There is a general conception circulating around that tungsten rings can’t be cut off in an emergency. This is perpetuated by some jewelers who say that you could end up with a seriously injured finger because in an emergency, tungsten is impossible to cut off.
Admittedly, tungsten is very difficult to work with. This is because tungsten is incredibly hard and brittle, ranking at a 9.5 on the Mohs scale. Just about the only thing that can scratch a tungsten band is a diamond. This makes tungsten difficult to mold, solder or work with in general.
However, this doesn’t mean that tungsten can’t be removed in an emergency. It just means that it literally can’t be cut off like most other rings. To reiterate – while tungsten cannot be cut off, it can definitely be safely removed when required.
So how is a tungsten ring removed? Because tungsten is extremely brittle, it doesn’t bend when subject to extreme force or pressure. Instead, it shatters or cracks into smaller pieces.
This in itself is an attractive option.
Think about it. If you’re wearing a gold or platinum ring, and your finger gets crushed, the ring will bend into your finger, causing pain and injury. If you’re wearing a tungsten ring and this happens, the ring will crack and fall off your finger, reducing the likelihood of injury.
If there’s a medical emergency, removing a tungsten ring is fairly easy. There are a few different ways to do it.
1- Using a Hammer: Use a hammer to strike your tungsten ring around the band. Take care when doing this as you don’t want to strike the ring too hard and cause injury to your finger. After a few strikes, the ring gets ‘softened’ and eventually falls apart. This video demonstrates this:
2- Using Pliers: This is probably the more practical and safer way to remove a tungsten ring in an emergency. Most hospitals and emergency rooms use this method, and often have specific equipment on site that does the job. Using a pair of vice grip pliers, or similar tool, gently squeeze on the ring until it fractures and falls off your finger. It typically doesn’t take more than 3 or 4 cracks with the pliers for the ring to shatter. Check out how to do this safely in the following video:
Ceramic wedding bands are also removed in the same way as tungsten, using vice to shatter the ring. Most other metals, like gold, silver, titanium, palladium, cobalt and tantalum, are removed using traditional ring cutting devices, like a jewelers saw. If you’re tungsten ring has an inlay of a bendable metal, then both removal methods will have to be used – first shatter the tungsten and then cut the precious metal inlay.
Interestingly, while some people make it seem as if tungsten is dangerous to wear because of this ‘difficult to cut’ characteristic, in reality metals like titanium or cobalt take much longer to remove, making them more of a hazard.
As one reader so aptly put it:
In an emergency, a tungsten ring isn’t any more difficult to remove than a gold or platinum ring. In fact, it might actually be easier to remove and therefore safer because it can easily be shattered with vice grip pliers.
If you want to learn more about tungsten rings, read our guide here.