Tungsten vs Tungsten Carbide Rings

Understanding the Differences: Tungsten vs Tungsten Carbide

Tungsten vs Tungsten Carbide: Understanding the Differences

Tungsten and tungsten carbide are two popular materials used in a variety of industries. While they share some similarities, there are important differences between them that are worth understanding.

Tungsten, also known as wolfram, is a dense metal with a high melting point. It is known for its hardness, durability and resistance to corrosion. Tungsten has the highest melting point of all metals and is used to make filaments for light bulbs and other high-temperature applications.

Tungsten carbide, on the other hand, is an extremely hard compound made up of tungsten and carbon atoms bonded together. Tungsten carbide is significantly harder and more durable than pure tungsten. It maintains its strength even at very high temperatures.

The addition of carbon to tungsten creates tungsten carbide's hardness, making it ideal for use in cutting tools, mining and drilling equipment, and other machinery. It is also popularly used to make jewelry, especially wedding bands, due to its scratch resistance, durability and hypoallergenic properties.

While both tungsten and tungsten carbide are known for their strength, tungsten carbide is generally considered the stronger and more versatile of the two materials. Understanding the differences between the two can help determine which is better suited for specific applications and needs.

Tungsten vs Tungsten Carbide

Tungsten and tungsten carbide are two different materials that are often confused. While both contain tungsten, they have distinct properties and applications.


Tungsten is a pure chemical element with the symbol W and atomic number 74. It is a hard, brittle, steel-gray metal.

Tungsten carbide, on the other hand, is an alloy made by combining tungsten powder and carbon. It is created by heating tungsten powder and carbon together at high temperatures ranging from 1,400°C to 1,600°C (2,550°F to 2,900°F).

Hardness and Strength

Tungsten ranks at 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, making it very hard and durable. However, it can still get scratched and damaged over time.

Tungsten carbide is significantly harder, ranking around 9 on the Mohs scale. It is approximately 2-3 times stiffer than steel and has excellent compressive strength, surpassing all known melted, cast, and forged metals.


Tungsten's hardness makes it suitable for use in filaments in lamps and cathode ray tubes. It is also used in various alloys and in tool making.

The extreme hardness of tungsten carbide allows it to be used in applications requiring high strength and durability


Tungsten carbide is more expensive than pure tungsten due to the additional processing required to produce the alloy. However, the enhanced properties often justify the higher cost for applications requiring hardness, strength, and durability.

What was tungsten originally called?

Tungsten was originally known as wolfram. The name "wolfram" originated from the mineral wolframite, which is one of the main ores of tungsten. The word ""wolfram"" itself has an interesting history. It comes from the Swedish words ""wolf"" (meaning wolf) and ""ram"" (meaning foam), referring to the difficulties miners faced when extracting tungsten from the ore.

tungsten history

Tungsten vs Tungsten Carbide Rings

There is a common misconception that tungsten and tungsten carbide are the same material. However, this is not the case. Tungsten is a pure chemical element, while tungsten carbide is an alloy made by combining tungsten with carbon.

When it comes to rings, most are made from tungsten carbide rather than pure tungsten. Tungsten carbide has several advantages that make it a better choice for jewelry:

  • Tungsten carbide is extremely hard and durable. With a Mohs hardness rating between 8-9, it is much more scratch resistant than pure tungsten (which has a rating of 7.5).
  • Tungsten carbide rings have excellent strength. They are difficult to bend or deform.
  • The alloy has a beautiful metallic luster that retains its shine over time.
  • Tungsten carbide is hypoallergenic and comfortable to wear.

The main drawback of tungsten carbide is that it cannot be easily resized like gold or platinum rings. However, its durability outweighs this disadvantage for most wearers.

Pure tungsten is relatively soft and prone to scratches. While very durable, pure tungsten rings will develop a worn, brushed look over time. Tungsten carbide has superior scratch resistance and will retain its polished finish longer.

When choosing wedding or fashion rings, tungsten carbide is the best choice for those who want an affordable, stylish, and durable accessory. Its hardness, scratch resistance, and comfortable fit make it an ideal jewelry metal.

Durability and Scratch Resistance

Tungsten carbide's main advantage over other metals is its extreme hardness and scratch resistance. With a Mohs rating between 8-9, it is one of the hardest metals used for jewelry.

Tungsten carbide rings are highly durable and able to withstand the minor scratches and dings of everyday wear. The hard tungsten carbide surface is difficult to abrade or deform. Rings made of this alloy will retain their shape and shine longer than softer precious metals.

For those with active lifestyles, tungsten carbide's durability and scratch resistance makes it an ideal choice. The rings can be worn daily without concern about damage or losing their polished look over time.

Comfort and Hypoallergenic Properties

Along with its durability, tungsten carbide is valued for its comfort. The alloy does not contain common jewelry allergens like nickel or cobalt. This makes tungsten carbide rings a great choice for those with metal sensitivities.

Tungsten carbide has a nice weight and density that feels substantial yet not too heavy on the finger. Its smooth finish and rounded inner shape provide a comfortable fit suitable for 24/7 wear.

For those wanting worry-free, comfortable rings, tungsten carbide is an excellent metal choice. Its hypoallergenic and dense but not too heavy nature offers an ideal wearing experience.

Strength Comparison: Tungsten vs Tungsten Carbide

Tungsten carbide is generally much stronger than pure tungsten metal. The key difference lies in their chemical composition - tungsten carbide is an alloy made by combining tungsten powder with carbon and other elements like cobalt or nickel. This results in a material that is significantly harder and more durable than tungsten alone.

Some key points on the comparative strength of the two materials:

  • Tungsten carbide has a compressive strength 2-3 times higher than steel. Pure tungsten is also strong, but not nearly as much as its alloyed form.
  • The hardness of tungsten carbide is around 1600 Vickers, compared to pure tungsten which has a hardness of about 550 Vickers. This makes tungsten carbide extremely scratch and wear resistant.
  • Tungsten carbide maintains its strength even at high temperatures of up to 1000°C. Pure tungsten loses strength when heated.

The high strength of tungsten carbide makes it ideal for applications like:

  • Cutting tools - drill bits, saw blades, milling cutters, etc. Its hardness allows it to cut through tough materials like steel.
  • Wear parts - seals, nozzles, piston rings, etc. where high abrasion resistance is required.
  • Mining and construction equipment components that undergo heavy impact and wear.

The strength of tungsten carbide is also an advantage when used in jewelry like wedding bands. It allows the rings to withstand scratches and everyday wear-and-tear. Pure tungsten is strong too, but tungsten carbide's additional hardness provides even better durability.

In summary, tungsten carbide clearly outperforms pure tungsten in terms of strength and hardness, thanks to its special alloyed composition. This makes it suitable for demanding applications across industries.

Tungsten vs Tungsten Carbide Properties

Tungsten and tungsten carbide have distinct properties that make them suitable for different applications. Here is a comparison of some of their key characteristics:


Tungsten carbide is significantly harder than pure tungsten. On the Mohs scale, tungsten carbide has a hardness of 8.5-9.5 while pure tungsten is around 7.5. The high hardness of tungsten carbide makes it ideal for use in tools, drill bits, and wear-resistant parts.


Tungsten has a density of 19.3 g/cm3, making it one of the densest metals. Tungsten carbide's density ranges from 15.63 to 15.7 g/cm3. The high density lends tungsten and tungsten carbide excellent vibration dampening properties.


Given its higher density, tungsten is heavier than tungsten carbide. For example, a tungsten wedding band will feel noticeably heavier on the finger than a tungsten carbide wedding band of the same size.


Tungsten carbide is stronger than pure tungsten. It has excellent compressive strength and rigidity. This makes tungsten carbide suitable for high stress applications.


Pure tungsten is quite brittle and cracks under stress. Tungsten carbide is more impact resistant than pure tungsten. However, tungsten carbide is still considered a brittle material.

In summary, tungsten carbide surpasses pure tungsten in hardness, strength and impact resistance due to its carbon content. However, pure tungsten has a higher density. Understanding these key differences allows proper selection for specific applications and performance requirements.

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