Both titanium and tungsten are considered "model metals" in the jewelry industry because they were not available to the consumer market as commodities until ten years ago. They have gained tremendous popularity since the introduction and become an integral part of the jewelry material spectrum.
Due to the rather little exposure, many questions arise concerning titanium and tungsten when it comes to choosing jewelry. The followings are some points of consideration if you are seriously thinking about buying a titanium or tungsten wedding ring.
Titanium and tungsten are both known for the superior hardness over traditional metals such as gold, silver and platinum. One thing worth noting is that it is not the metals themselves in a pure form that possess the hardness, it is their alloys that do. Roughly speaking, the hardest form of tungsten carbide is harder than titanium alloys, and only under extreme circumstances, such as abrasion from diamonds, can it be damaged.
Titanium is more ductile than tungsten in the common alloys used in jewelry. In other words, when a wedding ring is under high pressure, such as hit by a car door, a titanium ring would be bend out-of-round whereas a tungsten carbide ring would fracture into several pieces. Hence, in terms of safety, a tungsten carbide ring is "safer" to wear.
This is the very same concern as buying silver jewelry to some people: Will I be allergic to the jewelry? In general, titanium jewelry is virtually safe to wear for everybody. Yet, some tungsten carbide jewelry contains the element cobalt that some people are allergic to. Interesting, another form of tungsten alloy using nickel as a binder metal is hypoallergenic, even to people who are allergic to nickel.
Titanium is lighter than tungsten, or more precisely, has a lower density. Titanium alloys are about 43% lighter than stainless steel and tungsten carbide is about 90% heavier than stainless steel.
Titanium reacts with different chemicals and produces alloys of different colors. Jewelry makers use anodization to coat colored patterns on titanium rings. Black titanium is another form of titanium alloy that has a different color than the commonly used grey color. On the other hand, tungsten carbide is usually offered on in black color only.
Titanium jewelry is in general cheaper than tungsten jewelry primarily due to the difference in equipment and environment control need to produce them. The temperature for forming a tungsten carbide is about 6000 Fahrenheit, which has to be in either a vacuum or hydrogen environment.
7. Engraving and resizing
Titanium wedding rings can be engraved and resized. However, a tungsten carbide ring is too hard to be engraved or resized. Although engraving can be done, the letters will be very faint and difficult to read. So if you are buying to ring to engrave, get titanium rings.