Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Sentiments on Titanium Jewellery

As a qualified and experienced goldsmith, I get to see and deal with all kinds of jewellery on a daily basis. I was trained in the forging or precious metals, particularly 18K gold. As a goldsmith I am also able to forge other metals such as silver, platinum, palladium and various alloys of each of these metals. It is a skilled profession which takes years to master, for those who are able to do so. 

Every so often I get a request for a an estimate to make a titanium wedding band. Or perhaps a tungsten band. These rings started becoming popular and widely available in the 1990's. There are many different grades and alloys of titanium, depending on the industrial use of the metal. There are many "benefits" of titanium rings, one of the most important being cost. They are very cheap in comparison to traditional metals used in creating wedding bands. Personally, I am quite intrigued by the metal seeing as it is used in so many every day applications that our world would be a lot less convenient if it didn't exist. 

Unfortunately though, titanium is not a practical metal for use in hand forging and thus jewellers creation. Usually, these rings are cut from stock tube or blocks or sheet, by sophisticated computer driven milling machines. Certain grades of titanium are able to be filed with traditional files, but sizing is impossible. This is not a metal that we can solder on. In taking into account that a wedding ring is supposed to be worn for life, the inability to size these rings is a major drawback. Most people with need to have their wedding bands sized at least once during the course of marriage. This means getting a replacement ring. I have personally experienced this happening. 

Alternative metal jewellery certainly does have it's place in the market. It can be transformed in vibrant colours and many designs are possible. However, as a goldsmith, I am not able to create the type of sophisticated designs in titanium, as I am able to create using traditional precious metals. Furthermore, to hand create a ring using metal as cheap as titanium if it was possible(or silver for matter) would take the same amount of time and effort to create and clients would not want to pay for such a service. Most designs available out there are mass produced to make it economically viable. And these rings all made by machines. There are probably a handful of craftsmen that produce titanium rings, but their scope for design diversity is very limited. 

I have associates in the industry who allow me to supply titanium rings, but these rings always come with a higher price tag, as I have to design the ring on my CAD software, then submit it, have the ring machined, have it returned to me where I will adorn the ring with any precious metals or accents that are required. They also come with a warning that they can't be sized.