Until the 1990s, titanium and tungsten were not on the market for general consumers, but since then have gained in popularity. When shopping for wedding bands today, there are many choices including various carats of white and yellow gold, platinum and silver. Titanium and tungsten are often confused since they are both hard metals, but there are many ways in which these two metals are distinct.
Though titanium and tungsten are both very hard and durable metals, tungsten alloy is harder. The hardest form of tungsten carbide is harder than titanium alloys and can only be scratched by diamonds. Their different hardness makes a difference in engraving and resizing. Titanium can be resized and engraved, whereas tungsten is too hard for this.
Tungsten carbide is usually offered in a black anodization coat only, but titanium is made in either silver/gray or black.
Durability and Allergic Properties
Many people may believe in the myth that titanium jewelry is indestructible, but though it is durable, it is by no means indestructible, and the same goes for tungsten. If a titanium wedding band should undergo extreme pressure such as being smashed in the door of a car, it could bend out of shape. A tungsten wedding band may not withstand being smashed under extreme pressure either, but instead of bending it would shatter into many pieces, which can make it a hazard.
As far as allergies to these metals, titanium is safe, but cobalt when used in tungsten carbide jewelry can cause allergic reactions in some people.
Pricing and Weight
Tungsten wedding bands are usually more expensive than titanium because of the manufacturing process. The equipment for this process is more expensive because the tungsten carbide needs to be in a vacuum or hydrogen environment that is at least 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
When browsing for wedding bands, keep in mind too that titanium, due to its lower density, is lighter than stainless steel, and tungsten carbide is much heavier than stainless steel.
According to Gopal S. Uphadhyaya, author of “Cemented Tungsten Carbides: Production, Properties and Testing,” cemented carbides (hard metals) were introduced to the market in 1927 in Germany. The majority of the world’s tungsten reserves are in China (approximately 85 percent). But there are also some smaller reserves in Korea, Russia and the state of Colorado in the United States. Almost half of the world’s titanium comes from South Africa, according to the U.S. Geological Survey Mineral Commodity Summaries. The other half comes mostly from Australia, Canada and the Ukraine.
- “Cemented Tungsten Carbides: Production, Properties and Testing”; Gopal S. Uphadhyaya; 1999
- U.S. Geologica Survey: Minerals Report