The Difference in Tungsten Carbide and Cobalt Rings

Written by neal litherland
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The Difference in Tungsten Carbide and Cobalt Rings
A tungsten carbide ring can be altered by putting cobalt into it. (metal wedding band ring groom tungsten platinum image by Paul Retherford from Fotolia.com)

Tungsten carbide has become one of the more popular nontraditional rings. Known for its strength and durability, the symbolism of tungsten carbide in wedding rings is undeniable. However, there are a number of rings on the market that are made using cobalt, rather than tungsten carbide, and that can create an entirely different sort of ring.

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Tungsten Carbide

Tungsten carbide in its normal form is nothing more than a powder. Both tungsten powder and carbide powder have to be brought together and forged at very high temperatures to create the necessary bond that will result in a tungsten carbide ring. This process can be difficult and expensive, but it yields a high-quality product that will last for a long time.

Cobalt

Many rings that claim to be tungsten carbide are actually cobalt and carbide, or a mixture of tungsten, cobalt and carbide. Cobalt is much easier to form a bond with, and the forging can be done at a lower temperature for less cost.

Effects

There are a lot of downsides that come along with a tungsten carbide ring that has cobalt in it. For one thing, while you wear it, the cobalt in the ring will react with the natural oils produced by your skin. Cobalt rings will change your skin colour, and over time they'll develop permanent oxidation spots that you'll never be able to scrub away. The rings might look nice at first, but within a week to a month depending on how much you wear it, the chemical reactions will occur and ruin its look.

Signs

There aren't many ways to tell just by looking at a ring whether or not it's pure tungsten carbide or a tungsten carbide and cobalt combination. The price is one of the most telling features, because rings made with cobalt are usually cheaper in price. The best way to make sure that you have a genuine tungsten carbide ring is to get a guarantee from the manufacturer, so that if your ring does have cobalt in it you can get a replacement at little or no charge.

Finish

Tungsten carbide rings are extremely strong and durable, and the same goes for their "permanent" finish. Pure tungsten carbide rings don't dent, scratch or lose their shine very easily. A tungsten carbide ring with cobalt in it will, however, so if you've bought a tungsten carbide ring that's lost its shine, even after a thorough cleaning, chances are there's cobalt in it.

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