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Gold Karats, what they mean.

A karat is a unit of measurement that determines the amount of gold versus alloy in jewelry.

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The number of karats in jewelry is used to describe the amount of gold in the item.  The maximum number of karats is 24, so an item that is pure gold is said to be 24 Karat gold.  Most jewelry is 18 karat gold, or 75% gold (18/24)  and 25% metal alloy.  The alloys that are added to pure gold when making jewelry offer strength to the item as well as enhance and modify color.  Jewelry is rarely 24 karat, as gold is a soft metal and the jewelry would be easily bent out of shape. 

Nickel has been historically used as an alloy to strengthen jewelry and also create a white colored gold, however many people have allergies to nickel so it is not used as frequently these days. Today platinum or palladium is used to create white gold. Red Gold is composed of 75% gold and 25% copper.  Pink gold is composed of 75% gold, 20% copper and 5% silver. 

A Karat (gold) is not to be confused with a carat (precious stones).  A carat is a unit of weight equivalent to 200 milligrams, the bigger the gemstone the more carats it is said to contain.

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