White Metal Jewelry: Alternative Metals

Titanium, Tungsten Carbide, and Stainless Steel

These three industrial metals fascinate men and women alike – but the guys dominate. That’s probably due to the metals’ popularity in watches and their “technical” qualities. They are tough and can take a lot of wear and tear – another plus.

Although not as commonly used in fine jewelry as sterling silver, white gold or platinum, Titanium, Stainless Steel, and Tungsten Carbide are gaining popularity – especially with men. Often used for their durability in active accessories, like golf clubs, the metals are well suited to active consumers who will wear the jewelry on a daily basis.

IJO Stainless Steel Fleur-de-lis necklace

IJO stainless steel & 18k yellow gold “Fleur-de-lis” necklace

The Look

The metals’ steely, gray appearance especially appeals to men. Titanium also has a unique property that allows it to be transformed, using heat or chemicals, into bright colors like blue, purple, and black. The metals are often used in inlay designs, with contrasting metals and patterns in rings and bracelets. Jewelry made from these metals often feature contemporary designs in rings, bracelets, cufflinks, earrings, money clips, and necklaces.

Insider Details

Unlike the precious metals – platinum, gold, silver, and palladium – these metals are not nearly as rare. Titanium is the ninth most common element found on earth; stainless steel was created in a laboratory. The alternative metals have the dual benefits of being very strong, and also lightweight. And they are durable. In fact, tungsten is considered the world’s hardest metal substance; it ranks 8-9 on the Mohs hardness scale (diamonds are a 10). It is roughly ten times harder than gold and four times harder than titanium.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Tungsten Men's RingTitanium, stainless steel, and tungsten carbide offer affordable alternatives to precious white metal jewelry. They are non-corrosive and hypoallergenic. Jewelry made using these industrial metals is scratch resistant and will retain its polish longer than other metals.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

When used in chain or link bracelets, the metals are less likely to snap or break – making the need for repair infrequent. However, their strength also limits their applications. They are so tough that resizing is sometimes difficult – though many manufacturers do offer a resizing service to retailers who cannot resize the rings themselves.

Source: Jewelers of America