Troy & Tower Weights Pennyweights and Carats

Troy weights were first used in England in the 1400s. It was based on the barley grain (or barleycorn) where one grain = 64.79891 milligrams.

In 1527, the troy ounce became the official standard measurement for gold and silver in Britain, and the US followed suit in 1828.

Prior to the troy ounce, the tower pound and tower ounce (based on a standard scale stored at the Tower of London) were used to measure the silver in monetary Pounds, Ounces and Pennyweights from about 800AD. It was based on the wheat grain.

One Tower Pound = 240 Tower Pennyweights = 349.914114 grams = 7680 wheat grains (or 5400 barley grains)

One Tower Ounce = 20 Tower Pennyweights = 29.1595095 grams = 640 wheat grains (or 450 barley grains)

One Tower Pennyweight = 1.457975475 grams = 32 wheat grains (or 22.5 barley grains)

In the Troy system, 

One Troy Pound = 240 Pennyweights = 373.241722 grams = 5760 grains

One Troy Ounce = 20 Pennyweights = 31.1034768 grams = 480 grains

One Troy Pennyweight = 1.55517384 grams = 24 grains

Note, after 1527, the Troy (and Tower) pennyweight no longer bore any semblance to the silver content of the English penny.

Currently no British, US or Australian coin contains silver.

While troy weights were used for precious metals, avoirdupois weights were used for everything else.

One Avoirdupois Pound = 16 ounces = 453.59237 grams = 7000 grains

One Avoirdupois Ounce = 28.349523125 grams = 437.5 grains

Now for Carats

When weighing diamonds, the modern carat weighs 200 milligrams.

It started back in 300 AD in Rome when, until about 1000 AD in Constantinople (today Istanbul), the solidus gold coin that was issued to soldiers (known as the soldo in Italy and the sou in France), contained about 4.536 grams of gold, and was equal to 24 carats or "carob seeds". A typical carob seed thus weighed 189 milligrams.

Later when measuring purity in gold coins, carats referred to level of fineness. 24 carat meant 99.9% fine and 1 carat became equal to 4.1666% of the whole.


23 carat = 95.8333% fine
22 carat = 91.6666% fine
21 carat = 87.5% fine
20 carat = 83.3333% fine etc

In England the carat could be divided into four grains, and the grain could be divided into four quarts.
So a gold alloy of fineness 99.2 per cent purity could be described as being 23-carat, 3-grain, 1-quart gold
where 3-grain (12/16ths) and 1-quart (1/16th) equalled 13/16 of 4.1666% or 3.3853625%,
and when added to 95.83%, equalled 99.2% rounded.

Today in the US the word for fineness is normally spelt as "karat", to differentiate it from "carat" meaning weight.

** End notes