The Difference Between Black Zirconium and Tungsten
Deciding between Zirconium and Tungsten? Both are beautiful metals that make for a great wedding band material. From weight and color, to price and durability, discover the pros and cons to each in this comprehensive guide!
Pro's and Con's Overview
If you'd like the quick comparison between these two metals, than start here:
Black Zirconium Pro's
- Considered to be hypoallergenic
- Very strong (more durable than tungsten)
- Lightweight (if you prefer a light ring)
- Will not crack as easily as tungsten
- Resistant to Corrosion
Black Zirconium Con's
- Cannot be resized
- Not 100% scratch-resistant
- Highly Scratch Resistant
- Weighted Feel (if you like a weighted feel)
- Typically very affordable
- Can be brittle and prone to cracking if dropped on hard surfaces
- Cannot re-size
- Often contains nickel (an allergy prone metal)
Now let's dive a bit deeper into these two metals.
What is Black Zirconium?
If you remember your anything from high school science, then you may remember Zirconium being an element on the periodic table. Zirconium is a metal naturally grey in color. But through an intense heating process, a black oxidization layer forms. It is this layer that gives zirconium jewelry it's color and a lot of it's durability.
Black zirconium rings are machined from a zirconium bar and then heated to a high temperature to form the black coating. After the heating process, the black coating may be removed in some locations when creating two-toned rings. Black zirconium is hypoallergenic, chemically resistant, and very lightweight.
What about Tungsten?
Tungsten is another element found on the periodic table. In it's natural state, Tungsten cannot be used in jewelry. So most Tungsten rings contain around 15% of either carbon, nickel or cobalt. Which is why you may see many Tungsten rings being referred to as Tungsten Carbide - for the use of Carbon in the ring.
Tungsten is one of the most popular materials used in mens wedding bands. It looks good, is very strong, and typically is reasonably priced.
Both of these materials provide a very modern look that will look great on many different skin tones.
Tungsten is typically found in various shades of grey. It's typically darker than titanium & silver while lighter than other metals such as tantalum or black zirconium.
The Gentleman Tungsten Ring from manlybands.com
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The Rockstar Tungsten Ring from manlybands.com
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While you can find Tungsten rings in a variety of color shades, Black Zirconium is...well black. Jewelery made from black Zirconium is typically a jet black color that has a very cool look, especially for mens wedding bands.
The Genius Black Zirconium Ring from manlybands.com
Both Tungsten and Black Zirconium rings can be found at reasonable prices. In general, Tungsten is typically a bit cheaper. But not by all that much!
You can expect to pay anywhere from $200 - $800 for a tungsten wedding band.
You can expect to pay anywhere from $300-$1,000 for a Black Zirconium wedding band.
These metals are significantly more affordable compared to gold, platinum, cobalt chrome and slightly more expensive than metals like Titanium or Stainless Steel.
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Durability and Strength
Overall, these two metals are both very strong. You won't need to worry about significant dents or dings in these metals. However, Black Zirconium is techincally "stronger" than Tungsten. It also has much less of a tendancy to break.
This is the biggest downside to Tungsten. It IS prone to breaking if dropped onto tile or concrete. They say Tungsten is strong but brittle. Which doesn't make all that much sense to me but I'll go with it.
Now this isn't to say that any time you drop your Tungsten ring it's going to shatter. But it is a possiblity.
I actually own a Tungsten band and was a bit worried about this. I've dropped my ring once on laminate floors when I was taking it off and it didn't break.
However, I'll say that the amount of times I take off my ring is VERY little. If your ring fits, then you shouldn't really ever have too many times where you are in a scenario where you could potentially drop your ring. So hopefully that will ease the worry if you are liking a Tungsten wedding band.
If you aren't typically prone to skin allergies then this won't matter to you. But Black Zirconium is a hypoallergenic metal. So you shoudn't have to worry about any irritation on the skin.
Pure Tungsten is also hypoallergenic. But Tungsten wedding bands are never purely Tungsten. They often contain nickel, which is something that people can be allergic to.
So if you know that you are allergic to Nickel, then a Tungsten ring may not be for you.
The Instigator Tungsten Ring from manlybands.com
The Spy Black Zirconium Ring from manlybands.com
One of the biggest differences between these two metals is their weight. Tungsten is one of the heaviest metals around. While Zirconium is very light.
Now when it comes to these metals in a wedding band, we're talking grams here. Not pounds. So a Tungsten ring isn't going to feel like your carrying around a weight on your hand at all times.
But you can feel a slight difference when wearing each on your finger.
Some people like the sturdier, heavier feel of Tungsten. While others prefer to have the lightest ring possible. So at the end of the day, the weight you want to feel in your ring is totally up to preference!
Tungsten is highly scratch resistant. It can take quite the beating without seeing a scratch. Zirconium on the other hand is very scratch resistant, but not totally.
Over the 40+ year lifetime of a Black Zirconium ring, you may very well see a few scratches on the ring. So if you work in a trade that puts your ring in some tough situations (think mechanic or construction worker) and you really do not want scratches on your ring, then Tungsten may be a better choice.
With that being said, some people may actually prefer a few scratches on their ring over time - as it adds some character to the band!
Like many alternative metals, these two metals cannot be re-sized. Which is a downside. However, the most malleable metals, like gold, are much more expensive. So you do have a bit of a trade off there to consider.
The biggest difference between these two metals (outside of looks) is their weight, and the fact that Tungsten contans Nickel. So unless you know that you have a nickel allergy, or know that you prefer a lighter ring vs heavier, choose between these two metals based off looks.
Especially if you are buying a wedding band. Your going to have to look at the ring the rest of your life (hopefully). So you should love to look at it!