All about Alternative metals

The world is filled with metals and even more possible alloy combinations. Many of those metals rarely see the spotlight simply due to their lack of popularity when it comes to fine jewelry. In this article, we will walk you through all the many alternative metals that you could pick from instead of precious metals. Our goal is to prove that these metals aren't any less precious, especially if they are part of your wedding or engagement rings.

What is an alternative metal?

(And no, we aren't talking about the music genre)

Alternative metals are those typically worn on wedding bands, anniversary rings, or any other type of jewelry. These metals are referred to as alternatives because they are “alternative” options to the commonly used precious metals. Alternative metals consist of tungsten, titanium, cobalt, ceramic, stainless steel, and more. These metals typically see the light of day as wedding band options for males, though there are many options for women to use them as well.

Why consider using an alternative metal?

People choose alternative metals because they are more durable, more scratch-resistant, and above all less expensive than the commonly used precious metals options. In a way, they are a 3 for one package deal that a lot of people can't refuse.

Alternative metals and their pros and cons

Even though the goal of this article is to show you how precious these alternative metals can be, we still want to let you know the ups and downs of everything we offer, honesty is key. Below is a summary of each alternative metal alongside their pros and cons which should hopefully allow you to see them for what they truly are.

Titanium (Ti): Atomic number 22 and found in nature as an oxide. The element can be reduced to form the lustrous rich gray metal we know as titanium. This lightweight but very hard metal is very appealing for wedding and engagement bands.

  • Pros:
    • Titanium is a resistant metal: It resists corrosion of many types such as tarnishing. It's a great metal for that active water adventure lifestyle as it resists chlorine and saltwater corrosion
    • 100% hypoallergenic: titanium is a perfect option for those who have metal allergies
    • Titanium is in-expensive: This metal will be less likely to burn a hole through your wallet and it's still super nice to wear.
    • Scratch-resistant: Titanium is resistant to scratching but it will still scratch so be sure not to bang it up too much. Another good thing is titanium can be polished to remove scratches.
    • Low maintenance: A quick and easy wash with mild hand soap should be all that you need to clean this metal. No fancy tools or visits to the jewelers are required for titanium.
  • Cons:
    • Difficult to resize: Probably one of the bigger cons of titanium is that it can’t usually be resized. Once you choose a ring size the titanium won't be able to be refit to your changing finger. This is because they cannot be properly melted down to remove or add metal to the band. However, adjustments are not impossible so contact one of our stores and speak to an expert before you give up. We might be able to work with you to make sure your titanium ring fits you better. Plus, as time increases, so does technology, so who knows maybe in a few years we will have a better method to resize titanium and metals like it.

Tungsten Carbide (WC): This hard steel-adjacent metal appears gray, black, or white depending on certain metal treatments. As a chemical compound, it is a combination of equal parts tungsten and carbon atoms. Even though it is adjacent to steel it is practically twice as hard and dense as steel and thus makes it appealing as a durable ring.

  • Pros:
    • Variety of color options: Tungsten carbide comes in either gray, black, or white allowing for more options to choose from than some of the other alternative metals.
    • Hypoallergenic: Like Titanium, Tungsten Carbide is hypoallergenic. You can rest easy knowing you won't be getting any rashes.
    • Highly Scratch-resistant: Tungsten carbide is one of, if not the most scratch-resistant jewelry metal. Still, this doesn't mean you should abuse your ring. Still it’s a great option for a busy laborious lifestyle or career path.
    • Super durable: This metal is so strong it's 2x harder than steel, 8 times harder than platinum, and 10x harder than gold or silver. To top it all off its ranks extremely high on the Mohs scale of hardness sitting at a 9.5 right underneath diamonds at a 10.
    • Inexpensive: like most alternative metals you will save some money by choosing tungsten as your metal for your next ring.
  • Cons:
    • Metal emergency concern: With Tungsten Carbide’s supreme durability comes some risks. Because tungsten is extremely hard and thus very hard to break, if you happen to have your ring get stuck during a medical emergency of any kind breaking the ring can be difficult for most hospitals. They will get the ring off eventually, but it will take up precious time during an ER visit. DR. Mark Mehaffey, an ER physician, recommends wearing silver, gold, platinum, palladium, or titanium if this may be a concern to you. However, don’t let this dissuade you from getting a tungsten carbide ring, these are rare cases.
    • Can’t resize this ring: Tungsten carbide is just too strong and prone to cracking under extreme force. Be sure you know your size before buying a tungsten ring.

Cobalt (Co): With an atomic number of 27, Cobalt is another extremely hard alternative metal. Its appearance is one that is very similar to white gold or platinum.

  • Pros:
    • Extremely Durable: as a metal commonly used in aircraft jets and motor vehicles you can rest assured knowing this metal is tough. You might have even heard of the metal being used in the medical world for knee and hip replacements. Even though it only ranks a 5.5 on the Mohs hardness scale it's still a very durable metal.
    • Shatterproof: Because the metal isn't as hard as Tungsten or Diamond, the metal won't shatter under pressure. This is a bonus if you must get the ring removed in a medical emergency.
    • Hypoallergenic: Just like most of these alternative metals, cobalt is also nickel-free and thus hypoallergenic.
    • Inexpensive: YES! Another budget-friendly metal. Although due to its rarity it won't be as cheap as tungsten, but it still shouldn't break the bank by any means.
    • Pretty color: the gorgeous white tint of the metal is adjacent to the appeal of a white gold platting or platinum ring making for a beautiful ring that will cost less.
    • Reasonably resizable: Unlike tungsten, cobalt can be resized a little. Because it is a little softer than tungsten it can be resized up to a whole size bigger than what you already have.
    • Scratch-resistant: like most of the metals discussed in this article cobalt is great at being scratch resistant. Although not as resistant to scratching as tungsten carbide is it's still a nice attribute to have on your jewelry.
    • Perfect weight: Cobalt has an amazing weight and feel to it. While metals like tungsten can be too heavy, or too light like titanium, cobalt is at the sweet spot and feels nice to wear.
  • Cons:
    • Limited Designs: Cobalt is a tricky metal to meld gemstones into. The intricate and delicate designs you see on some wedding rings are hard to pull off with cobalt. This is why you see a lot of men wearing it as a simple wedding band with a wood inlay.
    • Metal emergency concern: Although not as dangerous as Tungsten Carbide is in a medical emergency, Cobalt can still take off precious minutes during an ER visit. Just like tungsten carbide, if you need to get the ring emergency extracted it will need to be cut off with a diamond-tipped blade, which is no fun to watch. Not only can this be worrisome to some people who find themselves in the ER a lot, it can also be sad to see your ring get sliced in two. Take this advice with a grain of salt, but accidents do happen, and it may be wise to choose a different metal if you tend to get things stuck.

Ceramic (a.k.a Titanium Carbide):

There is a notion that ceramic rings are “cheap” and “brittle”. But let's dispel this notion by explaining its modern-day uses. Ceramic is used a lot in the industrial world for things like floor tiles, bricks, sparkplugs, fiberoptics, and electrical equipment. It's in fact sturdier and more impact resistant than most people believe it to be.

  • Pros:
    • Affordable: You're looking at rings anywhere from 80$ to 300$ for a high-quality ceramic ring. Therefore, these rings are very affordable options as a wedding band.
    • Decent durability and hardness: Ceramic is surprising harder and more resilient than you may have thought. It tends to take a good amount of a beating before it finally breaks.
    • Hypoallergenic: There are no traces of metal that can cause an allergic reaction in this metal either.
    • Little to no maintenance: Ceramic rings are a breeze to clean. They are easily cleaned with a damp wash cloth and a little bit of soap. If you are the busy type and don’t have the time to constantly take rings to get replated or polished then ceramic rings are a great option.
    • A large variety of color options: Ceramic rings can come in technically any color, so you are sure to find the color you want if you choose a ceramic ring.
    • Heat resistant: Let the fire burn! The Titanium Carbide that makes up ceramic rings is resistant to heat. Although not a huge benefit, you will be thanking yourself for choosing a ceramic ring if you happen to somehow get into an accident with an open flame.
    • Lightweight: Is the ring still on my finger? Yes, it is! But you can barely feel it. Ceramic rings are super lightweight, and some people go as far as to say they tend to forget it's even there when they are not looking at it.
  • Cons:
    • Cannot be resized: Like her sister metal titanium, ceramic can’t be resized. The metal is prone to shattering when it's cracked and it's hard to heat up and resize ceramic as it is heat “resistant.”
    • Prone to shattering when dropped: because this alternative metal is so hard it is prone to shattering when introduced to excessive force.
    • Limited designs when paired with gemstones: Because of its unique nature, ceramic is difficult and less versatile when it comes to making intricate designs that include gemstones.
    • Can sometimes come across as cheap: because different types of ceramic are used in pottery or kitchenware it can be mislabeled as being a cheap wedding band. Even though Titanium Carbide is a very strong ceramic and does not feel cheap, it sometimes is just perceived that way.

Stainless Steel

You may have heard of stainless steel being used in a lot of everyday appliances and quality goods, but have you ever considered it to be a new addition to your jewelry collection. Stainless steel is a chemical compound that combines, iron, carbine, chromium, and sometimes other metals. Adding it to your next jewelry purchase can prove wise as it is surprisingly strong against corrosion and scratching.

  • Pros:
    • Comfortable and Allergy-free: Stainless steel is used in so many medical tools and household appliances for a reason. Because it's reliable. Stainless steel will work with you and move with you as it's light and hypoallergenic.
    • Low-Maintenance: A little soap and water are all you need to clean these puppies. As an added bonus you won't be scheduling appointments to get your jewelry replated because stainless steel doesn't have or need a rhodium plating. However, stainless steel rings do lose some shininess over time (see the cons section for more details)
    • Value on a budget: stainless steel rings are a great way to get high-quality jewelry at a low-price range. Therefore, choosing this ring won't be stealing two months' rent from your pocket and you still get a ring that will last a long time. It may not be as pretty as the precious metals on the outside, but it’s what is inside that counts, right?
    • Environmentally friendly: As a 100% recyclable metal it is the most eco-friendly metal option you can have for any of your jewelry pieces. Plus, its formation process is significantly less environmentally taxing than some of the other alternative metals.
    • Safety: these rings can easily be removed by a medical professional if you happen to get the ring stuck in some sort of unfortunate medical emergency. Unlike some of the other alternative metals mentioned, stainless steel takes seconds to remove while titanium would take minutes. The differences between seconds and minutes are a lot bigger in the Emergency Room.
  • Cons:
    • Loss of shine: after 6-7 years your stainless steel might start to lose its polish. This means that you might have to take it back to the store to get a quick repolish. Although, we've heard of a lot of men saying they like their stainless-steel wedding bands better with the aged steel look.
    • Resizing: it's difficult to resize a stainless-steel ring but not impossible.
    • Limited styles: because the ring is usually available only through online retailers style options can be limited.