Monday, September 26, 2005


I've never had an eye for precious stones or metals. I chalk it up to malefeasance (huhuhu). And since I've never had that particular set of retinas and matching irises, I've never understood carats. Or karats. Or even carats. What the hell is it?

Apparently, a carat can be two things: A unit of weight or a unit of purity. As a unit of weight, it is applied to gems and equals 200 milligrams. It is further divided into 100 points. Simple arithmetic yields 1 point = 2 milligrams. Why don't people just say so! A 300 milligram VVS2 F sounds about as sexy to me as a 1.5 carat VVS2 F. Why do we need an abstract unit of measurement on top of an existing one? Are jewelers that bored?

And Zoroaster forbid you buy the stone and don't set it in gold. More carats! As a unit of purity applied to gold, the number of carats indicates purity in a percentage with 24 equal to 100%. So for example, 12 carats equals 50% gold. Here, I suppose, there could be a psychological difference. "I've got a 12 carat gold ring on me finger" sounds slightly more appealing than "I've got a 50% gold ring on me finger." It begs the hot dog question: "What's in the other 50%?" Rat guts, my friend, rat guts.

So what a carat is can be pretty confusing for the unbaptized. In the US, however, the carat that indicates purity is often written as karat so as to avoid confusion between carat and carat. But that also means that some carats are karats and some carats are carats but a karat is never a carat unless it's a carat. Aiyah.

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