Zirconium. Tungsten carbide. Rhodium.
When it comes to the latest jewelry metals rocking sales counters and online jewelry stores, there’s a wide and unusual selection of precious metals at your fingertips.
Why settle for platinum, gold, or silver when you’ve got a world of choices? Here’s our precious metals list to make your next jewelry investment unique, durable, and fashionable.
Zirconium starts its life as silver-colored metal. But when it gets exposed to heat and oxidizes, it transforms into a gorgeous black colored metal. As hard as sapphire, the black hue won’t tarnish, fade, or change in any way.
Unlike most black metals (which are formed by antiquing or plating), zirconium remains permanently ebony. The black layer can also be altered and crafted into two-tone pieces. Besides this, zirconium looks great with other metals such as gold.
When searching for black metal jewelry, ceramic represents another option. But it proves too brittle to work into precious stone settings. So, if you want to set a diamond in a black ring, you’re out of luck.
Fortunately, zirconium proves flexible enough to work into settings for diamonds and other stones. This makes it one of the outstanding ring metals. And one with a unique appearance and appeal.
Just remember, zirconium cannot be sized. So, if you’re purchasing a ring, you’ll need to keep this in mind.
2. Tungsten Carbide
Tungsten carbide rods get used in a wide variety of manufacturing operations for tools such as reamers, drills, end mills, and milling cutters. But did you know that this tungsten makes a great jewelry alternative, too?
What’s so special about tungsten carbide when it comes to jewelry?
First, its weight proves similar to that of gold and platinum providing a luxurious, substantial feel. Second, it proves durable and scratch resistant.
Third, it’s nickel-free and hypoallergenic, making it an excellent alternative for those with allergies.
On the Mohs hardness scale, tungsten ranks up there with rubies and sapphires. And it falls just short of diamonds. No wonder it’s used in armor-piercing tank ammunition!
This property makes it a great metal for constructing durable, daily wears such as wedding bands.
Needless to say, tungsten carbide jewelry proves highly resilient. Yet, its attractive appearance makes it a gorgeous staple of the jewelry world. Finally, you’ll be shocked by its affordability compared to other precious metals.
60 percent of rhodium hails from South Africa. It’s a silver-white metallic element that proves highly durable and reflective. And it ranks as rarer and more precious than gold.
In fact, it’s the unicorn of the platinum group with natural occurrences coming in at one part per 200 million in the Earth’s crust.
Because of its incredible value, rhodium plating is the most attainable way to get your hands on some of this precious metal. Plating will vastly improve the durability and shine of your jewelry without breaking the bank.
And, like tungsten carbide, it’s nickel-free and hypoallergenic.
That said, rhodium plating still comes with the limitations of jewelry plating. So, you’ll need reapplication every few years depending on how often you wear a given piece.
Many jewelers offer free replating. So, ask about your jeweler’s policies before making a purchase.
While we’re talking about jewelry with a platinum or white gold appearance, it’s worth discussing cobalt. This alternative metal appears lighter in color than platinum and has the reflective properties of plated white gold or rhodium.
Although it ranks lower on the Mohs scale than Tungsten, it still proves scratch, corrosion, and chip resistant. Just don’t expect it to hold up like Tungsten.
If you’re a fan of the white-gold look, then cobalt represents a great alternative. But it proves less affordable than tungsten carbide and scratches more easily.
Titanium boasts a natural silver-white color and can be treated to take on a variety of other hues, too. Stronger than steel yet lighter than aluminum, these properties make it great for items such as earrings.
But if you like your bracelets, rings, and necklaces to feel more substantial, you’ll want to stick with a heavier substance such as tungsten carbide. Titanium also shows wear and scratches more easily.
So, while affordable, it may not represent the best option for daily pieces such as wedding bands. Titanium also proves expensive and difficult to resize, repair, and engrave.
When you work with the right jeweler, however, they can offer you pricing that makes exchanging rings only slightly more expensive than the process of resizing. Finally, titanium proves one of the most affordably priced elements on this list.
Like rhodium, iridium is a member of the Platinum Group Metals (PGM). The members of the PGM, along with silver and gold, are known as the noble or precious metals.
Iridium proves highly resistant to any type of corrosion. In fact, acids have no significant impact on this element. Polishing to a brilliant sheen, iridium proves extremely hard and resistant to scratching, too.
Because of the uber-hardness and inflexibility of iridium, it proves very difficult to work. It also boasts a super high melting point-4,471 degrees Fahrenheit-which made it impossible for jewelers to work in former times.
That’s why the vast majority of jewelers make alloy jewelry with iridium instead. This combines the durability of iridium with the flexibility of another precious metal giving jewelers and wearers the best of both worlds.
Iridium combines the high luster of gold with the patina of platinum. While you’ll pay for this metal’s unique properties, these same qualities provide the perfect metaphor for love everlasting, making it an excellent wedding band option.
Alternative Jewelry Metals
While you may not be familiar with some of these alternative jewelry metals, they each boast special properties you should consider during your next purchase.
Some like rhodium and iridium boast anti-scratching and anti-corrosive properties. While others like titanium and cobalt prove more affordable. Yet, they still offer a lovely white-gold or white-silver appearance.
Interested in reading more about the latest jewelry trends? Check out our beauty and fashion blog to stay on top of the latest designs and materials coming out of the jewelry and accessories world.