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18K Gold: Price, Purity and Jewelry Styles

By Mike Fried,
Diamond engagement ring and wedding band set in 18K gold
Diamond engagement ring and wedding band set in 18K gold

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. 

Are you looking to sell your gold? This article is geared towards helping people looking to purchase jewelry. If you are looking to sell your gold, feel free to hop on over to our Selling Your Jewelry page. If you are looking to sell your diamond engagement ring, we have a specific article for Selling Your Diamond Ring

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

What is 18K gold?
Is 18k gold pure gold?
What color is 18K gold?
What is the price of 18K gold?
When is 18K gold the right choice?

What is 18K Gold?

18 karat gold refers to metal that is made up of 75% pure gold and mixed with 25% of other metals (zinc, nickel, copper and rhodium are the usual choices). The added metal makes 18K gold jewelry stronger and less prone to scratches and warping than jewelry made of pure gold.

In the United States, 10K gold is the lowest level of purity that’s allowed to be marketed as gold. 18K gold significantly exceeds this standard.

To help you with the diamond buying process we lean on our expertise and experience. The author of this article, our CEO, Mike Fried has over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. Mike started from the bottom, sorting and evaluating hundreds of thousands of diamonds to learn every facet (pun intended) of diamond quality and value. Mike followed that up by spending years buying and selling diamonds on the wholesale market as well as selling tens of millions of dollars worth of diamonds to diamond retailers.

Mike Fried has written hundreds of articles and helped answer more than 30,000 emails from our readers. This has given him a unique perspective on what information truly helps our readers in their quest for finding the perfect diamond engagement ring or piece of jewelry.

Mike is recognized as an industry expert and has been quoted in publications such as Us, People, Page Six, The Next Web and more.

To read more about our process for secret shopping and reviewing companies and additional details about how we operate, check out this article.

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 durable enough to be 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. 

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. 

Deal Alert: Save 10% off Lab Grown Diamonds at James Allen!

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. 

18K white gold tennis necklace
Simple elegance in a 10ctw tennis necklace in 18K white gold from Abe Mor

What is the 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. 

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.

One important thing to keep in mind is that, as a commodity, the price of gold fluctuates significantly. As the World Gold Council explains, gold has both a spot price and regional prices, meaning the amount you will need to pay for 18K gold jewelry will likely vary based on the specific time you make the purchase and your location.

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18K Gold 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. 

comparison of purity percentage between 14k gold and 18k gold.
14 karat vs 18 karat gold properties

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

18k Gold 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 Double Row Diamond Ring
This double row diamond ring is the perfect gift for an anniversary.

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. 
18K gold bezel solitaire engagement ring
18K White gold bezel solitaire ring setting gives you the perfect balance between elegance and practicality.

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 Wedding Set
A perfect example of how a wedding set in 18K Yellow Gold can be elegant and timeless.

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 halo diamond engagement ring
18K Rose gold Heiress halo diamond engagement ring from Blue Nile

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.
18K Rose Gold wedding band
Simple, yet elegant. 18K Rose Gold is a great choice for a tasteful wedding band.

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. 

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. 

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 Yellow Gold Diamond Engagement Ring
18K Yellow Gold Diamond Engagement Ring from James Allen

18K bracelets inspiration

18K gold Diamond Rollover Bangle Bracelet
Lucille Diamond Rollover bangle bracelet in 18K white gold from Blue Nile

18K gold wedding band inspiration

18K yellow gold accent diamond wedding band
18K yellow gold sleek accent diamond wedidng ring from James Allen

18K earrings inspiration

Pear-Shaped Yellow Diamond Double Halo Drop Earrings
18K Yellow and White gold pear-shaped yellow diamond double halo drop earrings from Blue Nile

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.

Frequently Asked Questions about 18K Gold

What is the difference between 18K and 14K gold?

Both 18K and 14K gold are combined with other metals to create a “gold alloy”. 18K gold is purer then 14K gold in that it contains a higher percentage of pure gold. 18K gold is made up of 75% gold and 25% other metals while 14K gold is made up of 58.3% pure gold and 41.7% other metals.
Because gold is a relatively soft metal, the alloy is created to make the gold harder and more durable.

How Can I Tell if My Gold Jewelry is Real?

The most common ways to check if your 18K gold is real include:
1) Checking for hallmarks
2) Using a magnet – real gold will not attract a magnet.
3) Place your gold in nitric acid and see the reaction. If there is no reaction, this is a sign that gold is at least 18K. If the metal starts to turn green, it’s a sign that the metal is lower then 18K

Is Gold a Precious Metal?

Yes, gold is a precious metal. There are four primary precious metals, gold, silver, platinum, and palladium.

What is the best way to clean 18K gold?

Gold jewelry, including 18K gold, can be safely cleaned with a mixture of liquid soap and water.
1) Mix some liquid soap with room temperature water.
2) Soak the jewelry in the mixture for about 15 minutes.
3) Rinse off the jewelry and scrub with a Q-Tip or soft toothbrush
4) Dry

Does 18K gold lose color?

While all gold jewelry can experience some change in color over time, 18K gold is generally considered a higher quality than 14K gold and is less likely to tarnish.

Is 18K Gold Jewelry allergy safe?

An allergic reaction is possible with any metal. Often the reaction to gold jewelry is actually caused by nickel which is mixed in to the gold alloy. Since 18K gold has a higher percentage of pure gold, it is likely that it will cause less sensitivity then a lower karat such as 14K gold.

Is 18K gold better than 14K?

14K and 18K gold are both commonly used for engagement rings — in fact, they’re both highly popular options for engagement ring settings. Both have their own unique pros and cons, from appearance to cost, durability and more.

Bottom Line Recommendation on 18K Gold

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 one from James Allen or a beautiful 18K white gold solitaire setting like this one from James Allen. For personalized help, contact our experts and we’ll help you find the best ring or other jewelry for your tastes and budget. 

Here are more specific metal topics to browse:

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What we love about them:
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About the author

Mike Fried Mike Fried Mike Fried has over 25 years experience in the diamond industry working with Leo Schachter Diamonds, Moshe Namdar Diamonds, and joining The Diamond Pro in 2007. He is recognized as an industry expert and has been quoted in publications such as Us, People, Page Six, The Next Web and more.

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