Tungsten, or tungsten carbide, has become a popular choice for jewelry, specifically rings, due to its extreme hardness and high resistance to scratching. If you’re considering a tungsten ring for your next special jewelry purchase, here’s all you need to know.
What is tungsten?
The word ‘tungsten’ comes from a Swedish term, meaning ‘heavy stone’. The chemical symbol for tungsten is W, which is derived from its original name, wolfram. Tungsten has the highest melting point of all metals, at an incredible 6,191.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and is second only to diamond as the hardest substance on earth.
However, tungsten carbide itself is a powdery substance and requires a binding material, such as cobalt or nickel, to hold it together. Most tungsten jewelry actually consists of about 85% tungsten carbide.
In America, tungsten carbide is currently the most popular material for men’s wedding bands.
What’s so great about it?
Tungsten carbide is 10 times harder than 18k gold, and is the most scratch resistant metal known to man. It won’t bend out of shape, which in the event of an accident can reduce the risk of injury. It isn’t indestructible, however, and can be shattered upon impact if enough force is applied, meaning that it can be removed quickly in an emergency, if required.
Tungsten carbide jewelry is affordable in comparison to white gold and other precious metals. It also has a comfortable weight to it, similar to that of gold or platinum. Tungsten carbide is hypoallergenic, making it an ideal alternative for those with allergies to gold. It comes in a natural grey color, but can be plated black, white, or gold, as desired.
What’s not so great?
The incredible hardness of tungsten carbide means that special tools, such as locking pliers, may be required in the event that a tungsten wedding band must be removed quickly – for example, due to an injury causing swelling to the hand. Similarly, tungsten rings cannot be resized in the way that rings made from softer metals can.
With regards to the market value of tungsten carbide itself, this material is not considered to be a ‘liquid’ commodity, meaning that it’s difficult to value and convert back into cash. If you should decide to resell your tungsten ring, you may find it difficult to recover the money you paid for it – in comparison to selling rings made of more economically ‘liquid’ materials, such as gold.
Is tungsten right for you?
If you’re searching for a ring that will last forever, won’t scratch or bend, and doesn’t cost the earth, tungsten carbide may be the perfect option. However, due to its inability to be resized, as well as the potential for it to be shattered upon impact rather than bend, you should ensure you purchase from a reputable jeweler who can provide a lifetime warranty for your tungsten ring.