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As a layperson who is doing research to find that special wedding ring you will probably come across some jewelry salespeople using the word ‘tungsten’ and others using the word ‘tungsten carbide'. This can be confusing!
So, what is the difference? Should you purchase a tungsten ring or a tungsten carbide ring?
Well, the two are not the same! And you should know the difference before you decide to purchase a ring.
Tungsten, also known Wolfram, refers to the chemical element on the periodic table – atomic number 74. This is the metal in its pure form.
This element is a hard material, has a high density and is dark grey in color. It is also very tough and brittle. This makes it too difficult for a jeweler to work with to create a ring.
To overcome the difficulty of working with just tungsten as a pure metal it must be combined with other metals. This means it must be a chemical compound or alloy.
So, what is added to the tungsten to make it workable?
The main addition is carbon. This is what gives us the name ‘tungsten carbide.’ A ring should have equal parts of tungsten and carbon. The two are combined together and need a binder to hold them together.
Cheap tungsten carbide rings are made with lower quality binders that can create a weaker and less durable ring that can cause allergic reactions. I suggest you stay away from the extremely low-cost rings.
One such example is cobalt. A number of manufacturers prefer to use cobalt for its ease of use. However, we do not recommend purchasing a ring with cobalt because it has been known to cause allergic reactions in some people.
At Steven G Designs we use nickel as the binding agent. While nickel may be an irritant, tungsten and nickel alloys are actually hypoallergenic. This is because in the process of combining both metals, the nickel binds so well with tungsten that it loses its ability to react with the skin.
The result of formulating this tungsten carbide alloy is a more malleable metal that can be worked on by a professional jeweler. He or she can then create a strong, durable, high scratch resistant ring that has an expensive look, and you will feel proud to wear it.
Tungsten carbide has a natural silver-gray color, sometimes referred to as ‘gunmetal’ color. When formed into a ring its appearance can be altered through several ways.
The ring can be flat or rounded (domed) on the top. As well, the inside can be flat or curved to create a ‘comfort fit’ ring that is easier to take on and off.
The surface of the ring can be high polished, sandblasted or hammered in appearance. Each of these methods will give a quite different appearance due to the reflection of light off the ring.
Actual tungsten color is silvery looking, often referred to as 'gunmetal color'. But tungsten carbide rings can be found in a variety of colors. For example, black, blue, yellow, rose and so on. Many of our rings are also two-tone. This means that there is a combination of two or more colors that gives the ring a unique look.
How do tungsten rings get their various colors?
At Steven G Designs we use a plating method called Ion Plating, also known as, IP Plating. This is a newer method than conventional jewelry plating and is much more durable. With proper care this type of plating can last for many years.
The ring can be combined with materials such as wood, meteorite, abalone shell, carbon fiber or even a stone, such as, cubic zirconia. Most of the time these materials are inlaid inside a channel cut out from the tungsten carbide. The tungsten will act as a barrier of protection alongside the softer more delicate inlay.
When you go shopping for a tungsten carbide ring today you will often be told it is ‘tungsten’ but rest assured that the seller is referring to tungsten carbide. It is quite common for the two terms to be used interchangeably in the jewelry business. No jeweler will sell you the pure form of tungsten as a ring. However, just be wary of which binding element(s) go into making the ring. Simply ask before you purchase so you do not end up with a less durable low-quality ring that can cause some type of allergic reaction later on.
Tungsten carbide rings have come a long way in terms of manufacturing and styles over the years. We have been able to take a difficult to work with material and transform it into a ‘work of art’ that you can wear for a lifetime. And to top that off a tungsten ring can be purchased for a very affordable price!
Please have a look at our website, stevengdesigns.com, and view all our high-quality tungsten carbide rings with the many variations of finishes and colors that we have to offer. You will surely see something you would be proud to wear or even give as a gift to someone you care about.
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