Carat and Karat: What is the difference?

diamond

If you are shopping for an engagement ring, you will no doubt have encountered the words carat and karat by now. These similar-sounding terms both relate to diamond jewelry and engagement rings. As such, there can often arise confusion over how each describes the piece’s quality. While carat refers to the weight of a gemstone – e.g., 2 ct engagement rings – karat refers to the amount of gold used within a setting.

Carat

A carat is a unit for a diamond’s weight, and therefore an indication of its size. 1 carat weighs 200 milligrams. As diamonds – and other gems – will vary in their density, two diamonds with the same carat weight may appear to be different sizes. Keep in mind that a single 1-carat diamond will be a lot more valuable than a cluster of diamonds that have a total carat weight of 1.

Karat

Measured in units of 24, the karat value of a gold setting tells us how much gold has been used. Pure gold – 24 karats – is too soft to last by itself, and so is mixed with an alloy often including nickel, zinc, silver and copper. This applies to yellow gold, white gold and rose gold. A 14kt ring is 14 parts gold to 10 parts alloy. 18kt gold is typically more expensive, including 18 parts gold to 6 parts alloy.

While a diamond’s carat weight is often the first factor considered when shopping for an engagement ring, we would suggest placing a greater emphasis on the quality of its cut. A diamond with an excellent cut grade is shaped to sparkle, and will be much more beautiful and striking than poorly cut 2ct engagement rings. Clarity and color make up the rest of the 4Cs; the trick is to find the perfect balance that meets your budget.

Learn more about diamonds and precious metals for your engagement ring.