When you purchase jewelry, it’s always better when it’s done with confidence, and choosing the right metal is part of that. While you’re often making a simple choice between the precious metals of silver and gold, there are other options. Alternative jewelry metals are more affordable while still durable, but they’re not all created equal. Here’s what to know about caring for each.
If there’s one word that sums up tungsten, that word is “tough.” It’s become a popular choice for active folks shopping for wedding bands because of its durability. It ranks high for its scratch resistance, and it’s also very tarnish-proof. However, according to jewelry makers at Blue Nile, it can be affected by harsh chemicals like chlorine, so it’s best to remove any tungsten rings while using cleaning products to preserve its polish.
Titanium’s strength holds up to steel, but it’s not as heavy. While titanium is corrosion- and tarnish-proof, it’s not scratch resistant. And because it can develop more scratches over time, you may have to have it polished more often to keep it’s luxurious, smooth appearance intact. Like tungsten, it’s also best to keep it away from harsh cleaning products.
It’s lightweight and hypoallergenic, and it’s stronger than steel. It’s not scratch-proof, but imperfections can easily be buffed out without damaging the jewelry. One thing to note is that carbon fiber is conductive, so don’t wear it if and when you’re working with electricity. Depending on what your preference is, it’s always more of a black hue, so it’s not going to look like shiny metal. However, it’s usually set into a stainless steel band like this. The biggest upside? It’s easy to care for at home with generic jewelry polish.
If you’re more into the look of traditional metal, stainless steel has that shiny mirror finish. It’s scratch-proof and resists corrosion and oxidation (which is why it’s often used for body piercings and surgical-grade tools). Like all the alternative jewelry metals on this list, it’s hypoallergenic. It’s hard to go wrong with stainless steel jewelry if you’re looking for something more affordable that will still last for a long time.
The benefit of cobalt over stainless steel jewelry is that it’s harder to scratch according to jewelry experts at Zales. Like stainless steel, it’s also used for surgical tools, so it’s rare to have any kind of reaction to this metal while wearing it. And it looks just as shiny. It won’t tarnish or corrode. All of these qualities make it extremely easy to care for over its life in your jewelry drawer.
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Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.
Catherine Conelly is a former beauty and health editor turned freelance writer and digital marketer. She’s written for Shape, Thrillist, PopSugar and StyleCaster. Her work has also appeared on Forbes, Entrepreneur, the Glassdoor blog, and Adidas Game Plan A.