Are Tungsten Rings Toxic?

You probably know a decent amount about gold, silver and platinum. They are common wedding band metals and have been for many years. Tungsten, on the other hand, might be more of an unknown. 

Tungsten is used in a variety of applications from bullets and missiles to lightbulbs. You may have heard that it is “indestructible,” but you might not see as many people wearing it as a wedding band as you do gold and silver. It is reasonable to wonder if tungsten is a safe metal for a wedding band and whether it is smart to wear a ring that cannot be broken.

In general, Tungsten Rings are not toxic to wear. “Tungsten” it self is toxic but “Tungsten Rings” are made from tungsten carbide, which is a combination of binding tungsten and other metals. It is safe to wear a tungsten ring as long as you are not allergic to any of its metal components and you are knowledgeable about how to break it if worse comes to worst.

While tungsten is very difficult to dent or scratch, it is not 100% indestructible. You can easily learn how to break a tungsten carbide ring in an emergency and how to wear it safely.  

Metals Found in Tungsten Carbide

Tungsten rings are made out of the tungsten carbide, which is a combination of tungsten and other metals. These metals can include: 

  • Carbon
  • Cobalt
  • Nickel 

This is important to note because it is possible, if not likely, to have an allergic reaction to some tungsten carbide rings if you have an allergy to metals that it might contain, primarily nickel.  

According to an article in the New York Times, the Centers for Disease Control believes that between 10 to 20% of the US population has a nickel allergy. Since the symptoms are generally fairly mild, and just include skin issues, it might not be obvious to you that you have a nickel allergy. 

However, when you are choosing a wedding band, you are usually choosing a ring that you will be wearing daily for the rest of your life. The symptoms of an allergy could become much more apparent with constant skin contact exposure. 

That said, unless you are extremely sensitive to nickel, the amount in a tungsten ring is potentially small enough that you will not experience any symptoms at all. Most people with a slight nickel allergy can wear a tungsten ring without a problem. 

Black vs White vs Gunmetal Tungsten Rings

There are several types of tungsten rings. Some tungsten rings have no nickel in them at all. Black tungsten is alloyed with cobalt or carbon. Cobalt can be an irritant as well, but if you are sensitive to nickel an elegant black tungsten ring can be a good way to go. 

Tungsten Carbide TypePotential Metals Lowest Price Point
Grey Tungsten Nickel$98
Black Tungsten Carbon/cobalt$110
White TungstenNickelPlatinum coating$100

Black tungsten falls at a slightly higher price point than the gun metal grey. Black tungsten rings are slightly stronger than the gun metal variety.

While tungsten is overall a very hard and difficult to damage metal, it is also a brittle metal and can break when impacted hard enough. Black tungsten is often alloyed with carbon, and the carbon actually helps with this brittleness, making it a bit stronger of an option. Other times, colored tungsten is coated in a zirconium alloy. 

You can see the difference in appearance and style between a gun metal grey tungsten ring and a black tungsten ring in our store.

White tungsten is typically created by coating a gun metal grey tungsten ring with platinum. If you have a severe sensitivity to nickel, you should be aware that over time the platinum coating will wear down, revealing the grey tungsten and exposing your skin to the small nickel content in tungsten carbide. 

Understanding on Tungsten Toxicity

Jeweler welding gold

In Metals and Health: A Clinical Toxicological Perspective on Tungsten and Review of the Literature, six Ph.D. and medical professionals reviewed different studies on any potentially negative health effects tungsten and tungsten compounds had on people.

According to the literature review, many studies have looked into the potential of tungsten toxicity, and have largely determined that it is a very low-risk metal. Long-term lung exposure to those who work directly with the metal can be an issue, however, it is not yet certain if it is tungsten or the metals it is commonly alloyed with that cause problems. 

As mentioned above, some people can experience dermatitis from skin contact with tungsten generally speaking, primarily from working with tungsten carbide, not from merely wearing a ring. 

This dermatitis also does not appear to be directly related to tungsten itself, but rather to the combination of tungsten and alloyed metals such as cobalt. 

As far as wearing a tungsten ring, based on the current research, it does not appear that wearing tungsten causes any adverse side-effects beyond a potential for slight dermatitis due to alloyed metals in very sensitive people. 

Potential Risks for Wearing an Unbreakable Ring

If you are going to wear a ring that is difficult to break, it is important to take into account situations that might require emergency action. 

  • Wearing the ring to certain work environments 
  • Accidents and emergencies
  • Finger swelling due to injury or other issues

No matter what metal your ring is made out of, you can encounter situations in which you may need to break or otherwise quickly remove your ring. 

If you injure your finger at work or in any sort of accident, you may experience swelling that can make it dangerous to continue to wear your ring, but impossible to remove your ring without breaking it. 

If you end up in an unfortunate situation where you have an accident, you may need to remove your ring for safety. Paramedics will often carry tools that allow them to cut through jewelry and clothing if necessary. If they are unable to remove your ring in a traditional way, they should have tools like locking pliers that allow them to remove jewelry that cannot be cut.

Depending on what you do for a living, there is a possibility of you catching your ring on something or otherwise getting into a situation that will require the ring to be broken or removed. Professions in construction or any hands-on work where you must use tools can create a slight hazard. 

However, while you should be aware and careful about where you are wearing your tungsten ring, it is not indestructible and can be removed in an emergency, either by you or a paramedic. 

Removing a Tungsten Ring in an Emergency

Tungsten is a very hard metal that is difficult to mark or scratch. However, it is also a brittle metal, and one good hard impact can break a tungsten ring. 

If you are worried about getting into an emergency situation and being unable to remove your tungsten ring, that is a valid concern. Unlike softer metals that can be easily bent and broken or cut when necessary, tungsten requires a different approach. 

Also unlike some metals, tungsten will not expand and contract as easily when exposed to normal hot and cold temperature changes. Many soft metals are susceptible to easily expanding when subjected to heat, and contracting when subjected to cold. This is due to the lack of strength in force between the atoms. 

With a soft metal like brass, the force between the atoms is weaker so they are more affected by heat and cold. Tungsten is a very hard metal and the forces between the atoms are much stronger. 

That said, despite being deemed indestructible, tungsten rings can be broken either by accident or by necessity in a couple of ways: 


If you are able to rotate your ring, you can remove it by hitting the ring with a hammer. You can hammer (not too roughly, don’t hurt your finger!) on an area of the ring, rotate the ring, and then hammer it again. If you continue to do this you will eventually hit the right spot with the right amount of force and the ring will break. 

Vice Grip Pliers 

Vice grips are a type of very grippy locking pliers that are designed to clamp tightly around an object. Vice grips can be used to break a tungsten ring by applying an increasing amount of pressure. Eventually, the pressure will be too great and the ring will break. 

If your tungsten ring includes a band of another metal, that metal may need to be cut away after the tungsten has been cracked.  

Key Takeaways 

Despite being a very tough ring band material, tungsten is not indestructible and can be a fully safe choice for your wedding band. 

  • Tungsten can be combined with nickel, cobalt or carbon
  • Some tungsten rings have coatings of metals like platinum
  • Most people will not experience any dermatitis from the alloyed metals
  • Studies have shown tungsten to be a safe metal for wear
  • Tungsten rings can be broken by you or a friend if necessary
  • Any ring can be a hazard if you have an accident
  • Any ring can be broken by a paramedic in an emergency, including a tungsten ring. 

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