Tungsten vs. Tungsten Carbide Rings – Is There a Difference?

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Many people use the terms tungsten and tungsten carbide interchangeably, but these are not the same thing. Sometimes, lower quality tungsten alloys are sold as tungsten carbide. Knowing the difference between these terms will help you to purchase wisely.

What is Tungsten?

Tungsten, also known as wolfram, refers to the chemical element, the metal itself. On the periodic table, tungsten is numbered 74 and is known for its hardness, durability, high melting point, high density and is somewhat rare. It is dark gray in color and known for being very difficult to work with.

Tungsten is very brittle and not very malleable, making it hard to form into rings or other jewelry designs.  As a result, it is often compounded into alloys.

What is Tungsten Carbide?

White Tungsten Carbide
White tungsten carbide 9mm band. Check price here.

Tungsten carbide refers to the alloy, which is created by mixing tungsten with other substances. In order to make tungsten more malleable, it is mixed in equal parts with carbon to form a powder and then combined with a binder such as nickel or cobalt.

The resulting metal is known as tungsten carbide and can be shaped into various items, such as wedding bands, golf clubs, and even saw blades.

Tungsten vs. Tungsten Carbide Durability

Tungsten wedding ring
Tungsten carbide rings are known as the forever polished rings. See this here.

While tungsten carbide has many of the properties of tungsten itself, including its durability, strength and high melting point, it is a much better metal.

Tungsten ranks at 7.5 on the Mohs scale. It is very hard and durable but can still get scratched and damaged over time. Tungsten carbide is extremely scratch resistant at Mohs 8 to 9, and is the hardest metal used in jewelry.

Tungsten carbide rings are highly durable and are known as the ‘forever polished rings’ because they don’t easily acquire scratches or lose their luster. However, they cannot be resized and must be changed if the ring becomes too tight or too loose.

Is Tungsten Carbide Hypoallergenic?

black tungsten men's wedding ring
Look for tungsten with nickel but avoid cobalt in tungsten alloys. See more tungsten rings here.

Before you purchase a tungsten carbide band, check with the vendor about the metals included in the alloy. Reputable vendors should give you this information.

Avoid purchasing tungsten carbide with cobalt. This is not recommended for use in jewelry as it can cause allergies and staining of skin. Tungsten carbide with nickel is the better option and is hypoallergenic. You might wonder how this can be, as nickel is usually the cause of skin irritations from metal. However, this is because when creating the alloy, the nickel binds to the tungsten, and loses its irritant properties.

Most vendors will use the terms tungsten and tungsten carbide interchangeably, and some can sell inferior alloys at higher prices. This is why it is important to buy from a reputable vendor and to obtain information about the metal prior to purchase.

Is Tungsten Carbide a Good Choice for a Wedding Ring?

Tungsten bridal set with meteorite inlay. See this here.

Tungsten is a great choice for wedding rings because of its incredible scratch resistance and durability. What’s more, it’s also affordable and has a nice comfortable weight to it, although some find it a little too heavy.

Because it’s so hard, it doesn’t bend but instead can shatter or break. This is a huge plus if you’re in an accident where the ring will be more likely to break and fall off your finger, rather than bend and twist into your finger. Tungsten rings come in a variety of designs, including inlays and various finishes.

The downside is that tungsten can’t be resized because of its hardness. It’s also not a valuable metal and can’t be turned into cash, like gold or platinum.

Where to Buy Tungsten Rings

As tungsten becomes more popular, it’s becoming increasingly easier to find high-quality tungsten rings in various designs.

We recommend the following retailers. While they’re known for being online diamond giants, they also have excellent collections of alternative metal rings.

Why: Superior diamond imaging, competitive prices, high quality, wide range

An online giant in the diamond space, James Allen a stunning collection of high-quality diamonds. The images and videos are unparalleled in quality and is the same as viewing the diamond through a jeweler’s loupe. Browse their site to check the range of tungsten rings on offer.

Why: Competitive prices, wide range, great quality

One of the most well-known online diamond retailers, Blue Nile offers a massive exclusive online diamond inventory. Search diamonds and gemstones here at competitive prices, solid after-sales policies, and good customer service. Their selection of exclusive wedding bands in over 10 types of metals make this an excellent source to take your search.

Wrapping Up

Tungsten and tungsten carbide are often used interchangeably, but they’re different versions of the same metal. Tungsten refers to the element, while tungsten carbide refers to the alloy.

As a jewelry metal, it’s an excellent option, offering several benefits. However, there are some tungsten problems and concerns that people may have. We have responded to those in this article.

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