Tungsten rings are often called indestructible due to the hard nature of the metal, and how difficult it is to scratch or dent it. Unlike softer metals like gold and silver, tungsten can put up with a lot of wear and tear without appearing to have much of a reaction to it.
However, you may be wondering if tungsten rings last. This applies to other common metal or ring issues such as rusting and tarnishing, whether your tungsten ring will stay shiny forever, and whether they are actually as scratch-resistant and unbreakable as some say they are.
On average, tungsten rings last 2-5 years before maintenance is required. However, it can last forever if you take good care of it. You can take it to your local jewelers for cleaning and polishing.
Read our guide on how to clean tungsten rings to do it yourself.
In addition to being a very hard, scratch-resistant metal, tungsten carbide is also highly corrosion-resistant. With regular cleaning, and if you can avoid hard impacts on your ring, it is likely that your tungsten ring will last and shine for many years.
Corrosion is not much of an issue with tungsten jewelry, but there are things that you can do to avoid your ring dulling or to brighten it back up if necessary.
Do Tungsten Rings Rust?
Rust is a specific type of oxidation that happens when iron or alloys that contain iron are exposed to oxygen via water for an extended period. Eventually, an iron object exposed to these circumstances will begin corroding or “rusting.”
While the term “rust” applies specifically to iron and iron alloys such as steel, other metals can experience corrosion in different ways. For example, copper will develop a layer of patina when it corrodes.
Tungsten rings are made out of tungsten carbide, which is an alloy of tungsten and metals such as nickel, carbon or cobalt. Some tungsten rings are plated for color with a zirconium alloy or platinum.
So, the big questions are – will tungsten carbide alloyed with nickel, or zirconium alloys corrode?
- Because there is no iron in tungsten carbide, it will not rust. Generally, tungsten is a very erosion and corrosion-resistant metal.
- Nickel itself has been found to increase the corrosion resistance of iron.
- As far as zirconium alloy coatings go, they are also found to have high corrosion resistance.
All in all, while no metal is 100% corrosion resistant, tungsten carbide and zirconium alloys are both used in applications ranging from missiles and tank armor to nuclear applications, due largely to their hardness and corrosion resistance. It would be very unlikely that you would experience corrosion of a high-quality tungsten carbide ring.
Do Tungsten Rings Tarnish?
Tarnish is another type of corrosion, one that is less destructive than rust. Tarnish will corrode just the very top layer of certain metals. You may have seen tarnished silverware in the past, and know that it looks like a black film. Tungsten is a very corrosion-resistant metal, as are any metals that are typically used to coat a tungsten ring.
Very high-quality tungsten can sometimes even be chemically inert. When a metal is chemically inert, that means that it will not be reactive when exposed to other elements. Since tarnishing and other corrosion is a chemical reaction, if your ring is of very high quality, it will likely never tarnish and look brand new as long as you wear it.
What is more likely to dull the shine of a tungsten ring is the buildup of dirt and oils through constant use. Your ring can easily be maintained through regular cleaning with soap and water, but it can also be polished with a diamond polishing compound if you feel that it’s necessary.
In this video, you can see the effectiveness of a diamond polishing compound as it brings a dulled tungsten ring back to life in seconds.
In the video, they use a Dremel tool with a polishing head on it to apply the polishing compound. The ring must be held steady by a table clamp, but the process goes fast and is very effective.
Do Tungsten Rings Scratch Easily?
Tungsten carbide is almost impossible to stretch and mar. It rates between 7.5 and 8 out of 10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, which was developed to rate the hardness of metals and minerals.
|Metal||Mohs Hardness Rating|
This rating means that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to damage the exterior of a tungsten ring such as a gunmetal grey tungsten ring that does not have a colored coating.
Zirconium alloy is rated a bit lower than tungsten carbide, meaning that while the base of the ring should remain unscathed under most circumstances, it is possible to scratch or wear away the coating of a colored tungsten carbide ring.
However, due to it being a bit softer of a metal, it is much easier to buff imperfections. If tungsten carbide is ever broken, it is unrepairable, whereas zirconium alloy and other coatings can usually be fixed up.
Because you have many metal band choices, it can help to compare the ratings of a zirconium alloy coating to a traditional gold or silver ring.
|Metal||Mohs Hardness Rating||Average Band Starting Price|
As you can see, while the zirconium alloy is not entirely scratch-resistant, it is actually more scratch-resistant than other common ring band choices. The closest a metal will get to the hardness of zirconium alloy is white gold, which can reach up to 4/10.
You can also see that despite being a harder and more scratch-resistant option, the band price of a colored tungsten carbide ring starts lower than all of the common metals listed.
Breaking a Tungsten Ring
The main downside to the tungsten carbide ring is that it is a brittle metal. While it is difficult to scratch or mar the tungsten ring, the right impact can break the ring. Once a tungsten carbide ring has broken, it cannot be put back together.
Similarly, tungsten rings cannot be resized due to their resistance to bonding after they have been formed. Luckily, American Tungsten will happily make exchanges if your purchased ring is not the right size.
Some ways that you can break a tungsten ring include:
- A hard impact
- Dropping on a hard surface
- Intentionally in an emergency with a hammer or vice grips
Due to their brittle nature, the force of an accidental impact that hits in just the right spot has the potential to break your tungsten ring completely in half.
This type of impact could be an unlucky and hard impact against a solid object while the ring is on your finger, or if you drop it from a height onto a hard surface.
You can also break a tungsten ring intentionally in an emergency. If it is necessary to remove a tungsten ring by breaking it, it can be done with a hammer by tapping the ring while you rotate it, or by applying increasing pressure with a pair of locking pliers like vice grips.
Color Fade on Plated Tungsten Rings
We know for sure that tungsten carbide is a hard metal that puts up with a lot of wear and tear without changing its appearance much.
However, some tungsten rings are plated, covering the tungsten carbide with another metal alloy for various reasons, including to create more color options.
Tungsten carbide rings can be found with metal coatings including:
- Zirconium alloys
While tungsten carbide does not get worn away, the metals that plate a tungsten carbide ring will not be quite as hard as the tungsten itself. As mentioned above, zirconium alloys rate about 5/10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. Platinum, which is sometimes used to create white tungsten rings, rates from 4-4.5/10.
What are the potential implications of having a coated tungsten ring?
- Softer metals can wear away, revealing grey tungsten carbide underneath
- They can potentially be scratched more easily than tungsten carbide
- In an emergency, the tungsten can be broken but the plated metal may need to be cut away
- While you cannot repair the tungsten carbide of the ring, you should be able to repair the plating if necessary
All of these things are possibilities but are no different from what you may encounter when buying a ring like a white gold band which is also plated. No matter what type of metal band you choose for your ring, even if it is the hardy tungsten carbide, you must take care to preserve your ring with regular cleaning, polishing, and even removing it if you plan to do a high-impact activity.
Tungsten rings put up with a lot more wear and tear than other types of metal rings. If you purchase a tungsten ring, you should know that:
- Your tungsten ring will not rust
- Your tungsten ring should not tarnish
- It needs to be cleaned and maintained just like any other ring to prevent dulling
- It is difficult to scratch a tungsten carbide ring, but you may be able to scratch a plating if it has one.
- Tungsten rings will break with the right impact and are irreparable.