Can a cobalt chrome ring be removed safely in the event of an accident?
February 5, 2016 8:13 PM   Subscribe

I've been considering getting a cobalt chrome ring because it seems significantly more scratch-resistant than platinum or palladium yet not prone to shattering on impact like tungsten or ceramic. All the jewelry stores say that ERs/ambulances and the like have the necessary equipment to cut one off in the event of an emergency but I wanted to see if anybody here could confirm that. I'm in the USA.

I do understand that an accident requiring immediate ring removal is very unlikely.
posted by unus sum to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: As an ER doctor - fortunately there are a bunch of tricks we can use to try to remove a ring without cutting it if needed (if you google it you can also find techniques similar to these using duct tape, dental floss, and an oxygen mask strap). Also, if people have foresight and remove their rings immediately after an injury themselves, they can do it before the finger gets really swollen and necessitates even these sorts of procedures. I've been doing this work for 8 years and have only had to cut a ring with a ring cutter once. I borrowed the ring cutter (it wasn't actually a ring cutter but a different tool that served the purpose) from the maintenance guy at the small community hospital where I was working. I would not assume that every small ED or urgent care clinic or EMS service is going to have a tool that could cut your ring - I mean some EMS services are just high schoolers who serve as volunteers, and some remote clinics have very little in the way of supplies. Just really depends on where you are. If you're in a really remote place there isn't going to be EMS at all.

Here is a link to a standard-seeming electric ring cutter from an EMS supply place with information on its use. I tried reading up on the subject and it seems that cobalt chrome rings might be able to be removed with ring cutters or a ring cracker designed for tungsten rings (but apparently cobalt chrome might just bend instead of crack). Note that I have never seen or heard of a ring cracker before, although that doesn't mean that it might not be able to be found in most large hospitals if you truly needed it, but I doubt a specialized item like that would be in every small hospital.

In any case, this link seems to provide some useful information about ring removal and material hardness. I certainly would question whether I would be able to break/remove a tungsten or similar ring using a vise grip (I'm a small woman with not a lot of hand strength). That said, given my experience above, I'm not sweating it much. I myself wear a titanium wedding band (I note that orthopedic hardware is commonly made from titanium and so a hospital orthopedic pin cutter as noted in the first link, I believe, ought to be able to cut this). If this is something you're truly worried about, I would recommend just not getting a ring made out of one of the harder metals. Titanium's not as hard as cobalt chrome or tungsten but I found reports of titanium rings that could not be removed by standard means.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 3:56 AM on February 6, 2016 [7 favorites]

If it helps it is extremely rare to be in such a situation, doubly so if you remove the ring before working with power tools or in hands on mechanical repair environments. You could also go a slight larger in size so that it is easier to remove. (but conversely, it is more likely to fall off in the pool or shower)
posted by nickggully at 7:11 AM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to both of you. That reassures me that I'm not taking on a bigger risk than I realized.
posted by unus sum at 3:24 PM on February 6, 2016

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