Tungsten and titanium are two metals that are slowly gaining popularity in the jewelry industry thanks to their hypoallergenicity, strength, durability, and the fact that they are both naturally beautiful. But how do these two metals compare? And should you choose tungsten over titanium jewelry or vice versa?
This article will answer all these and more questions about the properties of titanium and tungsten and how these two metals stack up against each other.
But first things first…
What is tungsten made of?
Tungsten, better known as wolfram (Swedish for Heavy Stone), is regarded as one of the toughest metals on earth. This naturally occurring metal is very dense, and it’s almost impossible to meet.
In its pure form, tungsten appears as a silvery-white metal. Interestingly, tungsten can be found in a powdered form, and it’s combustible and ignites spontaneously. The natural form of tungsten is made of 5 stable isotopes and a total of 21 other isotopes.
Tungsten is used in jewelry making because of its durability and the unique silver luster that makes it stand out, and it’s also the heaviest metals that’s used in jewelry making. It boasts one of the highest melting points for metals, and it’s also among the hardest and the most scratch-resistant metals. With these properties, tungsten is, today, the most popular metal used in making wedding rings for men in America, and it’s gaining popularity in the rest of the world.
That said, tungsten shouldn’t be confused with tungsten carbide. Because in as much as these terms are used interchangeably, they are differences between them. For instance, pure tungsten is quite hard and dense, and it cannot be used in jewelry. What is used in tungsten rings is tungsten carbide, and it’s made of 85% pure tungsten and 15% carbon, cobalt, or nickel.
Pure tungsten isn’t used in jewelry also because its extreme hardness makes it brittle, and it’s only by mixing it with carbon that the brittleness is reduced, and the metal is more durable and a lot easier to work with in making jewelry. In this regard, cobalt and nickel act as binders, and they hold the metals together, allowing for easy shaping of tungsten carbide.
The most common tungsten carbide used in rings is the nickel binder, and it’s what makes the best quality metal used for wedding rings. The cobalt binder isn’t used often because cobalt reacts with different body oils causing irritation.
Besides tungsten carbide, the other form of tungsten used in jewelry is tungsten steel, and it’s as strong and durable as tungsten carbide.
What is the tungsten Mohs scale?
Before we look at tungsten’s Moh’s scale reading, what’s the Mohs scale?
Mohs scale of hardness or roughness can be defined as the measure of a mineral’s resistance to scratching. The hardness of the metals tested on this scale ranges from 1 (softest – Talc) to 10 (hardest – Diamond). Essentially, the metal’s hardness is dependent on the crystallographic direction and the strength of the bonds between the atoms and molecules in the crystals. This measurement standard is important because the mineral’s scratch hardness/ resistance is directly related to the manner in which the chemical bonds in the material break apart.
The hardness of a mineral or metal is important because it determines how that mineral will be transformed and polished.
Pure tungsten is rated a 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness, meaning it’s as hard as a diamond. But as mentioned above, pure tungsten isn’t used in jewelry, but tungsten carbide is the version of tungsten used. Tungsten carbide is rated between 9 and 9.5 on the Mohs scale, which means that it’s pretty tough and durable.
What is titanium made of?
For a while now, titanium has been one of the most popular metals used in jewelry, and we are not just talking about wedding rings but also earrings and other types of body piercing jewelry; and its demand just keeps going up.
The main reason for this is that titanium is one of the strongest metals on earth and also in jewelry making. It is resistant to corrosion. This metal is found in medium-grey but often has a black finish.
What you may not know is that titanium is one of the newer (relatively) metals as it was discovered in 1791, unlike other metals like platinum that was discovered in 3000BC or earlier.
Today, the titanium that is used in jewelry is an alloy with 90% pure titanium and around 10% aluminum and vanadium. The percentages of these metals may vary, though.
What is the titanium Mohs scale?
Titanium is ranked a 6 on the Mohs scale of hardness. As a result, it’s an excellent choice for you if you are looking for high-strength metals that offer the best level of corrosion resistance. It’s also lightweight and safe on the skin, which is why it’s one of the best metal options for persons with sensitive skin.
Is tungsten stronger than titanium?
Yes. Tungsten (and tungsten carbide) is a stronger metal than titanium, but when used in jewelry, both metals offer some of the most desirable features, and they both make some of the most elegant and durable metals.
But with their differences in hardness levels under consideration, you should know that the extreme hardness of tungsten carbide makes it brittle and almost impossible to resize.
The strength of tungsten is the reason why this metal is one of the most popular choices for men’s wedding rings. But this is not to say that titanium isn’t strong – it is strong, and since it’s non-allergenic and rust-free/ corrosion/free, refined titanium is used in hip replacements and in 100% hypoallergenic body jewelry.
Now, while tungsten is a high-strength metal, it’s fragile (even as tungsten carbide), and it would be scratched easily by other metals like titanium.
Is tungsten stronger than a diamond?
If you are wondering if there are other metals that are harder than diamonds, the answer is a surprising YES. Although diamonds are considered the hardest minerals are known to man, scientists now consider a material known as wurtzite boron nitride (w-BN), a metal that’s stronger than diamonds.
Tungsten is not, however, stronger than diamond.
Is tungsten stronger than steel?
Yes. Pure tungsten, tungsten carbide, and tungsten steel are all stronger than steel. However, if you choose to break down the meaning of the word strong(er), you will come across other terms life higher tensile strength or higher stiffness/ hardness.
And comparing the tensile strength of tungsten carbide with steel, for example, reveals that tungsten carbide isn’t stronger than steel, and it’s actually fragile, with little to no plasticity. But in terms of hardness, tungsten carbide is harder than steel.
Tungsten carbide’s strength is up to 700,000psi in compression and, in this regard, stronger than steel.
The high-strength and hardness of tungsten carbide is the reason why tungsten carbide is used to cut steel.
If you are looking at two sets of rings, one made of tungsten carbide and the other titanium, but you are not sure which of these two metals would be ideal for you, the information shared above should guide you best.
Keep in mind that if the price is the deciding factor, titanium is significantly cheaper than tungsten carbide rings. But if you are to choose between titanium and tungsten by looking at the features and variety, tungsten takes the day.