Peggy Woon is a GIA-accredited jeweler; now a retiree, she was in the jewelry industry for more than 30 years. For 28 years, she and her business partner co-owned the Silver Lining Jewelry store in Oakland, Calif. Today, she spends her time spoiling 3 grandchildren and 2 German Shepherds, as well as volunteering with local non-profits. Unable to stay away from her first passion, she can also be found working the jewelry counter at the Oakland Museum of California’s White Elephant Sale and occasionally at Given Gold Jewelers on Piedmont Avenue.
What is the difference between 24k, 18k and 14k gold?
When it is mined, it’s 24k solid gold. To make it into jewelry, they have to mix in different alloys to maintain hardness.
18k gold is 75 percent pure (that’s why they stamp it 750) plus 25 percent other alloys to make it hard enough to make it into jewelry.
14k is 525 parts gold and 475 parts different alloys.
If someone wanted to buy a gold piece of jewelry, would you recommend they not get 24k gold because it’s too soft?
24k is really malleable, so unless it’s a really thick piece of jewelry to make it very strong, then it will bend. If you were to buy a thick 24k ring, for instance, it will conform to the shape of your finger.
When you’re shopping for gold jewelry for yourself, what do you typically buy?
I mostly buy 14k. With 18k you really cannot see the difference, it’s just that you’d know the difference. Some people like having more pure pieces in their collection, but to the general onlooker, no one will know if it’s 14k or 18k.
What does ‘gold filled’ or ‘gold plated’ mean?
Gold filled is alloy mixed with gold to make it stronger. Usually, it will turn to a shade that’s less shiny than 14k. Typically they’ll do a flash coating of 14k on the outside to give it a nice 14k look, but that will wear away over time. Overall, it will stay a gold color, but it will not be as pretty of a color as what you’d get with 14k.
Gold plated means they’ve coated another metal, such as sterling or brass, with a coat of gold. It will wear off with time and the metal on the inside will show.
This is part of an ongoing series of blog posts featuring experts.