If all that glitters isn’t gold and diamonds are a girl’s best friend, then what can you say about a 24-karat gold diamond ring? Some might WONDER how many carats the diamond is. Others know it’s probably very valuable, but may be a bit confused by the carats and the karats.

So what does all this talk about carats and karats mean when it comes to gemstones and gold? Does it have anything to do with those tasty orange vegetables that grow in the ground?

Nope! Carats and karats are completely unrelated to carrots. And although they can both be used to describe different types of jewelry, carats and karats measure completely different things.

A carat is a unit of weight. It’s used to describe diamonds and other precious gemstones, such as pearls. One carat is equal to 200 milligrams, which is the same as 0.2 grams. A two-carat diamond would weigh 400 milligrams (0.4 grams).

A karat, on the other hand, is a measure of purity when referring to gold. You may have seen different types of jewelry referred to as 14-karat gold or 18-karat gold. What does that mean and what’s the highest karat gold that exists?

Pure gold is known as 24-karat gold. Gold is a fairly soft metal, though, so it’s not often used to make jewelry. Jewelry made of pure gold can be easily bent and scratched.

Instead, gold is often mixed with other metals, such as copper or silver, to form an alloy that can be used to make jewelry. A karat is equal to 1/24 pure gold, so an 18-karat gold ring would be made with 18 parts gold and 6 parts of another metal.

The amount of gold in jewelry affects its value greatly. For example, 10-karat gold jewelry is less than half gold. On the other hand, 18-karat gold is 75% gold. The purest gold jewelry commonly available is 18-karat gold, and it’s usually much more expensive than lower-karat varieties.

So how did such a measurement of purity come about? Over 1,000 years ago, a German gold coin called a mark was very common. It happened to weigh 24 carats (4.8 grams) and was pure gold. People decided to describe the purity of the gold in the coin based upon its weight in carats and over time changed the “c” in “carat” to a “k” to distinguish the two different measurements.

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sets the rules for marking jewelry with a karat value. Under FTC regulations, pieces of jewelry that are 10-karat or greater should be stamped with either a “K” or “Kt.”

47 Join the Discussion

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    • Hey Ana, we think that’s great! Thanks for WONDERing with us today. And that’s a neat guess for tomorrow. What do you know about clubs? Have you ever joined one? Have a WONDERful day! :)

  1. SWEET, I AM FIRST AGAIN!!! I really liked the video. I learned that the first gold rush was in 1848. I think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about clubs. Your buddy, Evan

  2. How in the world did he bite into a stone without chipping a tooth????? And I watch gold rush and I’m guessing those people are their ancestors because I had no idea that the Gold Rush started in 1848.

    • Hi KK! Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis today! He would have had to be careful not to hurt his teeth, wouldn’t he? That is a good thought! Gold Rush sounds like a fun show. We guess it’s modern day people who are interested in the same thing as the people back in 1848: finding gold! :)

  3. Hi, my name is Monique and before I read the article here I would I would like to say that carrots are very crunchy but why? I Wondered WHY?????

    • Hey Monique! Carrots are indeed crunchy! Why do YOU think that is? Can you WONDER with your teacher or family and figure it out? Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis! :)

    • Hey Tessa! Karats, carats and carrots are ALL different things and spelled right! Isn’t it funny how the words in today’s Wonder all sound the same but are spelled very differently? Do you know what words that sound the same but are spelled differently are called? Homonyms. Have you ever WONDERed about that in your class? Thanks! :)

    • Hey Makayla! Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis today! We are sorry if you didn’t understand today’s Wonder. We were talking about the difference between karats (how you measure gold) and carats (how you measure diamonds). Plus we all know about carrots that are a great orange vegetable! It can be confusing to remember the difference since they all sound the same. Maybe try watching the video again with your teacher or family and see if that helps! Thanks! :)

  4. Hi, I think tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day will be about clubs like homework club, clubpenguin or book clubs.

    • Hey Owen! That is a great suggestion! Have you ever been a part of a homework club? Tell us about it! And check back tomorrow to see if you are right about the Wonder! Thanks! :)

    • Hey Owen! We understand – sometimes homework can be tough! But being able to do your homework with friends or classmates seems fun to us! Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis and see you tomorrow! :)

  5. Wow I never new there was another definition for carrot. I kinda like carat gold myself but I wonder what makes the gold block gold?

    • Hey Clarissa! It is interesting to learn about carrots, carats and karats, isn’t it? We like all three! And what a cool thing to WONDER about – What Gives Gold its Color? – so see if you can find the answer with your class or with your family. Let us know what you find! Thanks! :)

  6. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I didn’t get it at first but then I got it.
    I love Wonderopolis! This is Day one of my Wonderopolis adventures.

    I can’t wait for tomorrow.

    Your friend,
    Bri from WI

    • Hello Bri from Wi! We are so excited you are beginning your Wonderopolis adventures and hope to see you WONDERing again soon! And the carats vs. karats Wonder had a lot of new things to learn so we are glad you got it! Did you WONDER with a family member to help maybe? That’s always fun! :)

    • Hey Gabriel! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! Minerals are a cool thing to WONDER about…can you check with your librarian or your teacher and see what you find? Then come back and let us know, so we can WONDER together! Thanks! :)

    • Hey there, Diana! What a great question about Wonderopolis! We do lots of reading and research– we even talk to experts! All our Wonder Friends here at Wonderopolis enjoy learning and we like sharing this information with our Wonder Friends all over the world! Thanks for asking! :)

    • We bet you’re not alone, Savannah! Carats and karats, sure are great, but we are glad you learned all about the differences between those similar words! Thanks for answering our WONDER! :)

  7. Do you prefer carrots or karate . Every one knows
    what carrots but do you know what a karat is? A karat is gold and other rare rocks. People usually use karat in rings.

    • Hey there, Daniel T! Thanks for telling us all about the difference between carrots and karats! What a great job of comparing and contrasting! :)

    • How cool, Nicky, we are glad to hear that you learned the difference between those two! WAY TO GO! We Wonder if you have a guess for the next Wonder of the day!? :)

    • Hey there, Mike Wonder Man and Stan, we are glad you are visiting us today! We appreciate your comments about carats and karats and carrots! We learned all about the difference between carats and karats… and carrots, the vegetables, have nothing to do with them! We bet you’ll learn something new if you check out this Wonder and the video! :)

  8. Hey, thanks guys. I always really wondered what those things meant like where the word karat come from and what it meant and how they are different. This is a good site. This is my first time on here and that was a really interesting topic. So, again thanks!!!!

  9. Dear Wonderopolis,

    I am a third grade teacher at Quail Run Elementary in San Ramon, California. I LOVE your site!!!! My students and I are frequent WONDERers. I am writing you to express how pleased I was to look over a student’s shoulder today and see that he had wondered to this wonder, as I am the songwriter of the tune in this featured video, 1848! As a frequent user, I was surprised and excited to see the video up, now more accessible to WONDERers everywhere! Thank you for featuring the video and most of all, thank you for providing a fantastic world for children to WONDER and to immerse themselves in curiosity.

    Best,

    Jon Williams

    • Wow, Mr. Williams! That is so cool that you wrote the song for the featured Wonder Video! We are grateful to you and your talent! This Wonder Video is one of our most popular ones. Thank you so much for sharing it with us! Also, thank you for being a supporter of WONDER and curiosity in the classroom! We are truly grateful! :-)

  10. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Today was a good WONDER. I never even heard of karats in my life before! I WONDER how many karats are there in El Dorado. I am the student of Mr.Williams, who is also the songwriter, and just to tell you, he is the best teacher in 3rd grade!
    Sincerely,
    Tyler

    • WONDERful, Tyler! We are so happy to have you learning and WONDERing with us today! We also think you have a WONDERfully talented teacher! Hmm… so, how much gold is in El Dorado? Thanks for sharing with us today, Wonder Friend! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do you prefer carats or karats?
  • What is the difference between a carat and a karat?
  • What is 24-karat gold?

Wonder Gallery

868Vimeo Video

Try It Out

So which do you prefer? Carats or karats? For some, that’s a difficult choice. Have fun exploring one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • What kinds of carats and/or karats do you have around the house? Ask your family members to show you any gold or diamond jewelry they may have. Can you find any carat or karat marking on the items? You can also take a field trip to a local jewelry store. Ask to see different examples of gold and diamond jewelry. Can the jeweler explain the differences to you? Can you see the differences?

When you’re finished, upload a picture of your creation to Facebook. We can’t wait to see what beautiful jewelry you create at home!

  • Make a chart using the information you learned in today’s Wonder of the Day about how the karat value of gold is measured. For each even karat measurement from 10-karat to 24-karat gold, indicate the amount of gold versus the amount of other metals. Explain your chart to a friend or family member, showing them the relation of the amount of gold to the karat value.

Still Wondering

In EDSITEment!’s Metaphorical Gold: Mining the Gold Rush for Stories lesson, children research the Gold Rush era to provide authentic background for their own fictional prose.

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