As Jewelry Shopping Guide editors, we write about things that we love and we think you’ll like too. We often have affiliate partnerships, and may generate some revenue from these links at no cost to you.
When it comes to jewelry, there are a number of new metals on the market that have sprung up in popularity. Tungsten (also known as tungsten carbide, although there are differences between the two) and titanium are two industrial metals that are commonly chosen for wedding bands, especially men’s wedding rings.
But which is better and which should I choose? Here we answer 9 frequently asked questions regarding tungsten vs titanium.
Which metal is more durable?
Tungsten is the stronger of the two metals and also more scratch resistant. On the Mohs scale, tungsten carbide ranks as the hardest metal at 8.5 to 9. Titanium sits further down the ranks at 6.
What does this mean for your jewelry?
Tungsten can only be scratched by a substance with a harder ranking. Possibly, the only harder material that your tungsten jewelry is likely to come into contact with is diamonds (Mohs 10). Hence, tungsten is called the ‘forever polished’ metal because the surface remains virtually free of scuffs and marks regardless of the exposure it is subject to.
However, does this mean tungsten is indestructible? No, because tungsten is extremely brittle. Think of it like glass as opposed to gold. If you drop a tungsten ring hard enough, it can shatter and break.
What about titanium? Titanium is harder than gold and platinum and is not prone to corroding, tarnishing, breaking or scratching. At very high temperatures, titanium can oxidize, but this is a rare occurrence.
When under high pressure, tungsten will shatter into many pieces while titanium will bend and become deformed.
Which looks better?
Both metals are commonly found in gunmetal or silver colors and fashioned into contemporary sleek designs. However, titanium can be anodized into other popular colors, which allows for a wider range of design choices. Titanium can also be polished to gain a ‘satin’ finish, which adds a textural look to the metal.
Tungsten can also be found in different colors, but it is generally plated to acquire those colors. What happens then is that over time the plating wears off, requiring you to have the piece re-plated.
Are tungsten and titanium 100% pure when used in jewelry?
When it comes to jewelry, it is very rare that a 100% pure metal is used. Even gold, platinum and silver are alloyed with other metals to promote durability and appearance.
Tungsten cannot be used to make jewelry in its pure form as it is simply too brittle and difficult to work with. However, when mixed with carbon, nickel or cobalt, it becomes a durable and workable metal. The proportions can vary, but generally equal parts of carbon and tungsten produces the desirable tungsten carbide alloy.
Likewise, titanium is also alloyed to promote workability. Titanium alloys often contain 90% purity combined with 10% of vanadium and aluminium.
Is it safe to wear tungsten and titanium?
Of the two titanium is 100% biocompatible and safe for almost everyone. Titanium is often used for surgical implants and for body jewelry as it is not known to cause any negative reactions.
High-quality tungsten carbide is generally hypoallergenic. Although it may contain nickel, this is only a very small amount and does not cause any reactions even to people with nickel allergies. However, tungsten containing cobalt can cause skin reactions.
If this is something that concerns you, check with your vendor whether cobalt has been used in the tungsten alloy. Most retailers will label their titanium as ‘cobalt-free’.
What’s the value of tungsten and titanium?
Both tungsten and titanium are very affordable metals. They are generally considered cheap and not valuable in a monetary sense. The quality, design and craftsmanship are what determines the price of titanium and tungsten jewelry, with rings ranging in price from $10 to $1000. However, titanium is generally less expensive than tungsten as it is easier for jewelers to work with.
Some people choose tungsten or titanium rings and upgrade them to gold or platinum as soon as they have the budget for it. Others prefer having a ring that doesn’t have a high monetary value as this reduces the risk of losing or damaging it.
Can I resize a tungsten or titanium ring?
Tungsten rings cannot be resized, so if your ring does not fit, you will have to change the ring altogether. This is why reputable vendors offer a lifetime warranty where you can change your tungsten ring if it doesn’t fit anymore.
Titanium rings are also notoriously difficult to resize, but some jewelers may be willing to offer this service. Because titanium cannot be soldered, altering the size of the ring depends on more complicated techniques and the results may be very limited.
As time goes on, fingers change in size, so if you have a tungsten or titanium ring you may have to deal with the issue of your ring not fitting at some stage. Changing the ring is a practical and affordable step to take, but for some it undermines the purpose of a wedding ring as a symbol of love and long-term commitment.
Which is the heavier metal?
Tungsten is a very heavy metal that feels substantial and solid when you wear it. Titanium is the total opposite and is so light that it has been compared to plastic and feathers (strange considering how strong it is). Someone once mentioned that their titanium ring was so light, it felt a little ‘eerie’.
Generally, a heavier metal feels more valuable while a light one feels cheap. However, this totally depends on your preferences. While some people like the feel of a solid ring on their finger, others like the feeling of a barely-there ring.
Can I engrave a tungsten or titanium ring?
Some jewelers say that a tungsten ring cannot be engraved but don’t be fooled by this. Both these metals can be engraved, but the methods used are different.
Titanium can be engraved in the same methods used to engrave other metals such as platinum and gold. Tungsten, on the other hand, requires laser engraving as it is too hard for traditional engraving tools.
The benefit of laser engraving is that it is smooth and doesn’t contain grooves, making it easier to keep clean. Some people prefer laser engraving even for titanium rings.
Where do I buy titanium or tungsten rings?
Because both these metals are very popular for wedding rings, it is easy to find a ring that suits you. While a brick and mortar store may have some options available, searching online will give you room to compare prices and styles in comfort. The only downside is that you cannot try on the ring and may be unsure of the size before you buy.
Amazon has an impressive range of titanium and tungsten rings, ranging from a few dollars to several thousand dollars. There is bound to be one to suit your budget and style.