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Top 10 Tungsten Jewelry Questions

Posted by admin on August 9th, 2009

Tungsten rings and wedding bands are fairly new to the jewelry scene, and as you can imagine there is a great deal of inaccurate and contradictory information out there.

My goal as a well educated jewelry professional is to provide clarity to some muddy questions. Today I will provide you with the answers to the 10 most frequently asked tungsten jewelry questions.

#1. Are tungsten carbide rings really INDESTRUCTIBLE?

The easy answer NO. Take a moment and say to yourself, “Self, do I know anything that is indestructible?” and you quickly come to the conclusion that even superman has his kryptonite. While tungsten carbide is virtually indestructible it can be scratched by one thing, diamonds. That’s right a girls best friend, is a tungsten’s worst nightmare.

When discussing tungsten rings you will often hear and see someone referring to the Mohs Scale of hardness. What exactly is this and what does this have to do with your tungsten ring you might ask. Well fear not, yours truly will break it down for you. The Mohs scale was built to calculate and compare the hardness of minerals. The numbers on the scale run from 1 to 10, 1 being the softest and 10 being the hardest. Right about now you are asking yourself, “Self, what does this have to do with my damn ring?”. Well I will tell you. Tungsten carbide is a 9 on the Mohs scale meaning only a diamond can scratch it, whereas steel is a 4 meaning it can be damaged very easily.

So the final answer is yes a tungsten carbide ring can be scratched, but only by a diamond.*

*On a side note if you purchase a tungsten ring with a precious metal inlay, or gold or black plating these can be scratched. The overall shape and form of the ring will not be affected, however these styles are more likely to show wear over time. This is where you want to make sure the company you are purchasing your ring from has a lifetime warranty.

#2. Can Tungsten Wedding Bands Be Resized?

No, due to their extreme hardness tungsten rings can not be resized.

Traditional rings such as gold, silver, and platinum are resized through a process where the jeweler cuts and reshapes the band. The ring is then solder back together, and finally polished. Tungsten rings can not be cut so therefore they can not be resized.

This may sound like a disadvantage but I assure you it is not. Let’s take a closer look at the true cost associated with having a ring resized, versus having to replace your tungsten carbide ring.

Traditional metals can be easily resized, but the cost is anywhere from $30-$90. Also once a traditional band has been resized it is considerably weaker. What was once a solid band now has 1 or 2 weak points where the ring has been soldered back together.

Tungsten rings can not be resized, however all reputable tungsten ring stores have lifetime warranties and exchange policies. The exchange policies are typically good for 30 days and the lifetime warranties are typically between $35-$70.

All in all if you are concerned that tungsten wedding bands can not be resized these facts should put you mind at ease.

#3. Can Tungsten Rings Be Removed In An Emergency?

Yes tungsten carbide rings can be removed in an emergency.

I know right about now you are saying, “This guy just told me tungsten rings can’t be cut, what am I supposed to do, wish the thing off?”. No there is a much easier, more reliable way to remove a tungsten band then to wish it off. You will need to crack a tungsten band to remove it in an emergency situation.

Below I have outlined the tools, and method for removing a tungsten ring.

Tools:

  • Vice grip pliers

Steps for removing a tungsten ring in an emergency:

  1. Take the pliers and clamp them snugly around the tungsten band.
  2. Remove the vice grips and tighten them 1/2 turn.
  3. Clamp the pliers back on the ring in a different area.
  4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 until you hear the ring crack.
  5. Once the ring cracks continue steps 2 & 3 until the ring can be removed.
  6. If you ring has an inlay such as gold, silver, or carbon fiber that will need to be cut off with scissors or shears.

Take care when removing not to rotate the ring on your finger as there may be sharp edges which could potentially injure you.

#4. Can Tungsten Carbide Jewelry Be Engraved?

Yes tungsten carbide rings can be engraved, however the process of engraving a tungsten band is quite different from that of a gold wedding band.

Traditional wedding rings such as platinum, silver, and gold, are engraved with jewelers tool known as a graver. A graver is essentially a mini chisel. Gravers come in many shapes allowing the jewelers to engrave many styles of text and symbols.

Unfortunately due to tungsten carbide’s extreme hardness, they can not be engraved with a hand tool. Tungsten rings are engraved with a machine using a diamond tipped bit. The machine is programmed, your tungsten jewelry or ring is inserted, and once the process is finished you will have a precise engraving unique to you.

Questions to ask prior to having your ring engraved:

  1. Ask to see examples of the font styles the engraver offers. This may not seem like a big deal but the font the engraver is using may vary from the one you have in mind.
  2. Check with the store from which you originally purchased your tungsten ring to see if having a custom engraving will in any way void your warranty.
  3. Ask the engraver if there is a character limit for your engraving. Often engravers will charge an additional fee per character if you go over their set amount.
  4. See if the time frame for the engraving is going to interfere with the date by which you need the ring.
  5. Make sure the engraver has offers an insurance policy while the ring is in their care. Mistakes happen from time to time and you want to make sure your jewelry is in good hands.

I personally recommend you try on your tungsten ring prior to the engraving to ensure proper fit.

#5. How Is A Tungsten Ring Made?

A tungsten carbide ring goes through 35 steps from start to finish. First pure tungsten powder is combined with carbon and either nickel or cobalt. These powders are then placed in a high pressure dye to form a blank. The blank is fired at 3600 degrees Fahrenheit which allows the carbon and nickel to bind to the tungsten.

The tungsten ring is then cooled, cut, shaped, and polished (the process of shaping a tungsten band is very similar to that of a diamond). From this point the tungsten ring goes through many time intensive steps before the final product is ready. For instance a polished tungsten wedding band will go through quite a different process then a brushed finished tungsten ring.

One of the most appealing aspects of tungsten jewelry is the diversity. Tungsten carbide can be styled be styled many ways to meet your desire. Whether you’re looking for a traditional wedding band, or a fashion forward ring with carbon fiber inlay, tungsten can be designed to meet your needs.

#6. What Is The Difference Between Pure Tungsten And Tungsten Carbide?

Pure tungsten is a relatively soft metal. It can be scratched, bent, and even broken very easily. Pure tungsten is not useful as a jewelry material.

Tungsten carbide is created by combining pure tungsten with carbon and either cobalt or nickel. The carbon and cobalt or nickel act as binding agents, strengthening and stabilizing the tungsten. Once the tungsten carbide is created it is used in industrial settings as well as jewel crafting.

#7. Is It Harmful For My Tungsten Ring To Have A Cobalt Binder?

Yes, using cobalt as a binder for your tungsten carbide ring could potentially be harmful. When tungsten rings use cobalt as a binder allergic reactions may occur to both your skin as well as the ring. Many people develop rashes or find their skin turns green, not very attractive unless you’re the Incredible Hulk. Also rings bound with cobalt will often become tarnished as cobalt negatively reacts with the oils in our skin. This tarnish can not be polished out.

#8. Is It Harmful For My Tungsten Ring To Have A Nickel Binder?

No, using nickel as a binder in tungsten carbide jewelry is not harmful. When tungsten is bound with nickel it is chemically inert, thus it will never negatively react with oils in your skin. Tungsten carbide jewelry with nickel is hypo-allergenic, so when purchasing a tungsten ring make sure it contains only nickel as a binder.

#9. How Do I Care For My Tungsten Carbide Ring?

Tungsten bands require very little care. If you find your ring has become smudged simply wipe it with a soft cloth. If your tungsten ring becomes dirty you may use a gentle cleaning solution and old toothbrush to return it’s shine. You may use a sonic jewelry cleaner if you desire, but leave the ring submerged for no longer then 1 minute and make sure your ring is the only piece of jewelry in the cleaner.

Sometimes rings appear as though they have become scratched. What has actually happened is the metal which brushed against your ring tried to embed itself in your ring. To remove the foreign metal shavings simply take a soft bristled tooth brush and a gentle cleaning solution and work the area until the metal fragments have been removed.

#10. Do Tungsten Rings Fit The Same As Other Rings?

Tungsten rings and wedding bands will typically fit a 1/2 size larger than traditional bands. This is due to the fact they are designed with a comfort fit band. The inner band is rounded and then polished which results in an  extremely comfortable, easy to wear ring.


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6 Responses to “Top 10 Tungsten Jewelry Questions”

  1. I am actually surprised that metals like titanium and tungsten are in such high demand. Neither tungsten nor titanium can be sized, so don’t gain or lose any weight! Then again, the styling of wedding bands created with these metals tends to be much different than more traditional designs created in platinum, palladium or gold.

    If you are looking for additional alternative metals for wedding bands, ceramic and stainless steel are also options.

  2. Rick while you make a very good point that neither tungsten nor titanium can be resized you fail to mention the fact that once a platinum, palladium, or gold ring is resized it then becomes much weaker. Also the overall durability of rings like tungsten and titanium far outweigh that of traditional metals.

    Also what you fail to mentionthat any reputable ring company will offer a lifetime warranty on tungsten and titanium rings. With the warranty there is never a need to have the ring resized. If you find the ring is too large or too small simply exchange it for another size. I rarely, if ever see a lifetime warranty on traditional metals.

  3. Can a “brushed” tungsten carbide ring be scratched?

  4. I bought matching tungsten rings as a 3rd anniversary gift several years ago. The rings have been beautiful, shiny and indestructible until now – one of them was exposed to something (we think bleach) and is now tarnished. The local jeweler says that he cannot buff it out.

    Do we have any options for repairing this ring? I can provide photos of the two and it is clear that one of them has had its finish clouded by something.

    Thanks for any help and direction that you can provide.

    Jeff

  5. This site was a great find! We are currently shopping for wedding bands and want to get matching tungsten/carbide bands. My question is, what metal should my engagement ring be made of to go with, and not be destroyed by, the tungsten?

    Thanks!!

  6. Great question Kelly. There really isn’t any ring that will stand up to daily wear like tungsten. Even two gold rings rubbing against each other will do damage over time. What a lot of individuals do is purchase the tungsten band as the everyday band, and they wear their engagement ring on special occasions.

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