As we've pointed out throughout our site, tungsten rings are incredibly hard and scratch-resistant. This raises the question: if tungsten is such a tough element, how come jewelers are able to shape it and craft rings out of it?
This is a great question, since the fact is that even though it has been almost 250 years since this element was discovered, only recently techniques have been developed to make it possible and economically feasible to process it in jewelry grade quality and amounts for the end customer.
Tungsten doesn't exist 'raw' in nature - it comes in stones such as wolframite and scheelite. And when it's extracted as raw tungsten from those stones, it's extremely hard. This extreme hardness, though, comes with a price of brittleness. Like ceramic or glass, this hard element is quite brittle in its raw form, making it very hard to work with to craft
So the first step in tungsten jewelry crafting is mixing the tungsten with carbon to create Tungsten Carbide. This doesn't detract from the hardness, but adds a lot to the strength, decreasing brittleness considerably. In fact, Tungsten Carbide is still as hard as tungsten, and rates a 9 on the Mohs hardness scale. (This is a scale of numbers between 1 to 10, 1 being the least hard and 10 being the hardest, which is diamond. 18K gold rates somewhere in between
1 and 2 in this scale.)
To do this, both tungsten and carbon are ground up. Then they are mixed together into a powder, and massive pressure is applied in a mold. After this is a process called 'sintering'. Sintering (comes from 'cinder') means that in extremely high temperatures, the materials that make up a mixture with diffuse through one another, creating a homogeneous substance. So after huge temperatures are applied, the mixture is truly complete and now we have tungsten carbide in the shape we want.
We now have the base shape that we want, but some tungsten rings (as can be seen on our website) have additional features like facets, grooves, inlays and etc. To do any of this (further processing the ring) you need something that's stronger than tungsten carbide, and there aren't many things in the world that are. The first thing that comes to mind are diamonds and that's correct. Polycrystalline tools and abrasives (diamond) are used, either manually or through machining, to further process the tungsten ring.
The next steps differ from process to process, whether it's grooving, engraving, rounding, inlaying etc. But one thing is certain: When the finish/polish is done, it's virtually guaranteed to stay that way forever. Tungsten rings show very very little fade or scratching, just like actual diamonds, thanks to their amazing hardness. Remember, it is forged at around 6500 to 6700 F!