When you are looking to buy a wedding band, you are looking for a ring that will last for many years to come. If your wedding band starts to fade too soon, or needs more upkeep than you are willing to handle, you might be left feeling like you wasted your money.
Many metal rings Tarnish over time. This is due to many factors, from how reactive a metal is to its hardness but can also be affected by how you take care of your ring and what your day-to-day life consists of. When it comes to tungsten rings, in particular, you may have heard that they are practically indestructible – but how do they fare when it comes to fading?
Tungsten rings do not tarnish but it may appear to become tarnished. The cause of this is corrosion and outer layer plating fade. Corrosion and outer plating wearing off are the reasons why your ring begins to appear faded or dulled.
Tungsten rings are extremely fade-resistant due to tungsten carbide being a non-reactive, hard, durable metal. If you choose to go with a tungsten carbide ring, you will be surprised to find that it can still look brand new after many years of wear.
Comparing different ring band metal qualities, prices and upkeep can be a great way to decide which ring will shine for the longest when have undertaken the daunting task of finding the best ring for your lifestyle.
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Things That Cause a Ring to Appear Tarnished
Tungsten rings may start to look tarnished, but that look is cause by corrosion. Corrosion happens when a metal surface reacts to its environment. Depending on the metal, different types of corrosion might occur, from rust to tarnishing. On a ring, you would most likely see tarnish, which is a black or grey film over the surface of the ring. Tarnishing can cause your ring to temporarily lose its shine and appear faded.
Some rings are coated with a layer of some kind of metal alloy that either increases the ring’s longevity or adds color. For example, white gold rings are typically yellow gold alloys coated in rhodium. Tungsten rings sometimes have a coating of zirconium.
These outer platings can wear off over time. How fast the coatings wear off depends on the hardness of the metal, and how well you take care of your ring.
|Common Ring Plating||Mohs Hardness Rating||Corrosion Resistance|
Both rhodium and zirconium alloys rate at a similar level on the Mohs Hardness Scale, a scale that determines the scratch-resistance of metals and minerals. Both also have high corrosion resistance, meaning they will both be unlikely to be affected by their environment.
Why Tungsten Doesn’t Fade
Tungsten carbide rings are becoming more and more popular because they offer a durable, nice looking ring at an affordable price. Notably, tungsten carbide is:
- A non-reactive metal
- A hard metal that resists wear
Combined, these two features create a very fade-resistant ring material. According to the University of Toledo, while other metals can become faded with general wear, tungsten bands tend to stay bright and new-looking through its non-reactive and scratch-resistant nature.
While most metals that are alloyed (mixed with other metals) becomes stronger, the tungsten carbide alloy is known to be one of the hardest metals available. It rates a 9-9.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, which is just a baby step down from a diamond. Compare that with white gold, which won’t pass a 4 on the Mohs hardness scale.
Metals that are more reactive and susceptible to corrosion and metals that rate lower on the Mohs hardness scale, are more likely to fade over time due to their softer nature.
What can Change the Look of Tungsten Carbide
The answer is: almost nothing can affect the integrity of a tungsten carbide ring! While it is possible to temporarily change the look of your tungsten ring if you allow it to get too dirty, it is difficult to permanently change the appearance of your tungsten ring due to its overall durability and non-reactivity.
Here you can compare the durable qualities of tungsten carbide versus other common ring band metals:
|Ring Metal||Melting point||Mohs Hardness Scale||Average Men’s Band Starting Price|
|Tungsten carbide||5126 F||9-9.5/10||$135|
|White gold||1730 F||2.8-4/10||$225|
|14 karat yellow gold||1675 F||3-4/10||$250|
In addition to being non-reactive and scratch-resistant, tungsten carbide has a melting point of over 5000 degrees Fahrenheit, one of the highest metal melting points.
This is one of the reasons why tungsten carbide is often used in applications beyond rings that require extremely tough metals. This video explores attempting to forge tungsten carbide:
Forging is a process of shaping metals when they are softened due to heat. This video shows that:
- Tungsten carbide doesn’t soften when exposed to high heat
- When the tungsten carbide is brought up to welding heat (upwards of 10,000 degrees F) it starts to bubble, but still does not break down to a point where it can be shaped.
- Tungsten carbide can break when hit with the right amount of force
- The video uses a tungsten/cobalt alloy. Some tungsten rings are alloyed with cobalt, but more commonly they are alloyed with nickel.
According to Wear and Corrosion Behavior of Tungsten Carbide Based Coatings With Different Metallic Binders, tungsten carbide specifically is known to strongly resist wear and corrosion. Within this study, it was determined that tungsten carbide alloyed with nickel was 4 times more resistant to wear than tungsten carbide alloyed with cobalt.
When you compare the durability features of tungsten carbide to other popular ring band metals, you can see quite a difference. Tungsten has an extremely high melting point and scratch-resistance. It also has the lowest average band starting price.
White gold and 14 karat yellow gold are similarly priced and have a similar melting point and hardness range. Both white gold and 14 karat yellow gold are alloys of yellow gold, but each has been alloyed with other metals at different percentages.
Platinum has a significantly higher melting point and price point than the golds, but it is still a softer metal and is known to fade quicker than anything listed, primarily due to a combination of its softness and malleability, and that you can use it in closer to its pure form.
While tungsten does not fade in the traditional sense, something that can cause any ring to look dull and faded is dirt and grime from regular wear. If you do not take regular care of your ring and you wear it every day, dirt and grime will start to build up, and eventually, your ring will no longer look shiny and new.
However, as we spoke about above, dirt and grime can easily be removed from a tungsten carbide ring with just some gentle soap and warm water as needed.
How to Keep Your Tungsten Ring Looking Brand new
With regular maintenance, any ring can be kept looking new for a long time. However, each ring metal might require a different type of care, and tungsten rings need hardly any at all.
Tungsten rings are not affected by corrosion and they will look new for a long time as long as you keep them clean. This is in stark contrast to rings made of other metals which need more attention to be kept looking shiny, and will eventually wear down and need re-plating at a jeweler.
Related: How Long do Tungsten Rings Last?
To keep most rings looking new, you may need to:
- Polish them regularly
- Clean them regularly
- Take them to a jeweler for re-plating
- Take the ring off when you shower, swim, etc
Here is an overview of what rings of different metals require as far as upkeep:
|Tungsten ring||Clean as needed |
Can polish occasionally
|White gold ring||Clean & polish regularly|
Take the ring off for activities
Re-plating at a jeweler
|Platinum ring||Clean & polish regularly|
Take the ring off for activities
As you can see, tungsten requires the least amount of upkeep to maintain its new-looking sheen compared to other band metals.
Tungsten rings will usually remain bright and polished looking with just semi-regular cleaning with soap and warm water. If you haven’t kept up with cleaning, or if you work a job where you get dirty, you might need to polish your tungsten ring occasionally – but that can be done at home if you have the right tools.
White gold rings will eventually need to be re-plated by a jeweler which can be costly.
Related: Tungsten VS White Gold Wedding Bands
In this video, you can watch the lengthy process of re-plating a white gold ring with rhodium:
The video details the steps that go into re-plating, including
- Buffing and polishing out scratches to create a clear surface
- Removing excess polish with an ultrasonic machine
- Degreasing the ring
- Re-plating in rhodium solution
With both white gold and platinum, you should remove your ring before you engage in activities like swimming, showering, or anything that might cause your ring to get dirty and wear out faster. They will both also need to be cleaned and polished regularly to maintain their shine.
Tungsten carbide is a great option for a ring or wedding band because of its many durable features.
- Tungsten carbide rings are extremely fade-resistant
- This is because they are scratch-resistant, corrosion-resistant, and overall it is extremely hard to affect their integrity.
- Compared to other ring band metals, tungsten requires the least upkeep to maintain its shine
- Tungsten carbide rings will look brand new for many years.