Thursday , 25 July 2024

Gold Measurements: What Do the Terms “Karat” & “Troy” Ounce Actually Mean? (+62K Views)

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What’s the difference between 1 troy ounce of gold and 1 (regular) ounce? What’s the difference Lorimer Wilson with Gold Barbetween 18 and 10 karat gold? What’s the difference between a .75 and a 1.0 carat diamond? Let me explain.

By Lorimer Wilson editor of

Definition of “Karat”

The term “karat” is used to describe the unit of measurement for the proportion of gold (i.e. % purity of the gold content) in a piece of jewelry, coin, ingot or bar.

Gold will often be mixed with “filler metals” such as silver, palladium, platinum, nickel and even copper to combat the softness of pure 24 karat. @A Financial Site For Sore Eyes & Inquisitive Minds

  • Gold which contains a degree of silver, platinum or palladium is referred to as “white gold” and will classify with a higher amount of karats while the presence of nickel leads to a slightly lower designation of karats.
  • Copper is used to give gold durability and give it a golden rosy tone.

Below is a table outlining the karat designations at various gold purity levels plus the extent of “fineness” as is used in some countries such  as Italy.

Karat/Fineness Gold Content [Purity]
24 karat 99+%
22 karat/917 91.6%
21 karat 87.5%
20 karat 83.3%
18 karat/750 75.0%
15 karat 62.5%
14 karat/583 58.5%
10 karat/417 41.7%
9 karat 37.5%
8 karat 33.3%
1 karat 4.2%

In some countries “karat” and “carat” are used almost interchangeably although, strictly speaking, the words’ correct meanings are defined as:

  • karat: the % purity of precious metal content
  • carat: the weight of a gemstone

100% pure gold is defined as having a purity of 24 karats so if something is 24 karat gold then it’s made of gold and nothing else – regardless of size… 

Gold is a relatively soft metal and high-karat gold tends to be easily damaged and, as such, a 24 karat item is usually reserved for display or ceremonial use as the picture of me with “my” 100kg. Canadian Maple Leaf 99.99999% pure gold coin which is now worth in excess of $3,500,000 USD! (100kg. x 32.1507466 troy oz. x $1,100/ozt. USD)

World's First 100-kg, .99999% Pure Gold Bullion Coin Editor-in-Chief Lorimer Wilson with the world’s first 100-kg, 99999 pure gold bullion coin with a $1 million face value. It was produced by The Royal Canadian Mint.

All jewelry is required by law to be stamped so consumers will know the quality of gold used. Jewelry made in North America is typically marked with the karat grade (10K, 14K, etc.), and jewelry made in Italy is typically marked with the “fineness” such as (417, 583, etc.). Most retail gold items have a karat rating in the range 9 to 18. In the U.S. the minimum karat value for an item to be sold as gold jewelry is 10. In the UK 9 karat is more common.

The number 24 may have originally been chosen to represent pure gold because it divides evenly by 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 12. Thus it’s easy to talk about a gold item being half pure (12 kt), 2/3 pure (16kt) etc. 9 karat would thus be 3/8 gold, 18 karat would be 6/8 (i.e. 3/4).

Definition of a “Troy” Ounce

A troy ounce (ozt) is a unit of imperial measure most commonly used to gauge the weight and therefore the price of precious metals.

One troy ounce is equivalent to 1.09714 avoirdupois (our conventional every day measurement) ounces i.e. 9.714% greater in weight and 1 kg. consists of 32.1507466 troy oz.

Please keep the distinction between ounces and troy ounces in mind when buying small quantities of gold and/or silver.

 Definition of “Carat”

The term “carat’ is used to describe the unit of weight of a gemstone, including diamonds, where 1 carat = 200 milligrams or 1/5 of a gram.

Smaller diamonds are often expressed as points, not carats, where 100 points = 1 carat (i.e. each point equals 0.01, or 1/100, of a carat).

Origin of the Word “Carat”

The word “carat” is derived from the Greek “keration,” meaning fruit of the “carob” tree. Because the seeds of the carob were uniform in size, they became a unit of measure of fine gemstones. Since an average carob seed weighs 200 milligrams, the weight of 1 carat was set at 200 milligrams.

“Carat” Abbreviations

The abbreviation ct is a shortened way to write carat, and refers to the weight of a single diamond.  The abbreviation ct TW means carat total weight, and is used to express the total weight of multiple diamonds used in a piece of jewelry.

“Carat” Weight vs. Size

Carat weight is used as a measure for gemstones other than diamonds as well, but different gems of the same weight aren’t necessarily the same size, because some gemstones are more dense than others–meaning that they pack more weight into a smaller space.

Two diamonds of equal carat weight can have very different costs based on other factors (such as cut, color, and clarity). In understanding the importance of carat weight it is important to know who you are dealing with.

As the carat weight of a diamond increases, the diamond’s price increases at an increasing rate. Why? Because the larger the diamond, the more increasingly rare it is. Fewer than one in one million mined rough stones are large enough to produce a finished 1 carat diamond so, as carat weight increases, you will typically pay more not only in total, but on a price-per-carat basis as well.


Never again will you be misled when reading about or considering the purchase of any item in which the terms karat, carat or troy ounce are – often loosely – used.

Editor’s Note:

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  1. Very good article, Thankyou. I found this site because of a piece you wrote for Goldseek back on 10-5-2010 about $5000 gold. The timing was a little off, but I am reasonably sure that I will see $10,000 gold within my lifetime.

  2. Wow… this whole time I had no idea that karat and carat are actually two separate words. You legitimately taught me something today, thanks!

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  4. common law private attorney general Chris Guardin on the Wall

    The Biggest DIFF is Troy is 12 Ounces per 1 lb. Troy and Avoirdupois is 16 Oz Dry Weight per Lb.
    of Coarse the 31. 5 gram per Oz v. 28.—per oz also bears significance relevance too?

  5. Great article!
    Perhaps you would also consider posting the values of Gold and Silver (PM) to that of diamonds since all 3 are important ways to store your US$ instead of in paper money!

  6. Hi Lorimer,
    You stated in your article in the “Definition of “Karat” section that:

    “The term used to describe the unit of measurement for the proportion of gold (i.e. % purity of the gold content) in a piece of jewellery, coin, ingot or bar as per the above table.”

    However, you forgot to include 23 karat in the list which is of 96.5% fineness. It is the only kind of fineness you can buy in Thailand, as their goldsmiths use the 23 karat fineness as their signature in the world of gold jewellery, “boats”, and bars. Gold of this fineness, has a high probably of having being refined in that country.


    • I can’t understand why any country would put a monetary value on a PM coin, since the actual value changes constantly. Who in their right mind would sell a one ounce US silver Eagle for $1.00 ? Or a one ounce gold Eagle for $50.00 ?