The difference between tungsten and tungsten carbide is much like the difference between silver and sterling silver. One term refers to the individual metal while the other refers to its alloy.
Although tungsten is a very popular metal, especially for wedding rings for men, most people don’t know this difference and tend to use these terms interchangeably. As we’ll see, this isn’t correct.
Knowing your tungsten alloys will help you to choose your tungsten ring wisely. Let’s dive right in.
What is Tungsten?
Tungsten (also called wolfram) is the name given to the chemical element, the metal in its pure form. Its symbol is W and the atomic number is 74 on the periodic table.
Here are some of tungsten’s characteristics:
- It has the highest melting point of all metals
- The metal has a gray color in powder form
- Tungsten has very high density and is one of the heaviest metals
- Extremely brittle and cannot be worked into jewelry in its pure form
- Extremely tough and hard (only when made into compounds). In its pure form, it’s quite soft.
- It has the highest tensile strength of all metals
- It’s highly resistant to corrosion
What is Tungsten Carbide?
White Polished Tungsten Carbide Ring. Check price here.
Because of the issues with workability and durability of pure tungsten, the metal is commonly combined with other elements and formed into alloys. These alloys are what is known as tungsten carbide. Tungsten carbide consists equal parts of tungsten and carbon which is mixed together then combined with nickel or cobalt which serve as binders. Sometimes, lower quality tungsten alloys are made by combining tungsten with a weaker material. These are typically less expensive and also less durable.
Here are the characteristics of tungsten carbide:
- It’s malleable and can be formed into various jewelry designs
- Tungsten carbide is extremely durable, ranking at 9 to 9.5 on the Mohs scale (diamonds are the hardest at 10)
- The metal is extremely shiny and lustrous
- Tungsten carbide is twice as stiff as steel and about 10 times harder than 18k gold
- Tungsten carbide looks similar to more valuable white metals like platinum
- Rings made of tungsten carbide require minimal maintenance
- It’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to resize tungsten rings
Tungsten Carbide Shopping Tips
Needless to say, tungsten carbide is the alloy to look out for when buying tungsten rings. Always carefully check the product description and if in doubt, check with the retailer about the tungsten alloy. What you should be looking for is the tungsten and carbon alloy.
Some retailers will use tungsten and tungsten carbide as though they’re the same, so it’s important to check the product description. You’ll notice the same issue with silver and sterling silver jewelry also.
Hammered Roes Gold Tungsten Carbide Ring by Luxuria Jewelers. Check price here.
Tungsten carbide doesn’t always come in white. It can be crafted to feature a range of colors, including black, rose gold and yellow gold. This doesn’t mean that the alloy is different, it just means that certain plating techniques have been employed.
By knowing this information about the difference between tungsten and tungsten carbide, you’ll be able to purchase a quality ring that has all the benefits of tungsten carbide.