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Gone are the days when the only 3 viable materials for rings and wedding bands were just gold, silver, and platinum. Nowadays, with the advancement of modern technologies, the industry has harnessed and created many other great metallic and non-metallic materials that make for excellent wedding bands. And one of them is zirconium.
This fascinating material has wide-ranging applications and is excellent in use for industrial purposes like nuclear reactors as well as in jewelry. Be careful not to confuse zirconium with zirconia, however, as the latter – also known as Cubic Zirconia – is a man-made material with very different characteristic.
So, what exactly is zirconium and why should you consider it for your wedding band?
What Is A Zirconium Wedding Band?
Zirconium is a natural element that is usually derived by purifying other minerals such as zircon with chlorine. This means that zirconium isn’t found in its “native form” but needs to go through an extraction process. Fortunately, the purifying process is inexpensive and allows for large quantities of zirconium to be produced at a very low price.
Zirconium’s black color doesn’t require plating. See this here.
After it gets produced in this manner, zirconium has a silver-ish or greyish color at first. However, it’s typically heat treated and exposed afterward in order to oxidize the metal and give it a rich black color. This is one of the main draws of zirconium as most metals can only achieve such a black color through plating or antiquing which tends to fade over time. The black color of heat treated Zirconium, on the other hand, doesn’t fade, doesn’t tarnish, and doesn’t change color – it’s permanent.
After going through this treatment, black zirconium gets a very nice feel as the oxidized top layer feels like ceramic while also being as hard as sapphire. The surface can be given various finishes, such as brushed, hammered or polished.
Zirconium Rings – The Pros
Like many of the modern jewelry materials that have risen as alternatives to traditional metals, zirconium outshines them in more than one regard. Here we’ve summarized the key benefits you can expect from this wedding band material:
Zirconium is much more budget-friendly than other jewelry materials. There are less expensive materials out there, but zirconium remains relatively affordably. You can expect excellent zirconium rings and wedding bands in the lower 3-digit price range such as this Sound Wave black zirconium ring. Of course, you may also find more pricey options such as this black zirconium ring with a 14k rose gold sleeve – there’s plenty of variety to choose from.
Beautiful Black Color
Treated zirconium has a permanent black color that doesn’t fade which is very rare in the jewelry world. The black and dark grey colors zirconium comes in are very much in fashion today as black has become the new gold for wedding rings. Modern couples tend to gravitate towards the darker colors that zirconium offers, especially in combination with other metals and gemstones.
Zirconium is a malleable and workable metal, making it easy for jewelers to craft designs and include various finishes to their jewelry. This means that zirconium wedding bands are available in a large variety of different designs, compared to other alternative metals. They can also be paired with gemstones and other metals for more design options.
Durability and Hardness
Zirconium is overall very strong, durable, and shatterproof. This sets it in the same category as titanium and tungsten carbide so you won’t have to worry about whether it’s going to last you a lifetime or not – it probably will. Even though the metal is very hard, in an emergency it can typically be cut off the finger without causing complications.
Resistant to Corrosion
One more thing zirconium is known for is its very high resistance to corrosion. It’s both biocompatible and non-toxic – great properties that allow it to be usable in the space and aeronautic industries, as well as in the medical industry. This also makes it ideal for jewelry applications as it gives zirconium a prolonged life in excellent condition.
Zirconium rings are very easy to clean and maintain – they can be kept clean with a piece of cloth and some warm, soapy water. Plus, they require no replating or polishing as their dark color is permanent.
Rustic black zirconium wedding band. See it here.
Zirconium is a relatively new metal in use for wedding bands, but it’s rising in popularity. It’s excellent for someone who wants something different and out of the ordinary. What’s more, zirconium rings are unisex so getting your wedding bands to match will be no trouble at all.
Zirconium Rings – The Cons
Of course, no material is perfect, and that goes for zirconium as well. Regardless of all the pros, there are a few downsides that you need to bear in mind.
Like many other modern jewelry materials, it’s very difficult to resize zirconium. It’s not impossible, but the costs and process generally aren’t worth the effort. Finger sizes tend to change with time which means that you’re ring may not fit down the track. Some vendors may offer an exchange policy for when a ring that can’t be resized doesn’t fit anymore. Check this at the time of purchase. Most people want a ring that lasts a lifetime so changing your wedding band for another can be an unpleasant experience for a lot of people.
While zirconium allows for a variety of shapes, styles, and designs, it doesn’t come in many colors – mostly just black and grey. This is partly offset by the fact that it can be easily combined with other materials for a more colorful design but the fact remains that it’s limited to just these two colors.
Fad or Forever?
As a newer jewelry material alternative, zirconium doesn’t have the same classic feel as gold, silver, and platinum. It’s popular, yes, and it will likely be popular for decades to come, given its excellent qualities, but it still hasn’t passed the test of time.
Should I Buy A Zirconium Wedding Band?
With all these benefits of zirconium rings it’s not difficult to see why they are growing in popularity. They bring a lot to the table and offer some things that the more classic wedding band materials don’t. Still, whether you should opt for zirconium or for another material is ultimately up to your personal preferences and values. Here’s a quick summary of the main reasons why you might want to consider zirconium wedding bands:
- They offer a new and different look for wedding bands.
- They come at moderate prices that won’t break the bank.
- Zirconium rings are very easy to clean and maintain.
- The gorgeous black color of zirconium rings is quite unique and eye-catching.
- Zirconium rings are much more durable and long-lasting then ones made of other materials.
- Zirconium wedding bands are available in a lot of designs, including in combination with other materials and gemstones.
And, if any of the following drawbacks are a deal-breaker for you, then don’t buy a zirconium wedding band:
- Zirconium rings are popular but aren’t traditional
- Wedding bands made of zirconium can’t be resized easily.
- As they are moderately priced, zirconium rings don’t carry the prestigious tag of some precious metals.
Looking to purchase a zirconium wedding band? Check out Etsy’s collection for inspiration.