If you want something different for your wedding ring, there are many alternative metals to choose from. One very popular option is cobalt (a.k.a. cobalt chrome) which has many advantages that makes it increasingly sought after.
However, compared to the classics like gold and platinum, cobalt is relatively unknown and there’s a bit of misinformation surrounding it. Let’s clear this up and take a quick look at the pros and cons of cobalt wedding rings and if you should buy.
- Cobalt Pros – Reasons to Buy Cobalt
- Cobalt Cons – Reasons Not to Buy Cobalt
- Our Favorite Cobalt Ring Designs
- Some Other Things to Know About Cobalt
- Buying Cobalt Wedding Ring? – What to Keep in Mind
Cobalt Pros – Reasons to Buy Cobalt
Cobalt has many benefits which contributes to its increasing popularity. These are:
1- Cobalt Colors
Cobalt is the only metal that looks very similar to white gold without needing the rhodium plating that white gold requires. If you’re looking for white gold but don’t want the periodic maintenance or the high price tag, cobalt is an excellent option.
Cobalt also comes in black, but if you’re going for this look, avoid buying a plated black cobalt ring. Rather, look for a ring where the entire ring is black. This is more durable and easy to maintain.
Cobalt can also be plated to exhibit other colors, such as yellow or rose gold hues. Note that when plated, the hypoallergenic nature and ease of maintenance of the ring can be compromised.
2- Has high luster
When polished, cobalt is extremely lustrous and shiny. It’s highly reflective and has long-lasting luster, which requires minimal maintenance. Because cobalt doesn’t tarnish or rust easily, the luster remains for a long time.
3- Very Durable
For a wedding ring which is meant to be worn daily for a lifetime (for most people anyway), durability is a primary concern. Cobalt ranks high in this department. It’s extremely resistant to scratching and corrosion. Cobalt doesn’t shatter, bend or warp even under intense pressure. It’s much harder than precious metals and perfect for daily wear. For reference, a cobalt ring is four times harder than platinum (the most durable precious metal).
4- Easy on the Pocket
Cobalt isn’t as cheap as metals like stainless steel, but its price is nowhere near what platinum or white gold costs. If a white gold ring costs $750, the cobalt version would only be around $170, making it the perfect option for someone with a budget restriction. Other things apart from the metal can contribute to the overall price of a cobalt ring including other materials used, quality and branding. But even with all this, cobalt would still be significantly less expensive.
5- Comfortable Weight
Cobalt feels similar to white gold in its weight, which is a neutral, comfortable feeling. Some metals, like titanium or carbon fiber, can be extremely and eerily light while others, like tungsten, can be very heavy. Cobalt is in the happy middle and tends to suit most people.
6- Hypoallergenic in Nature
Cobalt is hypoallergenic in itself and is bio-compatible. It’s used in dental and join implants and to make surgical instruments. It’s perfect for piercings and for people with sensitive skin. It’s a safe metal and has no toxins. However, if cobalt is alloyed with nickel, this can be a problem because most people with metal sensitivities are allergic to nickel. Always check whether your cobalt alloy is nickel free.
7- Easy to Maintain
If you hate jewelry maintenance, cobalt might be the metal for you. Cobalt is great at resisting tarnishing, damage and scratches making it perfect if you lead an active lifestyle or use your hands a lot for work. Of course, it’s not scratch proof so you’d still have to take care of it to a reasonable extent, but it’s much easier to look after than white gold or platinum. If you’re cobalt ring is plated, the plating may flake off over time or wear thin, showing the real color of the metal underneath. If you want to avoid this, stick with cobalt’s natural color.
8- Can be Cut
Regardless of what some might say, cobalt rings can be cut in an emergency. While it may require a little more effort than gold or platinum due to its hardness, it can definitely be cut off safely.
Cobalt Cons – Reasons Not to Buy Cobalt
Like all things, there are two sides to the story. Here are some downsides of cobalt that you might want to consider before you buy.
1- Hard to Resize
This is a theme with most of alternative metals. Resizing a cobalt ring can be difficult because of the strength of cobalt. While it can be sized up or down by half to one sizes, you might find most jewelers discouraging you from doing this or not undertaking the job at all because it takes effort. Make sure you get the right size from the start and note that finger sizes do change over time. You might have to replace the ring down the track, if you can’t get it resized. If you’re sentimentally attached to the ring itself, this might be difficult to do. Some couples don’t mind this, saying that because cobalt rings cost so little in the first place, it doesn’t matter if it’s replaced (or lost) down the track.
2- No Investment Value
When you buy a gold ring, you know that even 50 years later, the value of the ring will be equal to the then value of gold. Not so with cobalt. It has no liquidity and isn’t a tradeable item. It’s not a precious metal and has no investment value. It’s a practical choice but you won’t be able to pawn it for much if times get rough.
3- Difficult to Engrave
This ties back to durability. Cobalt rings can be laser engraved, but traditional methods of engraving don’t work on it. This won’t be a major issue because most retailers do laser engraving anyway. Just ask before you commit.
4- Limited Designs
Because of its increasing popularity, the range of cobalt ring designs has been expanding but there’s a limit to what jewelers can do with cobalt. Although it’s workable, it’s not easy to meld gemstones and cobalt together into elaborate designs and you’d be hard-pressed to find intricate metalwork on cobalt rings. There’s also a limitation on the range of women’s cobalt wedding bands and it’s treated more as a masculine metal. Over time, this may change but for now, unfortunately, it’s the case.
Having said this, cobalt can come in all the popular wedding ring finishes (satin, polished, hammered, textured and so on), a variety of thicknesses, inlays, metal and gemstone pairings and even engraved designs. Take a look at some of our favorite cobalt ring designs.
Our Favorite Cobalt Ring Designs
This matte finish cobalt ring has a low sheen look ideal for an understated appeal.
This cobalt ring with wood inlay is the perfect example of how cobalt pairs well with other materials.
Black cobalt is one of the most popular cobalt colors and has a modern, stylish look perfect for the contemporary man.
This beautiful ring features a simple engraving on the surface, contrasting black and silver hues. It’s also got a hardwood sleeve which makes the ring gorgeous inside and out.
Another glorious matte cobalt ring, this one features beveled edges which takes it to the next level of style.
These matching cobalt ring set looks exactly like white gold that it’s impossible to tell them apart simply by looking. And that’s not even the best part. Check out how affordable these rings are.
Unlike in the past, you can now find cobalt ring design paired with precious gemstones, like this beautiful cobalt ring with diamonds set flush all around the band.
Some Other Things to Know About Cobalt
If you love the look of the cobalt rings we’ve featured and you’re thinking that it might be for you, here are a couple more things to keep in mind.
- Cobalt Mining
Cobalt is a transition metal, which means that it needs to be alloyed with other metals to make it more durable, malleable and wearable. Pure cobalt doesn’t exist – it’s typically combined with metals like nickel, copper or iron and is generally considered a by-product of mining these metals.
- Cobalt Alloys
Common cobalt alloys include chromium, iron and tungsten, with nickel sometimes used as well. Due to the high chromium content often found in cobalt alloys, the metal is sometimes called cobalt chrome. Cobalt is relatively new and until recently, wasn’t used in jewelry making.
- Cobalt Name
Cobalt gets its name from the German word ‘kobald’ meaning evil spirit. The name was given by miners who were superstitious about mining cobalt as they feared toxic fumes that came from arsenic which is also often found among cobalt ores. Of course, the miners of the time didn’t realise that the culprit was arsenic – instead, they blamed the kobalds, the underground spirits that caused them grief.
- Cobalt Rarity
Cobalt is not that rare and ranks number 32 in terms of global abundance. Although it’s not rare, it’s a valuable metal and is considered a Critical Raw Material, due to its importance and numerous applications. Today it’s used to create powerful magnets and superalloys. It’s uses are far-reaching, including the technology and medical industries as well as jewelry.
Buying Cobalt Wedding Ring? – What to Keep in Mind
Cobalt is perfect if you’re after a practical, affordable ring that’s also highly durable and looks as good as any precious metal.
Finding cobalt at the local jewelers might prove difficult, because this isn’t a mainstream metal. What’s more, some jewelers prefer not to carry less expensive alternatives to white gold or platinum, due to economic reasons.
Taking your search online will open up lots of options and a variety of price points to choose from:
- For high quality workmanship, beautiful designs and reasonable prices, check out James Allen. They’re well known for their customer service and streamlined shopping experience.
- Blue Nile has an excellent range of cobalt rings, in a variety of finishes. These are competitively priced and gorgeous to look at.
- Etsy is an excellent place to search for artisan, unique designs that you wouldn’t encounter in your typical retail stores.