Alternative Metals for Jewelry-Making
Tungsten and Steel Jewelry
When it comes to jewelry, alternative metals are gaining a lot of popularity and appeal, particularly in men's jewelry designs. Although these materials are not commonly used for the making of fine jewelry, they are being more commonly seen in wedding bands and for jewelry accessories that require the utmost durability. Alternative metals are a perfect choice for those who live active lifestyles and for those who don't want to worry about damaging their jewelry. Compared to other precious metals like gold and silver - stainless steel, titanium and tungsten carbide can offer durability combined with style.
Not only is stainless steel durable, but it is also very attractive with a contemporary urban appearance. Though it can be tough to bend and mold into its final shape, it is still malleable and once finished, it retains its shape much better than gold and silver jewelry. Unlike some other light colored metals, stainless steel is unplated so it will not fade in color, nor will it chip over time. It is also a great material for those with allergies to other common metals such as copper or nickel, which is why it is a commonly used metal for starter earrings and other types of body piercing jewelry.
Commercial grade industrial titanium is commonly used for making watch cases and watch bands. It is an ideal material for rings and body jewelry, owing to its strong resistance to dents and corrosion. In jewelry, commercial grade titanium is often greater than 99.2% pure, though it can be alloyed with iron, aluminum, vanadium and other elements or chemicals to produce lightweight alloys with interesting colors, such as bright blue, purple and black. Titanium may even be alloyed with gold, which can produce a 99% pure gold alloy. This gold alloy can still be marketed as '24K' gold (or sometimes as '990' gold), because the 1% titanium content is considered insignificant. Gold-titanium is roughly as hard as 18K gold and much more durable than typical unalloyed 24K gold.
Tungsten carbide has a density similar to gold. In fact, it can be used to make counterfeit gold. Gold-plated tungsten can easily pass most gold tests. In China, gold-plated tungsten is produced on a commercial scale and is used often for jewelry and fake 'gold' bars. However, because of tungsten carbide's hardness and density, it is extremely difficult to work with. Once it has been shaped, it can be a challenge to re-cut or modify. Like both titanium and stainless steel, tungsten carbide is also highly resistant to corrosion and extremely difficult to scratch or dent. Tungsten carbide can cause skin irritation for some, but for those with no allergies or sensitivities, it is easily one of the best and toughest jewelry-making materials available today.
- First Published: September-01-2014
- Last Updated: January-23-2019
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