Tungsten Carbide vs Ceramic Rings: What's the Difference?
We definitively address the debate of tungsten carbide vs ceramic rings: what the differences are, which material better suits your personal lifestyle and tastes, and more.
Though we offer both tungsten carbide and ceramic rings in our store, they are quite different and vary in a few key areas, all of which will be addressed in detail, including:
- Laser engraving
- Gradual aging through wear and tear
- Suitability for sensitive skin types
Familiarizing yourself with differences between ceramic vs tungsten will help you make a better choice to suit your wants and needs. It will also help you understand why we offer certain styles in ceramic but not in tungsten and vice versa, especially when it comes to black rings.
Which Is Better: Tungsten or Ceramic?
Maybe you just want us to give it to you straight, right here and now, and announce one as superior over the other. But picking a clear winner is not so simple and largely depends on the buyer and the ring style.
One material isn't better than the other, each has its own unique strengths. Our suggestion is to stop looking for a simple answer and review the differences below so you can decide what's best for you.
Difference 1: Color
If you are looking for a silver, gold, or rose gold, this is a moot point. Only tungsten carbide rings come in the traditional metal colors so you really have no choice here (unless you are also considering titanium, which is an article for another day).
However, if you are looking at black rings, we finally have a level playing field for comparison.
Black Tungsten vs Black Ceramic
Any colored tungsten carbide ring other than its natural silver color is achieved through a process called ion plating. This is true for all tungsten jewelry in the world. Ion plating is a process by which a surface is bombarded with atomic sized energetic particles in a vacuum to deposit a hard coating of compound materials that results in a desirable color. The process is vastly superior to traditional "wet" plating methods (like electroplating) due to its increased bonding strength.
Ion plating, while more difficult to scratch than traditional gold or silver, is not as scratch resistant as the underlying tungsten. Plating can be damaged through contact with an abrasive surface or substance, chemicals, and hard surfaces (metal, wood, tile, etc). Plating can also be damaged by frequent exposure to hard water, or repeated contact with moderately hard surfaces such as a computer mouse or the inside of a glove.
For these reasons, we recommend removing plated tungsten rings before doing such activities as: handling metal objects, going to the gym, playing sports, entering water, and washing dishes or hands. We understand that this can seem like an inconvenience, but it is no different than wearing a traditional gold or silver ring. Rings such as these should be treated with attentive care.
If you are interested in a black band, we recommend looking into black ceramic as opposed to black tungsten. Ceramic is nearly just as strong a material as tungsten but the color is not plated so it does not have this issue. This is why you will see that many of the black rings that we offer are made from ceramic. Ceramic is also very lightweight compared to tungsten carbide.
If there’s anything to be aware of, it’s that our warranty does not cover normal wear and tear, including scratches. While our rings are highly durable and scratch-resistant, they are not scratch-proof. Nothing is. Even a hard diamond can be cut. If you like some heft with your ring, you may want black tungsten. Both rings will be difficult to scratch, but black plated tungsten may show the silver tungsten underneath while black ceramic will just show black ceramic. Side by side, black tungsten will look slightly more black, while black ceramic will have a slightly dark gray tint to it just because it is more reflective.
Are Black Ceramic and Black Tungsten the Same Color?
Difference 2: Weight
Tungsten carbide is heavier than ceramic when compared to a ring of the same size. Some people like the heft of tungsten carbide, as it is quite dense and the most similar to traditional metals like gold or platinum, though tungsten is a bit heavier.
In comparison, ceramic is quite the opposite and is considered to be very lightweight. But don't confuse lightness with fragility. Ceramic is considered to be a hard, durable material, and nearly as hard as tungsten, as we will discuss below.
Difference 3: Hardness
In terms of hardness, tungsten carbide is rated at 9 on the Mohs scale while ceramic is 7 (diamond is a 10 and gold is 3 to give a sense of scale). Essentially what this means is that they are both very strong. Both rings can be cut in case of emergencies and hospitals will have the equipment to do so. Neither ring will fade, though the ion plating on black tungsten can be worn as we mentioned earlier. The hardness of the plating is 6, the same strength as titanium. Theoretically black tungsten can be replated and ceramic can be refinished, however we don’t have the equipment to do so and there is basically no need to do so, ever. Neither can be resized in the traditional sense, however we do offer a lifetime resizing guarantee if you ever do need a different size down the line. We also have a lifetime guarantee that covers almost everything except for normal wear and tear or intentional damage.
Difference 4: Laser Engraving
If you take a look at our vast selection of laser engraved rings, you will see that we offer both tungsten and ceramic rings. However, there is a critical difference in how each material reacts to our industrial laser machine.
The un-retouched photo above shows how the laser engraving looks on a black tungsten carbide ring (top) and a black ceramic ring (bottom).
What happens to tungsten during laser engraving is a removal of the plating. In this case, the black plating reveals the silver tungsten carbide layer underneath. The result is a silver-on-black engraving that contrasts nicely and is clear to see. This is the reason why all of our laser engraved black rings are done on tungsten carbide.
When the laser engraves on ceramic, nothing gets removed. Instead, the engraving gets burned in and appears as black regardless of the original color of the ceramic. On the black ceramic ring pictured, the engraving appears as black-on-black. Personalized inside engravings can still be done on black ceramic, just keep in mind that there is less contrast. We've even had customers who preferred the stealthy black-on-black look and requested laser engravings be done on black ceramic instead of our usual black tungsten rings.
On our brighter color ceramic rings like white or pink, laser engravings stand out quite well as the burn-in color is black so the visibility is not an issue.
Difference 5: Wear and Tear
The way tungsten and ceramic undergo wear and tear differ in a major way.
Tungsten is naturally silver. Any color tungsten other than silver, including black, rose gold, or gold, is achieved through ion plating. The plating is very hard, as hard as titanium, but over time it will scratch.
When tungsten inevitably scratches as you wear it, the scratch appears as silver. This is not a big concern on a silver ring, as the scratch just appears as silver on silver. However, when plated tungsten scratches, the silver scratch can be more noticeable. Especially on black tungsten, scratches will be much more noticeable compared to gold or rose gold tungsten.
Where ceramic really shines is in how it handles scratching. Because ceramic is not plated, the color that you see is also the color found throughout the ring. This makes scratches less visible on ceramic rings compared to tungsten carbide. Scratches on black ceramic are hard to see because there is no color variation. The surface underneath the scratch is the same color as the surface on ceramic, a case which is not true for tungsten carbide.
Difference 6: Skin Sensitivity
Tungsten carbide uses a tiny amount of nickel to serve as a binder. While people with metal allergies are generally advised to avoid nickel, sometimes they are able to wear tungsten rings because the nickel molecules are bound to the other metals that make up tungsten carbide, causing it to be chemically inert.
Nevertheless, people with extreme skin sensitivity to metal may still find tungsten to be irritating, causing a rash to form on the finger.
In this regard, ceramic rings (and titanium too) are the perfect alternative solution that are 100% hypoallergenic and guaranteed not to react with the skin as ceramic contains no metal.
Summary of Features
|Color||Traditional metal colors (silver, gold, rose gold). Black is darker.||Non-traditional colors (white, pink, and lilac gray). Black is lighter.|
|Hardness||9 out of 10 on the Mohs scale||7 out of 10 on the Mohs scale|
|Engraving||Removes plating, can appear silver or black (dark gray)||Burned in, always appear black (dark gray)|
|Wear and Tear||Scratches can be more visible||Scratches are less visible|
|Hypoallergenic||No, contains chemically inert nickel binder||Yes, completely free of metal|