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Updated 20:38 01/03/21

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22k Gold

22k gold is a popular purity for older/traditional coins. The “k” refers to the American system of karats. In the UK, gold purity is often quoted in carats - a system of 24 parts. In America, carats are used for measuring precious stones – such as diamonds – and karats for precious metals like gold. 22k gold would therefore be the same as 22-carat gold.

The carat system defines gold purity; 24-carat gold for example would be considered ‘pure’ gold, with 24 parts all being gold. 22-carat, or 22k, gold would be 22 parts gold out of 24. The remaining two parts could be metals including silver or copper.

22k Gold Purity

Carats are one of the more traditional ways to quote gold purity, but official channels – such as assay offices around the world – use a millesimal system of purity. This is usually quoted in thousandths, 999.9 or higher would be the equivalent of 24 carat, a purity of 99.99%.

22k gold purity is equivalent to 916.7 fineness, or 91.67% pure gold. The reason 22-carat gold was popular for older coins is that pure gold is very soft. If pure gold had been used for circulating coins they would likely have been damaged and become misshapen over the course of their use. Instead, mints would mix the gold with a small amount of other metals (often copper) to help make the coins tougher, and withstand the rigours of use.

The Royal Mint’s Sovereign is a perfect example of this. A 22-carat gold coin, the remainder was originally made up of gold, silver and copper. Modern Sovereigns however use just gold and copper, giving the coins a reddish-gold hue. Even though the Sovereign is now used as a bullion investment coin only, the mint holds to tradition and continues to strike it in 22-carat gold.

The Royal Mint also produced the one ounce Gold Britannia in 22k gold from 1987 to 2012. From 2013 onward however this was changed to a full 24-carat.

The South African Krugerrand also uses 22-carat gold, and has done since it’s first issue in 1967. In the US, the American Eagle is also a 22k gold coin – the US mint produces the Buffalo as a 24k alternative.