The Informed Shopper: Karat vs Carat

Karat and Carat: They sound exactly the same, but what do they mean? Though these terms are often used interchangeably, that is a mistake! Karat and carat are very common jewelry terms and it can be helpful to understand them a little better, especially when shopping for jewelry.

A carat is a unit of weight for diamonds and gemstones. One carat equals 200 milligrams. There are 453 grams in a pound. So if you weigh 165 pounds, you are 374,214 sparkling carats!

A karat (when used for gold) refers to its purity. 24 karat gold is pure gold, but gold is typically mixed with other metals to strengthen it. Each karat indicates 1/24th of a whole, so 14 karat jewelry is 14 parts gold and 10 parts of another metal.

How did these measurements originate? Over a thousand years ago, there was a German coin called a mark which was very common. It weighed 24 carats and as pure gold. People chose to describe the purity of gold based upon the coin’s weight and over time the letter “c” in carat was changed to a “k” to distinguish the measurements.

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