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Yep, this can happen with alternative metal wedding rings.

Every week, without fail, Scott and I get at least one couple coming in for custom wedding rings to our stores, Scott’s Custom Jewelers, in Akron and Columbus, inquiring about “alternative metal”.  They usually have bought a beautiful diamond engagement ring and custom band for the bride in gold, palladium or platinum, and it’s been a lovely experience for all of us. Then they start on the groom-to-be’s ring, and the conversation turns to titanium. Or tungsten carbide. Or even carbon fiber. WTFlip?

Now, we have six kids.  We know about staying within a budget, counting pennies, thriftiness.  We get it.  But these bands aren’t jewelry metals.  My dad has a tool and die company and he uses these metals to cut steel for car part molds!

Here’s some background on why titanium has become a popular choice for men’s wedding bands lately.  We can blame the economy and the Great Recession of ’08.

When the economy started to falter, gold began to rise.  Like a lot.  It was a shock to everyone, even those of us in the jewelry industry.  BUT, if you look at where gold was at per ounce back in 2007, and take into account inflation, you would see that gold was actually very undervalued. It did need to be adjusted, but that didn’t make the rise in price any easier to take.  The increase in the gold market was sudden, and scared the heck out of everyone. 

Soooo, the jewelry manufacturers quickly came up with a plan, and that meant finding an alternative material for wedding rings.  Men’s rings are big and heavier than most women’s rings, so they needed a lot more material.  Enter titanium, tungsten carbide, cobalt, wood (really – that’s going to look good all splintered up when you washed your hands!) and even ceramic.  Yep they’re cheap, both to make and to sell.  They literally cost pennies to manufacture, and sell for between $100 to $300.  That’s a lot of profit for the stores.  And with all of those cool styles, they did appeal to the fashionistas in all of us.

However, none of these materials are sizeable.  And there’s not a lot of grooms who still wear the same size band after 10 years of home cooking!  So they become disposable.  The symbol of your marriage and undying love is now in the trash can.

And that’s the really sad part.  Every day, we work with our customer’s recreating new, beautiful jewelry from items that they’ve inherited from loved ones.  We have refurbished grandpa’s wedding band into a gorgeous pendant, or even just refinished and restyled them as new wedding bands for the next generation.  It’s amazing what we can do with heirloom jewelry!

And, another little know fact about some of these metals:  If a guy has a finger injury, falls, or works in an industry with tools, most of these rings CAN NOT BE CUT OFF IN AN EMERGENCY!  Yes, that’s right.  Most hospitals and ambulances do not carry tool cutters for cobalt and tungsten carbide.  That’s because they’re not cutable.  The only way to get them off your finger is to hit it with a sledge hammer!  And I’m betting that wouldn’t be comfortable.

Which brings me to another interesting characteristic about some of these metals.  One good hit on a granite counter and the ring explodes.  And it’s not fixable either. 

So, the moral of the story?  If you’re going for budget on a ring, please consider only using precious metals like sterling silver, or go for a thinner style and choose gold (both white and yellow).  There are ways to keep the price down. And in fact, the price of gold IS down from what it was a few years ago. We at Scott’s Custom Jewelers can work with you to give you the style you want, at a price you can live with!

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