Carat vs. Karat

Tracy Brown
Fashion Editor, Beauty Writer, Lover of Sand & Salt Water | Kennesaw, GA


The Carat Conundrum

When it comes to fine jewelry, we all kind-of think we have a good hold on the idea. Diamond? Check! Gemstone? Check! Gold? Check! Carat? Hold up. 

Do you mean carat or karat? Very few people know that there’s actually a huge difference between the two words. The dueling terms actually have very different meanings in the jewelry world. We know! Is your mind blown already? Don’t worry! We’re going to tell you everything you need to know to distinguish between the two. Here’s the 411 on the carat vs. karat debate.

Behold the mighty carat

Okay, y’all. This is the good stuff. The mecca. The big mama of jewelry. This is what we’re all curious about when you first show us that coveted engagement diamond. That’s right, a carat refers to the weight of diamonds and gemstones and yes, size matters! One carat is equal to 200 milligrams (.20 grams). So, a 5-carat ring is like whooo! So how did this carat counting system originate? According to Merriam Webster, it started hundreds of years ago when people needed a standard way to measure the weight of their gems. They found the answer in the carob tree. The carob's seed weighed about the same as the smallest gemstone, and was thus, deemed to weigh one carob seed or one carat. The term stuck and today, "carats" are still around and being coveted by women everywhere. 

The value of the karat

Now, on the flip, you may hear the term, karat and instantly think about those big old diamonds. But, you probably met a karat way before you met your first carat. A karat refers to the purity level of gold. You know the term 24k gold, 18k gold, 14k gold and 10k gold. Those terms are all referring to the karat level- hence the "K". To determine the purity unit of gold, you start with the entirety of pure gold resting at 24 karats. This gold is drool-worthy in its purity, but is easy to bend and not ideal for rings that take a lot of wear and tear. For the other karat levels, an alloy like silver or copper is added make the jewelry more durable, more affordable, OR to change the color (that's how white and rose gold are made)! Everything with karats will always add up to 24. So 14k gold would be 14 parts/karats gold and 10 parts other metal alloy. The terminology dates back to Rome when a silver coin was considered 1/24th of an entire gold coin. 24 karat magic, right?!


So the next time you walk into a Sea+Stone trunk show or any jewelry retailer , you can strut in like a boss! Knowing the difference between these two terms will give you confidence when finding the best new piece for your collection. At the very least, you’ll be able to impress your friends at the next trivia night... and that my friends, is priceless! 

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