What are the metals used in rings and how do their properties vary?
Style counts, but so does the correct metal…
Tungsten Carbide Rings
Tungsten carbide is an alloy made up of tungsten and other metals often including carbon, nickel and titanium which add enhanced and desirable properties such as strength, hardness, shine resistance, durability, and everlasting sheen. Due to the hardness of tungsten, its only weakness is hard force or impact which may cause the metal to shatter. Dropping the ring on a hard surface or hitting it against a brick wall may cause it to break into 2-3 pieces. Just like ALL rings, a level of care is still required in order to keep your tungsten ring in good condition.
- Scratch resistant
- Holds its shine, won’t discolour or tarnish
- Weight feels similar to more expensive metals such as gold
- More affordable than other precious metals (silver, gold, platinum)
- Large range of styles available
- Will not wear thin or become out of shape
- Hypoallergenic (does not irritate skin or leave stains or coloured skin)
- Easy to care for
- On your 2,000th anniversary, your wedding ring will still look like new!
- Cannot be resized
- Heavier than stainless steel, titanium, or silver (may be considered a pro)
- Although a hard metal, tungsten carbide can shatter upon strong impact
- More expensive than stainless steel or sterling silver
How to tell if your ring is Tungsten Carbide?
An easy way to tell if a ring is high quality tungsten carbide is by weight and if it’s magnetic. A high-quality tungsten ring should feel solid and have a noticeable weight for its size. Quality tungsten carbide is also non-magnetic and thus should not be attracted to a magnet. This is and easy test to try at home.
Stainless steel Rings
Stainless Steel used in some jewellery is usually an alloy metal made up of steel, iron, carbon, and chromium. Stainless Steel is often chosen for rings and jewellery due to its heat and corrosion resistant properties and of course its price. Stainless Steel is relatively cheap to produce yet offers jewellery some desirable attributes such as being harder to scratch, easy to maintain and comparingly hypoallergenic due to its low nickel content.
- Price is affordable compared to other metals
- Easy maintenance (however requires polishing)
- Lightweight and comfortable to wear
- Eco-friendly to produce and 100% recyclable
- Low electric conductivity (making it safer for those working with electricity)
- Can easily be cut off finger in case of emergency
- Similar look to platinum (without the price tag)
- Difficult to resize due to high melting point (many jewellers won’t have the right equipment)
- May tarnish with wear over time and requires periodic polishing
- Should not be warn in the pool (reacts with chlorine)
- Limited size availability ‘off the shelf’
How to tell if your ring is Stainless Steel?
Stainless Steel is very lightweight and magnetic (although this is not conclusive as it depends on the ratios of other metals added). Generally, if your ring is light to hold and is attracted to a magnet it is most likely Stainless Steel (not to be confused with 316L Stainless Steel). If you are unable to clean your ring and polish it to remove any tarnish and restore its shine, then your ring may not be authentic Stainless Steel (or at least a low-quality version). There are other methods you can use to decisively conclude if your ring is Stainless Steel which includes acid tests and other chemical based tests however these tests will result in damage to your ring and are not recommended.
316L Stainless Steel
If you are wondering what the difference is between Stainless Steel and 316L Stainless Steel, then its easy to explain. 316L is the highest-grade Stainless Steel used in jewellery. Its corrosion and high-wearing properties are considered so good that 316L Stainless Steel is used in medical instruments and heavy-duty marine applications. The main difference is it contains significantly less carbon and more higher quality metals such as chromium and nickel and may even include titanium, aluminium, and manganese. The higher-grade alloy metals used will often mean that 316L Stainless Steel rings are a little more expensive that standard Stainless Steel rings
Pros & Cons
The pros and cons of 316L Stainless Steel is very similar to that of standard Stainless Steel with the exception that 316L Stainless Steel is simply better quality, gives even longer lasting shine, even more corrosion resistant and more hypoallergenic.
How to tell if your ring is 316L Stainless Steel?
316L Stainless Steel will often be marked with “316L” however some manufacturers don’t stamp their rings for various reasons. You can tell if your ring is 316L Stainless Steel if it tarnishes over time but can be easily polished back to looking like new without too much effort AND it’s not magnetic (or may have the slightest magnetic attraction). The only other way to tell for sure is with chemical and acid testing which will ultimately result in the ring being damaged so its best to just enjoy the look and feel of your ring and don’t dwell too much on its composition.
925s and Sterling Silver Rings
Sterling Silver is a silver alloy consisting of 92.5% silver and 7.5% of other metals (usually copper but may contain small traces of other metals such as nickel or zinc). Pure silver (99.9%) is soft and malleable and not suitable on its own to be used in jewellery. Creating an alloy with a mix of other metals help make the metal stronger. Sterling Silver is considered to be a great choice for jewellery as it can be highly polished and still contains a precious metal of value.
Sterling Silver is prone to tarnishing. This happens because the copper, nickel, zinc, or other mixtures in sterling silver may react with oxygen and other elements in the air. This normal and is managed with periodic polishing.
Some people ask if “Sterling Silver” is silver…… the answer is YES! It can be compared to 18k gold in the same sense that both contain the authentic base element but have added metals to enhance its properties.
- Long lasting and durable
- Shiny, bright and casts a signature and desirable metallic glint
- Can easily be resized
- Holds its value (perfect for keepsake jewellery)
- Easily polished to look like new
- More affordable than gold and platinum
- Can be scratched (not as hard as stainless steel or tungsten carbide)
- Requires periodic polishing to maintain shine
- Cheap ‘fake’ jewellery is readily sold as Sterling Silver by some less reputable sellers (often cheap copper or nickel rings coated/plated in a thin layer of Sterling Silver that wears off).
How to tell if your ring is Sterling Silver?
The easiest way to tell if your jewellery is genuine Sterling Silver is to place it on an ice cube and see if it melts faster directly beneath the ring. Silver will cause the ice to melt faster where it comes into contact. Some other markers can include “925” or “925s” stamped on the ring but some manufacturers don’t use a stamp so it’s not a conclusive indicator.
Another way is to rub your ring on a piece of white paper. If it leaves a black/grey mark, then its most likely Sterling Silver.
Titanium Carbide Rings
Titanium rings are made up from, you guessed it – Titanium. A hard contemporary compound that when alloyed with other metals make a perfect, durable, and hypoallergenic material for rings. Titanium Carbide is super strong and hard and surprisingly lightweight. Titanium Carbide is more tolerant to impact than Tungsten Carbide and wont chip or shatter however it is not quite as scratch resistant.
Titanium Carbide is not as easy to work with as Tungsten Carbide so ring designs will usually be simpler however they should not be overlooked as many Titanium Carbide rings embrace intricate etchings and feature modern inlays such as wood, meteorite, crushed opal, and abalone shell. A variety of colours can be achieved using anodization techniques where an oxide film is formed on the surface of the ring via a process called electrolysis. But just don’t expect a super shiny finish as Titanium has a natural matte appearance.
- High fatigue resistance
- High strength to weight ratio
- Difficult to scratch
- Great value for money
- Up to 60% lighter than Tungsten Carbide
- Corrosion and heat resistant
- Will not change shape
- Will not tarnish or discolour
- Cannot be resized
- Limited styles due to being harder to create work with
- Titanium is not naturally shiny but expect a matte finish instead (not really a con though)
- Should not be exposed to high acid chemicals such as bleach, ammonia etc.
How to tell if your ring is Titanium?
Without doing some scientific tests, it can be hard to tell if your ring is Titanium Carbide however time will usually tell. If genuine, your Titanium Carbide ring will hold its shape, not tarnish, and have minimal scratches after a few months of wear. Titanium Carbide is also usually non-magnetic, but this depends on the ratios of Titanium to Carbon used.
Gold has always been considered a standard for engagement and wedding jewellery, thanks to its naturally warm, yellow hue and beautiful lustre. Gold engagement rings are romantic and timeless. However, times are changing, and many people are opting for more modern options such as Tungsten and Titanium.
The alloy that’s mixed with gold affects its colour. There are hundreds of possible mixtures, but options generally include:
- YELLOW GOLD
Pure gold mixed with a little silver and copper for a warm look.
- WHITE GOLD
Pure gold is combined with palladium and silver or with nickel, copper, and zinc. Rhodium plating improves whiteness and durability.
- GREEN GOLD
Yellowish green in appearance, this is pure gold plus silver.
- ROSE GOLD
Increasingly popular, these reddish gold options are pure gold plus copper. The more copper, the redder the metal.
Gold purity is measured in karats (not to be confused with carats, a measure of gem weight). Karats are divided into 24 parts, so 24 parts of gold — known as 24K gold — is pure. However, 24K gold is soft and easily damaged, so it’s mixed — or alloyed — with other metals to make it more durable. For example, 14K gold is 14 parts gold, 10 parts other metal.
- Relatively durable when alloyed (<18k purity)
- Classic metal choice for sentimental jewellery
- Holds its value
- Easily resized
- Can be restyled or modified
- Higher the purity, the softer the ring
- Can become out of shape
- High thermal and electro conductivity
- Will tarnish over time
- Can become scratched with normal wear and tear
- More expensive than many modern alternatives
- Not suitable for sensitive skin
- Can not be exposed to high acid chemicals such as bleach, ammonia etc.
Platinum has a soft white hue. It’s 30 times more rare than gold (which means it’s more expensive) and 40% heavier than 14K gold — and it doesn’t tarnish or oxidize. Because of its hardness, the details of intricately engraved or embellished rings often look sharper and more precise when done in platinum.
- Very durable and long-lasting
- Considered a prestigious precious metal of luxury
- Holds its value
- Easily resized
- Hard wearing
- Doesn’t lose its shine or vigour
- Can easily be re-polished to retain original look
- Very expensive
- Did we mention that it was expensive?
Make the right choice by shopping at www.ringsforhim.com.au