If you are shopping for a gemstone or gemstone jewelry, most likely you have heard the word carat or karat thrown around quite a bit. Carat refers to weight and karat to purity. Each of these terms has its own distinct definition, although they are both derived from the same word. And both are very different from the common vegetable, the carrot.
Carat weight is often seen as the most important factors in choosing a gemstone. So, what’s really meant by a 1 carat gemstone or a 2 carats gemstone? Technically speaking, one carat is equal to 200 milligrams or 100 points. If you purchased a 1 carat Ruby, it means that you had bought yourself exactly 0.2 grams of Ruby.
Like many others, I guess you are probably thinking why a gemstone weight is measured in terms of carats. Isn’t the use of SI units like the kilogram or its derivatives better suited to describe the weight of something so expensive? Why not the use of ounces which we are familiar with in everyday life applications?
Well, the history of this actually has an interesting background to it. The word carat actually originates from carob; which refers to a locust tree that produced edible pods. Carob seeds, being even in weight, were used as weighing references by traders in the olden days. Remember, this was a time when high tech machines were not in existence. Back then, one carat was equal to the weight of one carob seed and trades were made based on this simple estimation.
Without electronic balances, seeds were used as measurements
As you could have imagined, carob seeds varied in sizes and everybody was using different references depending on which part of the world you are in. Back in the 1890’s, if you bought a “one-carat” Diamond, the weight could actually vary anywhere between 0.94 to 1.06 metric carats! That’s a huge amount of uncertainty considering the amount of money paid for a single gemstone.
Much as changed since the ancient times. Highly sensitive weighing equipment have replaced the carob seeds but the industry stuck with the terminology using carats as a means to describe the weight of a gemstones.
The term karat has a slightly different meaning. It too came from the carob seed, but became a variant dealing strictly with gold. Its definition states that a karat is “a unit for measuring the fineness of gold, pure gold being 24 karats fine”. Pure gold is extremely soft and when used in jewelry can easily be damaged. Therefore, copper, or another metal alloy is mixed with the gold. 24 karat gold is completely pure, while 18 karat gold will have 18 parts gold and the other six parts will be the other alloy (75% pure). 14 karat gold would be 14 parts gold and 10 parts alloy, and so on. In India, karat markings are always designated with a “K”, never a “C”.
These distinctions between carat and karat should help to clear up any confusion of the terms. This knowledge is definitely essential when making any significant jewelry purchases.
Prices are tax excluded