Are Titanium and Tungsten Good Choices for Jewellery?

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One of our favourite guest authors, retired jeweller Calla Gold, recently wrote in her own blog that one should not buy titanium or tungsten wedding bands.  After publishing this article, she received more comments than most of her other writings.  If there are jewellers advising against these metals, then should manufacturers of jewellery, and those selling jewellery, continue to provide titanium and tungsten rings?

First, let’s discuss titanium, which is actually a versatile metal.  As we wrote in a previous article, Titanium: This Lightweight Does Some Heavy Lifting in the Metals Industry,

“Versatile titanium (Ti) can be found everywhere, from tennis rackets to jet engines. Titanium alloys are used in planes, armour plating, naval ships, spacecraft, and missiles because of their high tensile strength, light weight, extraordinary corrosion resistance, and ability to withstand extreme temperatures. Welded titanium pipe is used in the chemical industry for its corrosion resistance, and its use is growing in petroleum drilling because of its strength, light weight and corrosion resistance. Titanium alloyed with vanadium is used in the outer skin of aircraft, fire walls, landing gear and hydraulic tubing.”

Tungsten, also called wolfram, is a strong refractory metal. The USGS reports that “Nearly 60% of the tungsten used in the United States was used in cemented carbide parts for cutting and wear-resistant applications, primarily in the construction, metalworking, mining, and oil and gas drilling industries. The remaining tungsten was used to make various alloys and specialty steels; electrodes, filaments, wires, and other components for electrical, electronic, heating, lighting, and welding applications; and chemicals for various applications.”

So why does Gold think it’s a bad idea for rings to be made of these two metals? Besides the fact that tungsten and titanium are not considered precious metals, which are the traditional representations of a long-term commitment — she thinks it’s impossible for jewellers to work with those metals.  If a ring needs to be altered – which is often needed after years of wearing – one might be out of luck. Where gold and platinum rings can be easily sized, soldered, and repaired, Gold notes that titanium and tungsten are not solderable or sizable. If the size of your finger changes over the life of your wedding ring, you might have to trash it and buy a new one instead of getting it re-sized.

Gold also referred to a news story where a man’s finger swelled, and the ring could not be removed with normal ring cutters or firefighter specialized cutting gear.  It took hospital bolt cutters, some heavy-duty paperclips, and two physicians to remove the ring from the man’s finger before it did tissue damage.  Another blog reader commented that he noticed the fading of the shiny finish on his tungsten carbide wedding band.

So those very characteristics that make titanium and tungsten strong, light, and wear-resistant, make it a bad choice for jewellery that may need to be altered.

What if you’re not sure what the metal content is in a piece of jewellery?  One of the best ways to accurately assess if a piece of jewellery is made of gold, platinum, titanium, tungsten, (or some other material) is to use an XRF precious metals analyser. Many leading jewellers utilize these instruments to confirm precious metal content in various pieces of jewellery and other metal items they have in their shop. This X-ray Fluorescence technology is a fast, simple, non-destructive solution for precious metal analysis. You can identify and measure the metal content, as well as determine the presence and concentration of other trace, alloying elements, and dangerous heavy elements, which could impact health and the valuation of the pieces – not to mention how shiny, dull, or inflexible they may become.

And dull and inflexible are the last things most folks want represented in their wedding ring.

Resource for Jewelry Businesses and Manufacturers:

  • Watch the webinar, Not All that Glitters is Gold, to learn how to improve the bottom line of your precious metal business by doing the correct chemical analysis.

Precious Metals, XRF

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