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Carat (purity)

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Carat (purity)

For the unit of mass of the same name, see Carat (mass).

The carat or karat (symbol: K or kt) is a unit of purity for gold alloys.


Carat purity is measured as 24 times the pure mass divided by the total mass:

X = 24\,\frac{M_g}{M_m}


\mathit{X} is the carat rating of the material,
M_g is the mass of pure gold or platinum in the material, and
M_m is the total mass of the material.

Therefore, 24-Carat gold is fine (actually 99.9% goldw/w rather than 100%), 18-Carat gold is 18 parts gold 6 parts another metal (forming an alloy with 75% gold), 12-Carat gold is 12 parts gold (12 parts another metal), and so forth.

In England, the carat was divisible into four grains, and the grain was divisible into four quarts. For example, a gold alloy of \tfrac{381}{384} fineness (that is, 99.2% purity) could have been described as being 23-carat, 3-grain, 1-quart gold.

The Carat system is increasingly being complemented or superseded by the millesimal fineness system, in which the purity of precious metals is denoted by parts per thousand of pure metal in the alloy; e.g. 18-carat gold, 75% Au, would be called 750..

Carat conversion:
58.33% - 62.50% = 14k (acclaimed 58.33%)
75.00% - 79.16% = 18k (acclaimed 75.00%)
91.66% - 95.83% = 22k (acclaimed 91.66%)
95.83% - 99.95% = 23k (acclaimed 95.83%)
99.95 and above = 24k (acclaimed 99.99%)


However, this system of calculation gives only the weight of pure gold contained in an alloy. The term 18-carat gold means that the alloy's weight consists of 75% of gold and 25% of alloy(s). The quantity of gold by volume in a less than 24-carat gold alloy differs according to the alloy(s) used. For example, knowing that standard 18-carat yellow gold consists of 75% gold, 12.5% silver and the remaining 12.5% of copper (all by weight), the volume of pure gold in this alloy will be 60% since gold is much more dense than the alloys used: 19.32 g/cm³ for gold, 10.49 g/cm³ for silver and 8.96 g/cm³ for copper.

This formula gives the amount of gold in cm³ or in ml in an alloy:

V_\mathit{Au} = \frac{M_a \times \tfrac{kt}{24}}{19.32}


V_\mathit{Au} is the volume of gold in cm³ or in ml,
M_a is the total mass of the alloy in grams, and
\mathit{kt} is the carat purity of the alloy.

To have the percentage of the volume of gold in an alloy, divide the volume of gold in cm³ or in ml by the total volume of the alloy in cm³ or in ml.

For 10-carat gold, the gold volume in the alloy represents about 26% of the total volume for standard yellow gold. One should be aware of this, since talking about purity according to weight could lead to some misunderstandings; for many people, purity means volume.


"Karat" is a variant of "carat". First attested in English in the mid-15th century, the word "carat" came from Middle French carat, in turn from Italian carato, which came from Arabic qīrāṭ (قيراط), which came from Greek kerátion (κεράτιον) meaning carob seed (literally "small horn")[1][2][3] (diminutive of κέρας - keras, "horn"[4]) and was a unit of weight[5] though it was probably not used to measure gold in classical times.[1]

In 309 CE, Roman Emperor Constantine I began to mint a new gold coin solidus that was 172 of a libra (Roman pound) of gold[6] equal to a mass of 24 siliqua, where each siliqua (or carat) was 11728 of a libra.[7] This is believed to be the origin of the value of the karat.[8]


22/22K - a quality mark indicating the purity of gold most popularly used in India. This purity was adapted and practiced by the big jewellers and was later passed to jewel smiths. The first 22 signifies the "Skin purity", the purity of the top layer of the gold jewelry, and the second 22 signifies that after melting purity of the gold jewellery will be 22-karat, or 91.67% of pure gold. This system is used to show consistency in the quality of the gold.

This practice was pioneered and introduced in the early mid-1980s by Nemichand Bamalwa & Sons of Kolkata, India, sparking a revolution in India, as it forced jewellers to indicate correctly the after-melting purity. Heightened consumer awareness made it a most sought-after stamp or quality mark.

This symbol or stamp can be found in such Asian countries as India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Yemen, and Persian Gulf countries.

Region[9] Typical caratage (fineness)
International caratages of gold jewellery
Arabic countries, Far East (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan), Malaysia, Indonesia 24-karat "Chuk Kam" (99.0% min)
Arabic countries, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka 22-karat (91.6%)
Arabic countries in the Persian Gulf region 21-carat (87.5%)
Europe - Southern / Portugal 19.2-karat (80.0%)
Europe - Southern / Mediterranean 18-karat (75.0%) also in most Egypt
Europe - Northern Germany, Scandinavia 8 to 18-karat (33.3-75.0%)
Brazil, Egypt 18-karat (75.0%)
Russia and former USSR 9 (37.5%) and 14 (58.3%) karat/old and new 14.04-karat (58.5%) 585 проба
United Kingdom 9-carat to 22-carat (37.5-91.6%)
United States, Canada 10-carat to 18-carat (41.7-75%)

Chinese Gold Standards

Zú jīn (Mandarin), Chuk Kam (Cantonese) (足金) means pure gold, literally "full gold". It is defined as 99.0% gold minimum with a 1.0% negative tolerance allowed.[9][10] The quality of gold is guaranteed with a "Certificate of Gold" upon purchases in Hong Kong and Macau. The related term "千足" and "万足" meaning "thousand exact" and "ten thousand exact" is also used for purity of 99.9% and 99.99% respectively. This is because the impurity is at most 1 in 1,000 in the case of 99.9% or 1 in 10,000 for 99.99%.

United States

The USA Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has standardized the karat markings used within its boundaries for almost 7 decades as of 2010. Under these regulations, items 10-karat or greater are to be stamped with either "K" or "Kt." Decimal markings are also an option under the CFTC regulations.

Under-karating is against the law in the United States of America. There are specific mandated consequences including fines, etc., based upon the severity of the infraction(s).

In addition, there is a set of tolerances to the required karat markings in the USA (always designated with a "K" and never a "C") depending upon the use of various soldering requirements when setting stones, mounting crowns, or creating prongs, for example.[11]

See also

Gold alloys



  • Fallon, S. (2006) Hong Kong & Macau, 12th ed., Melbourne; London: Lonely Planet, ISBN 1-74059-843-1
  • New Scientist (2006) Did carob seeds allow shady diamond deals?, New Scientist magazine, 2550 (9 May), p. 20
  • World Gold Council (2003) The Karatage System For Gold Jewellery, Online article accessed 28 August 2007es:Quilate

pl:Karat#Czystość złota

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