Carat, karat, carrot!? Part 1
You may already know that you want 18k gold and possibly something that is around ‘half a carat’, less or more. For those of you who really like to know your stuff, are you actually aware of what these terms mean? How come they’re the same for a metal and gem?…
Firstly, the word karat is mainly used in the US and carat is used outside.
Next, the gold karat/carat is a 1/24 part measure that denotes the purity of gold. As most metals used in jewellery in the west is an alloy of gold and other metals such as copper, you will almost never see ‘pure’ i.e 24k gold, especially when buying online.
The most common mixes have either 9, 14 or 18 parts gold in 24. These are respectively 9k, 14k and 18k gold.
According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, this structure and term originated in the medieval period with a coin called a ‘mark’. This mark weighed 24 carats. At that time, this carat was indeed the same measurement for the weight of both metals and gems. One carat was the equivalent weight of one seed of the coral tree.
Since pure gold marks would be too soft and not very practical, other metals were mixed in. The purity of the coin was then expressed by the proportion of its carat weight made of gold.
Next week…the gem and diamond weighing part of this story…