'24K Gold' vs '18K Gold': What's the Difference?

By Katie Moore, updated on October 25, 2023

‘24k Gold’ vs 18K Gold’: What’s the difference? Writing isn’t just about words — it includes numbers and symbols as well. Learning how to navigate non-word parts of language is a key part of communication, so what better way to tackle it than while learning about the finer things in life?

In a hurry? Here’s a quick preview of what’s to come: 

  • ‘24K Gold’ is a term for pure gold with no other metals
  • ‘18K Gold’ is a term for gold that is mixed with 25 percent alloy

What’s the Difference Between ‘24K Gold’ vs ‘18K Gold’? 

Before comparing these terms, let’s make sure we actually know what we’re looking at by breaking them down piece by piece, starting with numbers. The numbers themselves should be straightforward, but let’s give you a writing tip on how to write the numbers: 

  • When a number is between zero and ten, you write out the whole word.
  • Meanwhile, if a number is 11 or higher, you write the direct numerical value.

For example, you have only two minutes to calculate 13 + 1,274. 

So, since ‘24k Gold’ and ‘18K Gold’ both include numbers over 10, you write the numerical value.

But what is the ‘K’? What does it mean, and what does it stand for?

The ‘K’ in this case is an abbreviation.

  • The abbreviation ‘K’ stands for ‘Karat’ which is a term of measurement specifically relating to gold that we will cover in depth below. 

Now that you have the pieces put together let’s compare our terms. The primary difference between ‘24K Gold’ vs ‘18K Gold’ is their purity. The purity of gold has to do with how much it’s mixed with other metals, and it's rated on a 24 out of 24 scale. 

  • ‘24K Gold’ is the purest kind of gold
  • ‘18K Gold’ is mixed with other metals, specifically an alloy like nickel, silver, or copper. 

The differences in purity give us a basic idea of how to tell golds apart, but they don’t give us a full picture. Let’s continue our breakdown of these terms so we can understand ‘24K Gold’ vs ‘18K Gold’ to our fullest extent. 

Definition of ‘Karat’: What Does it Mean? 

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Karat’ is a noun that means: 

  • A measure of the purity of gold, pure gold being 24 karats
    • “A 22-karat gold bar.”
  • A unit of fineness for gold equal to 1/24 part of pure gold in an alloy 

The origin of the word ‘Karat’ comes from the Arabic ‘qirat’ and the Greek ‘keration’, which means “carob seed.” In Greek and Roman times, the carob seed was used to measure the weight of small quantities of precious items.

  • The term evolved and was adopted by the French to become ‘carat’ meaning “fineness of gold,” which is why ‘Karat’ is also sometimes spelled with a “c” at the beginning. 

Definition of ‘Gold’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Gold’ is a noun that means:

  • A yellow precious metal, the chemical element of the atomic number 79, is used especially in jewelry and decoration and to guarantee the value of currencies
  • An alloy of gold
    • “9-karat gold.”
  • A deep, lustrous yellow or yellow-brown color
    • “Her hair was brown with strands of gold.”
  • Coins or other articles made of gold
    • “Her wrists glittered with gold.”
    • “He won the first gold medal.”

As an adjective, ‘Gold’ can also mean:

  • Made of or colored like gold
    • “They sold gold earrings.”

Phrases with ‘Gold’

  • ‘24K Gold’
  • Go for the gold
  • Gold medals
  • Gold star 
  • Plated with gold
  • Gold Coast

Definition of ‘24K Gold’: What Does it Mean?

According to the World Gold Council, ‘24K Gold’ is a noun that means:

  • Pure gold with no other metals that is 99.9% gold
  • The most malleable and soft form of gold
    • “They had 24K gold bars in the safe.”

Note that the bright, pure color of ‘24K Gold’ is not commonly seen in the United States or other Western countries because most of our gold isn’t 100% pure. 

Definition of ‘18K Gold’: What Does it Mean? 

According to the World Gold Council, ‘18K Gold’ is a noun that means:

  • A gold alloy that includes 75% gold and 25% alloy
    • “His 18K gold ring wasn’t fully pure.”
  • The ally with the highest amount of gold content sold in most rings, with a color that is closer to that of pure gold

‘18K Gold’ is reasonably pure but not as soft as 100% pure metal, so it is primarily used in the high-end jewelry industry. 

Pronunciations: How to Pronounce ‘24K Gold’ vs ‘18K Gold’

Now that you’ve put all the meanings together let’s make sure you can shop for gold items in person. Follow the guides below to learn how to pronounce these terms and say them aloud correctly. 

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘24 Karat Gold’ as a guide:

  • ‘Twehn-tee-fohr Karr-at Gol-d’ (the first “a” in Karat sounds like “air,” and the second “a” is flat like “run”)

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘18 Karat Gold’ as a guide: 

  • ‘Ay-teen Karr-uht Gol-d’ (note that you fully pronounce the numbers before the other words and don’t just leave them as values)

How to Use ‘24K Gold’ vs ‘18K Gold’ in a Sentence

The final step to mastering any new vocabulary is actually being able to use the words in your own scenarios. Take a look at the sample sentences below to get an idea of how ‘24K Gold’ vs ‘18K Gold’ might appear in different contexts. 

‘24K Gold’ Example Sentences

  • 24K gold is the purest type of gold, which is technically 100% gold, but the market labels it 99.9% gold just to be safe. 
  • Bruno Mars released his hit song ‘24K Magic’ a few years ago about how things in his life felt like 24K gold
  • The United States Gold Depository at Fort Knox is home to most of the American 24K gold bars, which are held in a secure building. 

‘18K Gold’ Example Sentences

  • The palace had decorations that were plated with 18K gold, which glittered when the sun filtered through the windows. 
  • She spent thousands of dollars on a match 18K gold bracelet to go with the even more expensive necklace she already owned. 
  • He saved up money for months so he could buy the perfect diamond-encrusted 18K gold wedding ring to propose with. 

‘24K Gold’ vs ‘18K Gold’ Example Sentences 

  • He was disappointed not to receive 24K gold jewelry for an anniversary gift until he heard that 18K gold tends to last longer. 
  • While 24K gold is the global purity standard, some countries won’t sell anything under 18K gold because they sell that as the standard. 

Final Advice on ‘24K Gold’ vs ‘18K Gold’

Navigating new terms that include a variety of linguistic nuances can be challenging, especially when you don’t know what the parts mean individually. 

Need a recap? Let’s review what we covered:

  • ‘24K Gold’ is a noun that means the purest form of gold on the scale that is very soft
  • ‘18K Gold’ is a noun that refers to an alloy that is 75% gold and 25% other metals

Want to learn more about different non-word aspects of writing? Be sure to check out other confusing word articles that explain and give you all types of non-verbal information. You can learn a lot when you explore how language works beyond words. And remember, when shopping for gold, sometimes purity doesn’t equal durability.

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Written By:
Katie Moore
Katie is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she worked as a writer and editor for the school paper while studying linguistics and journalism. She loves helping others find their voice in writing and making their work the strongest it can be. Katie also loves learning and speaking other languages and wants to help make writing accessible for everyone.

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