as copper is a strong, durable alloy.
  • Rose gold complements all skin tones, making it a versatile option that can look great people with pale, olive or darker skin.

Disadvantages of 18K rose gold:

  • While rose gold is less likely to trigger allergies than white gold, but it isn’t a hypoallergenic metal and could still cause skin issues for some people.
  • Rose gold, particularly in this purity level, isn’t widely available as an engagement ring metal. For example, Blue Nile carry more than 405 engagement ring settings, but only offer 13 of these settings in 18K rose gold. 

Price of 18K Gold

Because 18K gold is more pure than 14K and 10K gold, it’s also more expensive. Assuming you choose a simple setting that doesn’t include any pavé or halo diamonds, you’ll generally need to spend about 50 to 150% more for 18K gold as you would for the same setting in 14K gold. 

For example, this 2mm knife edge solitaire setting from James Allen costs $240 when it’s made from 14K white gold. Change the metal to 18K white gold and the price increases to $680. This is still less expensive than the same setting in platinum, which is priced at $920.

Likewise, this split shank solitaire engagement ring setting from James Allen costs $520 in 14K yellow gold. In 18K yellow gold, it’s priced at $690

In general, pricing for 18K gold is consistent for all colors. While you might see a small change in pricing between white, yellow and rose gold, it’s uncommon for one color to cost significantly more than another at this purity level.

Petite Solitaire Engagement Ring in 18K Yellow Gold from Blue Nile

When is 18K Gold the Right Choice? 

Most engagement rings, wedding bands and other jewelry are made from 14K gold, although 18K gold is also a popular metal. 

As a general rule, 18K gold is a good choice for engagement rings, wedding bands and other jewelry if you want the highest possible level of purity while still retaining a reasonable level of durability. However, it’s not always the best choice.

18K gold has a warm, rich appearance. This is most obvious with yellow and rose gold, which both have a deeper hue than the same colors in 14K. If you or your fiancé-to-be are allergic to metals like nickel or copper, 18K gold might also be less likely to cause a reaction. 

However, 18K gold is also softer and easier to scratch than 14K gold. If you or your fiancé-to-be have an active lifestyle or work in environments with lots of surfaces that could scratch or dent a ring, 14K gold could be a better choice.

As we mentioned above, there’s also the cost factor. Not only is 18K gold less durable than 14K gold — it’s also about 50 to 150% more expensive. 

Popular 18K Gold Jewelry

While 18K gold isn’t the most popular choice for engagement rings and other everyday jewelry, it is a popular choice for earrings, bracelets and other jewelry that’s worn occasionally. 

18K gold engagement ring inspiration

18K gold wedding band inspiration

18K earrings inspiration

18K bracelets inspiration

Need help choosing the right type of gold for an engagement ring, wedding band or other piece of fine jewelry? Learn more about 10K, 14K and 18K gold in our comparison guide or reach out to our experts for personalized advice on the best jewelry for your tastes and budget. 

About the author
Mike learned the diamond business from the ground-up at Leo Schachter Diamonds - one of the world's top diamond manufacturers. He has been recognized as a diamond industry expert by Time, PeopleMoney, The Daily Mirror, NerdWallet, The Times Herald, Yahoo Finance Australia, The Art of Charm, The Washington Diplomat, The Next Web, and more. See more
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