How does titanium wear?
December 20, 2012 12:45 AM   Subscribe

What do polished titanium rings look like after they've been worn a while? I want to buy this as my (replacement) wedding ring, but the polish in the picture worries me.

I love the mirror polish and look of white gold (but I was allergic and it's expensive), silver (scratches and doesn't last), and white tungsten carbide (The only company that makes white tungsten doesn't make size 91/4).

I love my current (but too big) white tungsten ring. It has barely scratched at all and it is still beautiful. But I need one that fits, and I love the inner wood inlay bands that I've seen on Etsy.

But they usually work with titanium and I have concerns. In some pictures, it kind of looks like a steel ring, but in others, it can have that perfect silver polish. How does the polish compare to the above rings? Also, how long does it last? I know titanium will scratch eventually--what does it look like after a year of use? How long toes it take to lose it's shine and start approaching a more satin finish, as described here? I don't mind re-polishing a ring every few years, but if I have to do it more than that, I don't want titanium.

Basically, I want the wood inlay ring I first linked to, but in white tungsten carbide--however I've emailed the ringsmiths, and they won't do it. So what is the deal with the ring that is pictured--it looks more like steel than platinum. What should I do?
posted by brenton to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What should I do?

Have a jeweler make you a wood and silver ring, with a finish that you like. Periodically get it resurfaced or replaced. When you can afford it, consider a hypoallergenic white gold ring made with platinum or palladium.

Tungsten, steel, and titanium rings are more likely to cause degloving injuries if they catch on something while you're out for a walk or pottering about, and they're more difficult to cut off in the ER.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:59 AM on December 20, 2012

I would try shopping around that picture to more jewelers. While looking for my own wedding ring, most jewelers showed me a few pictures or samples but then said "But we can make whatever you want!" (much to my uncreative, unartistic self's chagrin). So it may be worth finding a few more to ask about getting the white tungsten carbide and the wood you want.

Also, is it true that that's the only company that makes white tungsten rings? Because a quick Google showed me this.

And fwiw, my class ring is titanium and I wore it nonstop for years (and yes it does get scratched fairly quickly) with a very hands-on job that involved high risk of catching the ring on something, but I never had a problem. Most of my coworkers doing similar jobs have tungsten or titanium rings as well. The thing about them having to amputate your finger to remove the ring is pretty much bullshit. See this, for example.
posted by olinerd at 3:12 AM on December 20, 2012

Best answer: Here's my titanium wedding ring, roughly 8 years worn. I tried to get it in the light so you could see its (not really much of) shininess.

You're correct that it looks more steel than silver.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:52 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My titanium wedding ring is only two years in and it definitely has much more of a steel appearance than silver. Of course, it looked that way to begin with (only shinier) which is one of the reasons I chose it - I didn't want a shiny ring. So, I don't think that titanium is what you really want.
posted by nolnacs at 5:55 AM on December 20, 2012

Best answer: I have a wedding band that is side-by-side titanium and silver. The titanium looks almost gunmetal gray next to the silver. The two metals' surfaces seem to wear very similarly. It started with a matte finish and now ~9 years later it looks quite worn. I had a snooty jeweler in Carmel tell me it's a terrible ring. Screw him, I think it looks cool. :)
posted by mindsound at 7:25 AM on December 20, 2012

Response by poster: @olinerd,
I have asked quite a lot of jewelers, and none of them are interested in working with white tungsten carbide (or cobalt).

The white tungsten ring you linked to appears to be identical to the one I ordered from Triton (even uses the same image). So I suspect it is a Triton ring that isn't advertised as such. At any rate, my size isn't available.

Thanks for the image. It is so hard to find real images of worn titanium rings. With most images, it's unclear if the ring is photoshopped, computer generated, or immaculately new.

@nolnacs & mindsound,
I appreciate that a consensus is emerging. I'm very surprised to hear that the titanium is as scratched as silver--it seems that there are a lot of myths about the scratch resistance of titanium out there. It really looks like titanium is not a suitable material for the silver mirror polished look I want.

I'm now thinking of settling for a cobalt ring, which I've found in my size, but which has a lot of allergy hype surrounding it (or at least skin discoloration and ring tarnishing). How can I ever wade through the myths and misunderstandings? I haven't talked to a single jeweler who didn't say something I know for a fact to be false, and the internet is full of statements based on conjecture and not experience.
posted by brenton at 10:44 AM on December 20, 2012

If you have the money, you may want to look into platinum. My husband's ring hasn't really lost its polish much at all, but they are expensive.

I would nth looking for a really good local jeweler to see what they recommend. Not a Kay jeweler or something like that; I mean a good independent jeweler. They may be able to tell you more about what's possible and what would wear and what would not.
posted by RogueTech at 10:45 AM on December 20, 2012

As far as I know, cobalt for jewelry doesn't have nickle binders, so it seems unlikely that you would get a green skin reaction from wearing one. It will scratch, though--all regularly worn metals do. Some are just much softer than others (silver, platinum). A jeweler can buff scratches out.
posted by xyzzy at 12:36 AM on December 21, 2012

I have a six year old titanium wedding ring. It's still pretty polished looking. The surface resists scratching pretty well, and I've bashed it about a fair bit since getting married. Plus they are super light.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:54 AM on December 21, 2012

Response by poster: It is clear from the answers that titanium will not hold a shine any better than silver or steel. In fact, I later realized that titanium isn't even harder than steel, so I'd be better off with a steel ring!

I think ultimately I am going to look for something in cobalt.
posted by brenton at 2:25 PM on December 26, 2012

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