As tungsten carbide becomes more popular, professional pearl and bead stringers may wish to familiarize themselves with the pros and cons of using this material in their work. In addition, it’s not unlikely that a client may ask for a recommendation regarding this material, a material that is attracting attention and controversy.
And, it’s important to note that a recent settlement by the FTC into jewelry advertising claims suggest that the benefits and risks of tungsten carbide may not be so “settled” after all.
in late August, the Federal Trade Commission announced it was closing its investigation of an advertising dispute between jewelers Scott Kay and Frederick Goldman. Both men own respected companies. And, both are well known for their wedding jewelry.
As the price of gold soars, jewelers and consumers are turning to other materials to fabricate wedding bands. One of these materials is tungsten carbide and it is quickly becoming a popular choice for wedding rings. It’s good looking, very affordable and available in a number of designs. Frederick Goldman, Inc. is a leading supplier of tungsten carbide wedding rings.
And, here is where the trouble started. Scott Kay challenged a number of Frederick Goldman advertising claims including claims about tungsten carbide’s strength, scratch resistance, and its ability to be removed safely from the finger.
Although both sides claimed victory after the settlement, it seems clear the practical and moral victory is really with Scott Kay.
The “win” for Goldman is that the FTC objected to Kay using the term “fragile.” However, it is permitting Kay to describe tungsten carbide as “brittle.”
There appears to be no doubt about the accuracy of this assertion. Here is a link to a short video illustrating the point. This also appears to substantiate Kay’s assertion that tungsten carbide isn’t a suitable material for wedding bands.
Tungsten carbide is extremely scratch resistant, but it can be scratched, for example, with a diamond or a sapphire.
There is apparently some question about the ability of local emergency rooms to remove a tungsten carbide ring. Kay successfully defended his claim that a line of Kay wedding bands can be removed safely. However, another manufacturer of tungsten carbide wedding bands, the Robbins Group, contacted local emergency rooms and determined all had the means to remove their bands.
The reaction of consumers to tungsten carbide rings is mixed. Here are a couple of reviews posted on overstock.com that focus on how brittle tungsten carbide is.
Although the focus of the tungsten carbide controversy has been on wedding bands, it is becoming increasingly available in a variety of products, including pendants and chains, elements you may wish to include in your jewelry designs.
In addition, as a professional pearl and bead stringer, you may be asked for a recommendation about buying tungsten carbide.
It seems pretty clear that there are some issues associated with subjecting tungsten carbide to the accidents and risks of every day ring wear. Nevertheless, it is good looking and as manufacturers develop new products, we might see some wonderful beads, pendants and chains we can use in designs for necklaces and earrings where the jewelry isn’t as at risk as rings.
Here is some good advice from a jeweler posting on the JCK website.