In terms of metals, tungsten hasn’t been around for very long, but its strength and sheen have caused it to quickly escalate in popularity. In addition to industrial uses, tungsten has become one of the choice metals to use for men’s wedding bands. Today, some of the most durable, beautiful, and best men’s wedding bands are made of tungsten. But, what is tungsten, and is it a fit for you? Read on to learn about this increasingly popular metal from its history and uses to its best characteristics.
What Is Tungsten?
In Swedish, tungsten means heavy stone. As its name suggests, tungsten is extremely dense. Beyond density, though, tungsten has other properties that make it one of the toughest elements out there. It has the highest melting point and tensile strength of all metals, and it is extremely resistant to corrosion.
This strong and durable chemical element has a number of uses in everyday life. Naturally, it is greyish-white with a great luster, making it ideal for metal jewelry. Pure tungsten, however, is quite soft, but when it is combined with other elements its best characteristics are brought out. For modern uses, including wedding bands, tungsten is most commonly combined with other metal alloys.
What Is Tungsten Carbide?
Tungsten Carbide is a compound of tungsten and carbon, usually combined with another metal, such as cobalt, to enhance the strength of the tungsten-carbon bonds. This is one of the most common tungsten compounds because it is the hardest. Its strength, as well as its light grey color, lends itself to be used in a variety of industries including metal working, mining, and yes, jewelry making.
History of Tungsten
Let’s take a look back at when tungsten was discovered and how it came to be what it is today. In 1779, Peter Woulfe first took note of a new kind of metal that existed in the mineral wolframite. This “new” metal would later be called tungsten but is also referred to as wolfram. The metal occurs naturally in other minerals but was first isolated later in 1783 by Spanish scientists Jose and Fausto d’Elhuyar. It is most commonly found in China but is also mined in the U.S. in Colorado and California.
Although discovered in the late 18th century, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that tungsten was commonly used. One of the first commercial uses of tungsten was as a lamp filament, where tungsten filament lamps are much more efficient than traditional carbon filaments. For this, tungsten was drawn into a very thin wire at a very high temperature and is placed inside a bulb. Thus, the tungsten light bulb was born. Tungsten wire is one of the only instances where pure tungsten is used over a tungsten compound. Since then, tungsten compounds have been used in a number of ways.
Tungsten has been used over the last 100 or so years for a variety of purposes. Its incredibly high melting point means it can be used in extremely high temperatures, where other metals cannot be used, such as in welding, in furnaces, and on spacecraft. Because of its strength, tungsten is also used to seal glass to metal and to form bullets and missiles. Tungsten is even used in television tubes and as an ingredient in paint and tanning solutions.
Because of tungsten’s hardness, it is often shaped using diamond, one of the only minerals that is even harder than tungsten.
Tungsten is almost always used in a compound form, the most common of which is tungsten carbide. Tungsten carbide is used to form drill bits, sharpen saw blades, and craft durable, lifestyle-proof, wedding bands. Tungsten carbide is typically grey to dark grey in color, but it can be polished and crafted to show various metallic looks, which is popularly done when it is used in jewelry to achieve that coveted luster. Here at Diamond Nexus, we carry an incredible selection of tungsten carbide rings in a variety of hues.
Tungsten in Jewelry
While tungsten is widely used across various industries, its growth in popularity is most noticeable in its use in jewelry, particularly for men’s wedding bands. A tungsten wedding band is not only durable but also striking. Here are a few of the benefits of choosing a tungsten wedding ring and how this metal compares to other popular wedding ring metals such as gold, platinum, and titanium.
The Benefits of a Tungsten Ring
Typically, men look for a wedding ring that they can wear without worry. This means a ring that they don’t have to take off when working out, cooking, swimming, cleaning, traveling, and more. A tungsten carbide wedding ring delivers this benefit. It’s ideal for anyone with an active lifestyle, or any lifestyle, for that matter.
One of the most notable attributes of tungsten metal, and tungsten carbide, in particular, is its strength. A tungsten carbide ring will be extremely durable, meaning that it won’t bend or easily scratch or chip. When it comes to everyday jewelry and men’s jewelry, specifically, it’s important that it can withstand the bumps, knicks, and scrapes that occur on a regular basis. Tungsten passes this test with flying colors.
We also mentioned earlier that tungsten is extremely resistant to corrosion. This means it won’t tarnish or lose its polish—ever. For guys looking for a low-maintenance ring, this is a big selling point for tungsten. They won’t need to take it in for a new metal coating or even for a simple polishing or cleaning.
Finally, tungsten carbide is an affordable option, much more so than platinum and gold. And after shelling out a pretty penny on an engagement ring, couples often want to save when it comes to the groom’s wedding band. Insert tungsten. To learn more about tungsten rings, we’ve written an article answering the question, “can tungsten rings be resized?”
Tungsten Compared to Other Metals
The benefits of a tungsten wedding band are many, but do those benefits outweigh those of other metals? Let’s compare tungsten to other metals traditionally used in unique men’s wedding bands.
Tungsten vs. Silver and Gold
Classic wedding bands are often silver or gold, and while both of these metals have a nice sheen and traditional look, they may not be suitable for a man who works with his hands, participates in sports, or is looking for a low-maintenance option. Silver, for instance, is the most affordable metal but it tarnishes easily and can be scratched.
Although beautiful, gold is more expensive than tungsten. Additionally, gold is the softest metal used in men’s jewelry, and so it can be easily scratched, unlike tungsten. In fact, high-quality tungsten carbide is 10 times stronger than 18K gold. The look of yellow or rose gold, though, isn’t possible with tungsten. If you’re still interested in a gold wedding band, compare white gold vs yellow gold and the differences in 14k vs 18k rose gold before making your selection.
Tungsten vs. Platinum
With the added strength of tungsten comes added weight as well. For some, this is a drawback, but for others, it’s unnoticeable. Tungsten carbide jewelry has a similar weight to platinum jewelry. Another thing these metals have in common is that neither one will tarnish, however, platinum will scratch easier than tungsten but not as easy as silver or gold.
The largest difference between tungsten and platinum, though, is price. Platinum is the most expensive precious metal, costing much more than gold. In other differences, platinum rings have a brighter, silvery-white color, unlike tungsten carbide rings, which range from light to dark grey. However, both metals have a beautiful sheen.
Tungsten vs. Titanium
Similar to tungsten, titanium is a relatively new popular metal on the wedding band circuit. Like tungsten, a titanium ring is valued for its strength, but unlike tungsten, it is lightweight. Also unlike tungsten, it has low scratch resistance. Another main difference between tungsten jewelry and titanium is that a titanium band will not break. A tungsten band is so hard, however, that it can crack when hit or dropped on an extremely hard surface such as marble or concrete. While most people won’t need to worry about this, it is important to note so you can avoid coming into contact with these surfaces.
You can compare titanium vs platinum to learn more about these alternative metals for men’s wedding bands.
Tungsten vs. Nickel
Nickel is an inexpensive metal typically used in jewelry of lesser quality, but it can be found in wedding bands. Many people are actually allergic to nickel, though, which can lead to skin redness or a rash. Tungsten is still affordable, but it is hypoallergenic, which makes it a much more appealing option for a wedding band.
Is a Tungsten Ring Right for You?
As you can see, every metal has pros and cons associated with it, so it’s important to consider if it is a good fit for your lifestyle. If you are looking for a durable, affordable wedding band with a lasting silvery-grey sheen, tungsten is the best choice for you. Explore our selection of tungsten carbide wedding bands to find a timeless or unique style that suits you and will last a lifetime.