A guide to gold: Types, purities, and styling

Gold has been the ubiquitous marker of style and wealth throughout history. Serving as currency, Olympic medals, and royal decor—it’s become the, well, “gold standard” for fashion and jewelry. But, what is it about this precious metal that makes it so alluring? At Lightbox, we love how gold makes our lab-grown diamonds pop, and we offer it across all categories. Here we’ll dive into everything you need to know about types of gold, gold plating, gold karats, and help you discover what type of gold is best for you.

Gold 101

Gold is used in many ways in jewelry and this popular color is available in a diverse range of tones. Through the years, several types of gold have been developed, including white gold, rose gold, various versions of gold plating, and yellow gold which all come in several grades of purity called karats — more on that to come.

When shopping for diamond jewelry, there are several things to consider beyond the look and price of an item. At Lightbox, once you’ve selected a piece of lab-grown diamond jewelry, you have the option to also select a metal color. Our transparent lab-grown diamond pricing gives you peace of mind that whatever piece you pick you’re receiving a high-quality stone so that you can obsess over finding your new go-to accessory.

If you’re debating between rose gold, yellow gold, or white gold, let this guide help you make the decision. First, it’s important to know that almost all jewelry isn’t 100 percent pure gold. The price of gold fluctuates daily depending on karat purity and jewelers combine pure gold with other metals to make an alloy, which is a mixture of metals. Gold can be alloyed with a variety of elements—including silver, copper, zinc, and nickel—to create different gold colors.

By only using nickel-safe alloys, our customers have the assurance that all of our jewelry is hypoallergenic and tested to European standards.

Lightbox is committed to offering you jewelry that’s designed to be lived in. All of our metals come from Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) certified vendors. This means we are committed to sustainability and high working practice standards.

How to care for and keep gold

It’s important to note that, as a soft metal, over time gold can be prone to stretching or breaking under extreme wear (like when you’re lifting weights at the gym). Gold in the 24- and 18-karat range is the softest in nature, while 10- and 14-karat pieces are mixed with other metals at higher quantities, so they’re not as pliable. The concern over metal distortion with wear is mostly related to rings and bracelets, as they have a higher probability of being compromised. However, all Lightbox pieces go through a rigorous quality control process, including a stress test and porosity check. For more information on caring for your Lightbox jewelry, check out our full care guide.

Yellow gold vs rose gold vs white gold

Yellow gold is achieved by mixing pure gold with silver and copper. It’s appealing not only because it’s a hypoallergenic metal, but it’s also a low-maintenance option that doesn’t require consistent upkeep. Lightbox uses 10 and 14-karat yellow gold in our jewelry. It’s a durable alloy and the subtle yellow tone is a perfect complement to our go-with-everything designs.

The warm pink hue of rose gold, on the other hand, is created when copper is mixed with pure gold. Like 10-karat yellow gold, rose gold is strong, and because the cost of copper is more attainable, it is an affordable metal choice. At Lightbox, we offer 10-karat and 14-karat rose gold options. Our rose gold is cast in rose gold so there is no concern with wear distorting or eroding the blush color over time. While yellow gold is very on-trend right now, our designs in the flirty shade are every bit as fashion-forward. Pairing rose gold alongside our beautifully saturated lab-grown pink diamonds is a unique way to make a statement with this inviting hue.

White gold is one of the most popular colors for diamond jewelry (not to mention it is our best-selling metal) and for good reason: this metal adds to the diamond’s overall sparkle and wow factor, making the diamond look bright and white. Typically, white gold is alloyed with 75 percent gold and 25 percent zinc and nickel. Lightbox white gold is plated with a top layer of hard-wearing rhodium.

Understanding karats and purities

First, let’s be clear: while they’re both pronounced like the vegetable, karat with a K refers to the purity of the gold while carat with a C is used when talking about the weight of a diamond. All good? Great.

So what’s the difference in karats between different types of gold? The easiest way to understand karat weight is to remember that the higher the number, the more gold there is. So pure gold is 24 karats, which means 24 of the 24 elements are gold. Gold weight goes down from there, ranging from 18-karat, 14-karat to 10-karat.

24-Karat Gold

While you might think more gold equals better quality, there’s nuance. Take pure 24-karat gold, for example. It’s going to be the most costly option as well as the softest, meaning if it’s used in a high touch point piece, like a ring or necklace, it will change shape over time with constant wear. Pure gold also tends to scratch easier, which isn’t something anyone wants on a sparkly ring or bracelet.

18-Karat Gold

Durability should be considered with 18-karat jewelry as well, which is made of 75 percent pure gold. This gold purity (another way of saying karat) has a classic yellow color, making it the go-to for engagement rings. In our Lightbox Finest™ stones, we use a beautiful 18-karat white gold.

14- and 10-Karat Gold

The sweet spot for most jewelry, including what you’ll find in the Lightbox collection, comes in 14- and 10-karat gold, which offers a mix of strength for daily wear, higher resistance to scratching, and affordability.

What is gold plating?

Gold plated jewelry places a layer of gold on top of another metal (like copper, silver, or brass) to create a style that, to the naked eye, appears almost identical to solid gold’s eye-catching luster. Most common in fashion jewelry, gold plated jewelry (sometimes referred to as electroplated) gives you the perfect opportunity to explore a new trend or style. There’s a lot more to learn about gold plating, which is why we created the Lightbox guide to gold vermeil, gold filled and gold plated jewelry.

Styling tips for gold jewelry

  • Pink diamonds pop with rose gold and sparkle with white gold. 

  • When styling blue diamonds, white gold enhances the stone’s vibrancy and yellow gold adds a warm glow.

  • White and yellow gold are classic choices for white diamonds. Choose white gold for a timeless look where the stone has a starring role and yellow gold to add an accent.

Creating your own unique style using gold is effortless when you add one of Lightbox’s lab-grown diamond pieces of jewelry to your collection. Though Lightbox’s lab-grown diamonds always shine bright, your sparkle is the real prize.


  • Our environmental commitment

    At Lightbox we are big on transparency and our commitment to reducing the footprint of our stones is a huge part of this. See more on how we grow our stones with 100% renewable energy.

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  • Visit the lab

    Explore the Lightbox Lab in Portland, Oregon, home to our world-leading technology producing up to 200,000 carats a year, each one always VS clarity, very good cut and now 'grown in the USA'.

  • Lab-grown FAQs, answered.

    Our leading technology means our lab-grown diamonds are among the highest quality you can find. Learn more about the science behind the sparkle with our guide to lab-grown diamonds.