If you are searching for the perfect wedding band, you have probably quickly learned how many options are available to you. Aside from diamonds, gemstones and band widths, you also have quite a few metals to choose from.
You may have seen a lot of white gold rings readily available, but have also run into the more affordable tungsten rings as well and wondered if they were right for you. Both metals have their pros and cons depending on what you are looking for in a wedding ring.
Tungsten is an extremely durable metal that comes in multiple colors and generally thick band widths. White gold is a softer metal with the same density that can be made into thin or thick bands. While white gold is a common choice, tungsten also makes lovely, long-lasting rings.
Because both metals are so different, it is good to get an idea of what each offers to see what suits your aesthetic and lifestyle the best.
How Tungsten and White Gold are Made
Both white gold and tungsten are alloys, a combination of different metal elements.
White gold bands are a combination of some of the following:
- Yellow gold
- White metals like nickel, palladium and silver
- Rhodium coating
Because it is a mixture of metals, sometimes including nickel or palladium, and because it has a coating of a metal that is stronger than pure yellow gold, white gold rates a bit harder on the Mohs Hardness Scale than pure yellow gold. This means tungsten ring is easy to clean, and it is more scratch-resistant than pure yellow gold.
Even though white gold is combined with white metals to give it a more white hue, it will still have a yellowish tint. This is why it is then coated in rhodium, a silver/white metal that gives it the color you imagine of when you think of white gold. This also means that when the rhodium coating wears off, it can reveal a yellowish color underneath.
Pure tungsten is actually a very soft metal, but the tungsten we know and work with is one of the toughest metal alloys available and is technically called tungsten carbide.
Tungsten bands are a combination of some of the following:
- Ion Plated coating
Tungsten rings sometimes use Ion Plating. Ion Plating is basically a fancy way to give jewelry a durable outer coating. The coating material is vaporized by electrical charge and then is dispersed onto the band. It has been shown to lead to a much more durable finish than traditional coating methods.
The Durability of Tungsten Versus White Gold
When you are choosing a wedding band, it is important to take into account the durability of the materials that go into it. A wedding band is meant to last forever and to withstand the daily wear and tear of constant use.
|Metal||Mohs Hardness Rating||Density||Melting Point|
|Tungsten||7.5-8/10||19.3 g/cm3||3,140 degrees C|
|White Gold||2.8-4.0/10||19.32 g/cm3||943 degrees C|
Tungsten is a very durable metal that can withstand high heat. It has a melting point of 3,140 degrees C which is the highest of all metals according to Pomona College. Tungsten is also extremely dense, almost three times as dense as iron, and as such it is used to make bullets and defensive armor on tanks according to an article by BBC World Service.
Comparably, white gold is a similarly dense metal option. However, it falls short of tungsten in terms of hardness and melting point, making it a less durable contender. While Tungsten has a hardness rating of up to 8/10, white gold caps out at 4/10. For reference, dust is considered a 7/10, so any metal below a 7.5 is in danger of being scratched by dust.
You might think that density and hardness would go hand in hand, but they are actually somewhat unrelated. The more dense a metal is, the heavier it will be, but a dense metal will not necessarily be more durable.
Hardness is a test of whether a metal can resist being permanently marred. When looking for a long-lasting metal for your wedding ring, finding one that has a high rating on the Mohs Hardness Scale will be the best determinant for its ability to withstand many years of wear and tear.
Between white gold and tungsten, you will find that both are of a similar weight, but tungsten will often outlast white gold due to its high hardness rating. But because tungsten carbide is much harder than white gold, it has a few downsides.
- More difficult to engrave
- Not able to resize
- Less forgiving of impact
There are several things you cannot do as easily (or at all) with a tungsten band that you could do with a white gold band.
Because of the makeup of tungsten carbide, engraving can only be done with a laser, and might not be a readily available option at many jewelers.
Another issue with the overall toughness of tungsten carbide is that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to resize. Once the band has been completed, there is really no going back. Tungsten carbide tends to not want to bond with anything after it has been formed into a band as well.
Comparatively, white gold is soft enough that it can more easily be melted and resized as your needs change throughout your life.
Lastly, tungsten carbide is extremely difficult to scratch or mar – however, it is so stiff that one hard impact can cause it to break. And as mentioned above, once the tungsten is formed it will not want to bond again.
Differences in Appearance Between White Gold Bands and Tungsten Bands
The appearance of tungsten and white gold rings differ in two main ways:
- Color options
- Thickness of ring
If you placed a tungsten ring and a white gold ring next to each other, would you be able to tell the difference? Potentially not.
|Metal||Smallest Band Width Typically Available||Color|
|Tungsten||4.0mm||Gunmetal or Black|
Tungsten is naturally a gunmetal grey, but tungsten rings can also be found in black and white. White is the most similar in appearance to white gold, as it is plated with platinum type metal. You have more options when it comes to appearance with tungsten rings than you do with white gold rings.
The other main difference between tungsten and white gold rings is the band width. White gold can be used to create very thin bands as narrow as 1.0mm. Tungsten, on the other hand, is a very hard metal and can be difficult to work with. For that reason, they tend to be available only in wider widths, usually not less than 4.0mm.
If you are hoping for a ring that has a silvery look, both white gold and white tungsten are good options.
|Metal||Appearance||How It’s Made||Wear and Tear Issues|
|White Gold||Silvery||Rhodium-plated||Wears off revealing yellowish gold|
|White Tungsten||Silvery||Platinum-plated||Wears off revealing grey|
While both white gold and white tungsten are silvery in appearance, typically white tungsten is plated in platinum type metal and white gold is plated in rhodium. Both platings can wear off with continued use, revealing the solid ring color underneath – however, both can be replated by a jeweler for a cost.
Related: Different Styles of Tungsten Rings
Affordability of Tungsten
Tungsten is a very affordable option for a wedding band.
|Metal||Price Range||Average Price|
Simple white gold wedding bands can run as low as $180, and simple tungsten wedding bands can be found at prices as low as $70, though of course, both can run much higher (or lower) depending on where you buy from, and their craftsmanship.
According to Pomona College, the price per gram of pure tungsten is $0.006174 US dollars. Comparing that to white gold is a bit difficult because white gold is rated by karats and tungsten is not, but 1 gram of 14k yellow gold currently runs around $38.21.
The price of a wedding band also must take into account the amount of work that was necessary to create the ring. Gold is a soft metal and is easy to work with, but that means there are a lot more designs options available that are more difficult to produce.
Tungsten on the other hand is a very hard metal and is somewhat difficult to work with – so there are very few options for tungsten bands, limited basically to thick, solid lines.
There are pros and cons to both tungsten and white gold wedding bands. Depending on your lifestyle, you will probably find that one or the other will work well for you, and be worth any of the minor challenges.
Although tungsten is generally more durable than gold, it has some disadvantages, such as its high hardness rating.One of the hardest metals on Earth, tungsten is 10 times harder than gold. It is considered a top priority for wedding bands since it can resist scratches.
Tungsten is harder than gold, which is also soft and malleable. This means it can crack and break easily.Although they are durable, tungsten rings are not scratch-resistant. They are often mistaken for gold or silver rings.
Due to its brittleness, tungsten is unsuitable for use in high-heat applications. This paper presents various composite approaches that can reduce this issue.Compared to titanium, tungsten is the strongest and most scratch-resistant. It can only be used by a material with a higher rank.
tungsten rings generally last for about 2 years before they require maintenance. They can last forever if they are cleaned and polished properly.White tungsten carbide has a hardness rating of around 9 on the Mohs scale. It's a comparable metal to platinum in terms of price, but it's only half as strong.
The price range for finished tungsten products varies widely, ranging from $25 to $235 per kilo. The majority of products in this price range are priced at over $100 per kilo.Unlike gold and silver, tungsten is an affordable metal. However, it can also be hard to find the right combination of grades of tungsten carbide for your jewelry.