Tungsten Education | Metal education | GemTrove

 

Know about Tungsten

 

While tungsten is more associated with light bulbs, the metal’s history and link with the jewellery industry are as famous as any other material. Tungsten carbide rings are a popular alternative to white gold, and often preferred for those that cherish its distinctive polish and shine. Tungsten rings are almost scratch proof and are a desirable item for wedding rings or any other form of jewellery that may be open to wear and tear.

History

Tungsten was known to smelters in the Middle Ages as the offset that was produced from melting down tin. However, because large quantities of it consumed the more valuable tin material, it was derided and detested by the smelter workers. Its more traditional name, Wolfram (German for wolf cream) is a mocking term, used to describe how the tungsten froth ate at the tin with the veracity of a wolf.

Axel Cronstedt was the first to give the mineral ore derivative a more pleasing name. Noting how the deposit was surprisingly heavy, he gave it the name tungsten, literally “heavy stone” in Swedish. However, it wasn’t until 1781 that the negative perception of Wolfram was extinguished. Famous Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele conducted experiments to isolate this metal, and while he technically discovered tungsten, didn’t note it in his report.

He did note, however, that the mineral contained a “still unknown acid”, which he called “tungstic acid”, in homage to Cronstedt’s research. Many more experiments were conducted, providing conclusive evidence that this acid was, in fact, the very same froth noticed for hundreds of years. It was the Spanish brothers Juan José and Fausto Elhuyar, however, who was able to claim the discovery of tungsten outright by isolating the metal with charcoal.

With tungsten now considered a new curiosity, a mad rush to examine its properties was soon underway. Tungsten was noted for its self-hardening and was very quickly used as a component in steel, making it more durable under high temperatures. Tungsten’s main claim to fame, however, was the discovery of its amazing electrical conductivity. It almost instantly replaced the old carbon lightbulb filaments of the time and had illuminated our homes ever since.

While it is most associated with lights, the metal’s association with jewellery is a proud one. Tungsten carbide was used to strengthen rings and bands against scratches, as well as improving its lustre after polishing. From a much-maligned byproduct of tin smelting to adorning some of the most beautiful jewellery pieces on earth, tungsten’s journey to respect has been a storied one indeed.

Formation

Tungsten (W) is commonly found in the mineral deposits wolframite, ferberite, hübernite, and scheelite, the latter named after its initial discoverer. It is the heaviest biological element, and also one of the most stable. It is also a strong metal and is resistant to corrosion. Tungsten carbide, the composite used in modern tungsten jewellery, reflects this property and offers a great deal of scratch resistance to the wearer.

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