What is a Tungsten Ring?
In recent years, tungsten has been gaining ground on gold and platinum as the wedding band of choice for many men. They offer a unique mixture of style, strength and affordability.
This article is a comprehensive guide to:
- what tungsten is
- how tungsten is made
- what to look for in a tungsten ring
- how to care for a tungsten ring, and
- its relative pros and cons.
In fact, all the information you need to decide whether these sleek, contemporary bands are the right choice for you!
What is a Tungsten Ring?
We’ll start with a quick overview of what tungsten is…
- Tungsten is a relatively young metal, discovered in 1783 by a pair of Spanish chemists, the Elhuyar brothers (Juan Jose and Fausto).
- Its name comes from the Swedish word for “heavy stone”.
- And it is a fitting tag; tungsten is rated 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness- diamonds are the only metal or mineral harder than it! In fact, jewelers use diamond-tipped tools to shape the jewelry from the material.
- Most tungsten is found and exported from China, though deposits can be found in several other continents.
- Pure tungsten is very brittle (and therefore difficult to shape),so the tungsten used to make rings is an alloy composition of tungsten and carbon- making tungsten carbide.
- Jewelers then use either nickel or cobalt as a binder for the alloy; the higher percentage of tungsten, the more valuable the piece is (85% being the average).
- The 85% tungsten: 15% nickel ration is optimal for durability and scratch resistance- too much tungsten makes it too brittle; too little makes it too soft.
- Tungsten carbide is between two and three times harder than titanium and cobalt chrome.
- Titanium has the highest melting point of any metal, at a (rather frightening) 6,191 degrees Fahrenheit.
And that’s the history and chemistry lesson over, now onto the practical…
How is a Tungsten Ring Made?
And this is how this material is turned into that tough and stylish piece of jewelry:
- The pure tungsten metal and carbon are ground to a fine powder, then put into the ring-shaped mold.
- The mixture is compressed in the mold and heated to 1400-2000 degrees Celsius, binding them together into tungsten carbide (a process called ‘sintering’, in case it ever comes up in your pub quiz…).
- This tungsten ring blank comes out rough and black, before going through about 30 (!) different steps of polishing to give it the glossy shine you will know it for.
- Unlike other types of jewelry which use a wax here, tungsten’s toughness requires a diamond polishing paste to get the same effect. Starting off at 80-microns, then moving steadily down to 0.5-microns, as it is more refined.
- Depending on the ring type required, the ring may go through further polishing, brushing, or customization- including inlays and engraving. (Popular inlays including silver, gold and platinum).
What to Look For in a Tunsgten Ring?
Firstly, you’ll want a tungsten carbide ring with at least 80% tungsten; ideally, 85%. This is the optimal percentage to give it the strength you’d like without being too brittle. It will also give the ring that reassuring weight.
Be wary of any sellers using expensive filler in place of tungsten- this not only damages the value of the ring, but compromises its durability.
Also, be aware that if you buy a coloured tungsten ring, this involves the colour being plated over the (normally gunmetal-grey) tungsten. This makes it more vulnerable to the scratching that tungsten itself is so famously resistant to.
How To Care For A Tungsten Ring
One of the tungsten rings major selling points are their low-maintenance. The one thing we would advise is taking care not to drop them on harder surfaces like cement or marble, as the material’s brittleness can cause cracks that are difficult to repair.
Pros and Cons of a Tungsten Ring
- Tungsten carbide is the most scratch-resistant metal known to man.
- Tungsten carbide jewelry is affordable and has a nice, reassuring weight to it, like platinum and gold.
- Tungsten rings are quicker and easier to remove than gold from your finger, in the event of a medical emergency – in fact, you just need a vise grip wrench.
- Thanks to its hardness, tungsten will not bend out of shape- so is not in danger of deforming and damaging your finger further in the event of an accident.
- Tungsten is naturally hypoallergenic, so wearers don’t need to worry about any unpleasant reactions.
- Tungsten maintains it shine, so it will keep its lustre throughout the length of your marriage.
- Tungsten has a unique masculine-but-sleek appearance that distinguishes it from gold and platinum.
- Tungsten bands are naturally gun-metal gray, but are available in a range of colour-platings- from black, red and white, to gold even!
- Tungsten’s strength is also its weakness- while it is a harder metal than gold, it is also more brittle; breaking rather than bending, if enough pressure is applied to it.
- This hardness also makes it impossible to resize tungsten rings (as they are not as malleable as softer metals).
- Because tungsten carbide is not traded on the commodities market like gold, it can not be as easily liquidated into cash if you want to sell it at a later date.
Want to know more about the pros and cons of tungsten rings
Can tungsten carbide rings be resized?
No, their brittle nature makes resizing impossible- they would simply break, instead of bending. Click here to read more
Is tungsten good for a ring?
It depends on what you are looking for. Tungsten’s main plus points are its sleek-yet-masculine style, its toughness, and its affordability.
Is tungsten scratch-proof?
Not quite. While some less scrupulous salesmen have marketed it as scratch-proof, it can be scratched by diamonds; scratch-resistant is a more accurate term. Click here to read more.
Why are tungsten rings so cheap?
As a fairly modern metal and one not traded on the commodities market, tungsten does not hold its value in the same way gold does. This makes it a more affordable option to purchase.
How strong is a tungsten ring?
Only diamond is stronger than tungsten on the Mohs hardness scale. It is four times harder than titanium and twice as hard as steel. This strength makes it extremely scratch-resistant.
How does it’s strength compare to other rings?
Will a tungsten ring turn your finger green?
No! Cheap copper rings may turn your fingers green. As tungsten rings contain only tungsten and nickel- and, indeed, are hypoallergenic- you will get no adverse discoloration from a tungsten wedding band.
Are Tungsten Rings Safe In Emergency Situations?
This is one of the most common misconceptions regarding tungsten rings- they are actually easier to remove in an emergency than gold, requiring only a vise grip. On the other hand, gold bands are liable to bend around the finger, potentially further injuring the digit, in the event of an accident. Need to remove a tungsten ring
Can Tungsten Rings Be Worn During Physical Activities?
Every piece of jewelry carries risks with it, when it comes to physical activity. Tungsten is no different. They are actually one of the better-suited metals for many exercises- due to the fact that they won’t bend, even under pressure from heavy weights.
How Brittle Are Tungsten Carbide Rings?
When people talk about tungsten being brittle, it is usually when explaining how to remove them, or why they can not be re-sized. Tungsten rings are brittle enough to remove by a vice, but nowhere near so brittle that they are at risk of easily shattering.
Can I wear my tungsten ring in the shower?
Tungsten rings are waterproof and will not rust. There is no risk wearing them in the shower; however, care should be taken in swimming pools that use chemical cleaning solutions (more often public pools than private ones). Click here for more
Is tungsten a good wedding ring choice for me?
This will depend on your style preferences, your usage priorities and your budget. Tungsten is a popular choice for people who like its modern-but-classic style, its robust nature and its price
Tungsten unique blend of style, durability and affordability have made them a ready contender to the popularity of gold and platinum as the wedding ring of choice for many men. Whether they are the best choice for you will depend on your tastes and priorities. Either way, we hope this article has helped you make a more informed choice, and separate the facts from some of the fiction that surrounds it!
If you’ve made your mind up to plump for one, check out our fine selection of tungsten rings – all benefiting from a one-year warranty, as well as fast, free delivery and easy, free returns.