22 Carat Gold or 24 Carat Gold Coins

Written by Ian Davis – Bullion Manager • Last updated 19 Aug 2019

Should I Buy 22 Carat or 24 Carat Gold Coins?

Customers often ask us whether it is better to buy 22 carat or 24 carat gold coins. It really doesn't make much difference, if you are buying gold coins you are buying the actual gold weight of the coin. For example a 1oz gold coin, regardless of whether it is 22 ct or 24 ct, they will both contain one troy ounce of gold.

22ct and 24ct Gold Britannia

What is a Carat?

A carat* is a way of measuring the proportion of gold purity in an alloy. The ratio of the pureness of the gold is worked out using 24 parts for the whole. One carat is 1/24th of the whole, 22 carats is 22/24 parts of the whole.

*Karat is the American variation of carat.  

What is Fineness?

Fineness is simply another way of measuring the purity which is calculated per thousandth of the whole. Whether the fineness is express as 999, 99.9, 0.999 they are all the same, 999 thousandth gold with a 1 part base metal.

You will often see coins being described in both carat and fineness:

9 carat =    9 parts of 24   =    9 parts gold =    .375 fineness
18 carat =    18 parts of 24 =    18 parts gold =    .750 fineness
22 carat =    22 parts of 24 =    22 parts gold   =    .916 fineness    
24 carat   =    24 parts of 24 =    24 parts gold   =    .999 fineness

The Difference Between 22 Carat and 24 Carat Gold

22 carat gold coins contain .916 gold with the remaining 0.084 alloy comprising of a 'base' metal, usually copper but occasionally silver, zinc, nickel or a combination.

24 carat gold coins contain .999 gold with the remaining 0.001 alloy comprising of a 'base' metal. This is often so minimal that the one thousandth part is almost impossible to define what it is.

For example:

Krugerrand contains 1 troy ounce of gold = 31.1035g

31.1035g   divided by   weight of coin 33.9305g   =   0.916 fineness   x 24   =   22 carat

Coin

Actual Gold Weight

Divided by Weight of Coin

= Fineness

 

Carat

Krugerrand

31.1035g

33.9305

0.916

x 24

22 carat

2017 Britannia

31.1035g

31.21g

0.999

X 24

24 carat

22 Carat Gold Coins

Gold coins have been made to a variety of standards of purity for thousands of years. By the nineteenth century, many countries issued coins in either .916 fineness (22 carat) or .900 fineness (21.6 carat). This variation was dependent on whether the country’s coinage system was influenced by British (.916) or European (.900) standards.

Coins struck in 22 carat gold are strengthened by the addition of other metals thereby creating coins which were durable, almost impervious to tarnishing and able to withstand years of wear with very little signs of damage. This was particularly useful for coins which were used as money.

If you are buying one ounce gold coins, 22 carat gold coins will often weigh a couple of grams more than 24 carat gold coins – but they will both contain the same one ounce of gold.

Coins which are struck in 22 carat gold include Krugerrands, modern American Eagles, Sovereigns, Britannias 1997-2012

Krugerrand - 22ct Gold

Eagle - 22ct Gold

Sovereign- 22ct Gold

Britannia (pre-2013)- 22ct Gold

24 Carat Gold Coins

During the 1980’s, a number of mints decided to issue 24 carat gold coins. The perception of buying a pure gold coin appealed to many investors who thought they were getting a better quality gold coin. 

The Royal Canadian Mint went one step further and issued the 99999 Maples! Whilst these are supposed to be the most pure gold coin that you can buy, they still have a minuscule 0.00001 element that prevents it from being pure gold. Even though the 99999 Maple is classed as 24 carat gold, we have still seen coins with red spots** on them.

Coins which are struck in 24 carat gold include Maples, Pandas, Perth Mint’s Lunar and Kangaroo/Nugget coins, Philharmonics,  Britannias (2013 to now), Queen's Beasts and British Lunar.

**Red spot is a natural process where the alloy oxidises and forms small reddish marks on the surface of the coin. We do not feel that this detracts from the value of the coin.

How Much Gold In A One Ounce Coin?

Watch our video on how to measure the gold content of a 1 ounce gold coin.

Further Reading

You might be interested in reading the rest of our gold guide

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