Cobalt 101: Should You Buy a Cobalt Wedding Ring?

There’s much discussion about alternative metals when it comes to men’s wedding rings, and one metal that comes up repeatedly is cobalt. The alloy that cobalt jewelry is made of is called cobalt chrome, and it is both aesthetically appealing and very damage resistant. On top of this, it’s also less expensive than gold or platinum and more forgiving to work with than just tungsten or titanium.😋

Of course, it is not a traditional metal, and there are a few drawbacks to using it, both because it’s less commonly found in jewelry and somewhat challenging to work with. To some people, breaking tradition is a draw rather than a problem.🙌🏻

If you aren’t the kind of person to get hung up on specific traditions, and you’re looking for something cost-effective and fashionable, you could do far worse than cobalt. So is cobalt chrome the right choice for your wedding ring? Read on and find out.

Cobalt Metal Wedding Band (Blue Nile)
Wedding band in the photo sold by: Blue Nile
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What is cobalt?

You may be seeing the word cobalt and thinking of the color "cobalt blue". For this piece, we will be referring to cobalt as a metal only, but the pigment does come from that metal. When on its own, cobalt is a vivid blue color; however, cobalt chrome typically is not.

Cobalt chrome is an alternative to gold and platinum. Since it’s an alternative metal, you are not just buying smelted cobalt (which would be incredibly toxic). You’re buying an alloy of cobalt, tungsten, iron, and (sometimes) nickel. When mixed with these other metals, cobalt is easier to work with and perfectly safe for a human to wear as jewelry and often as part of dental work.

There are many advantages to purchasing a cobalt ring instead of one made of gold, platinum, tungsten, or titanium. We will be going over the pros and cons and briefly touching on some of the alternatives to cobalt.💃🏻

The history of cobalt

The reason for all of these other metals mixed in is that when miners used to try to smelt cobalt by itself, they ended up with a particularly toxic form of arsenic. This concoction led to the name "cobalt," which comes from the Germanic word "kobold," referring to a wicked underground spirit known for causing misfortune to miners.

If you’re a gamer, you might think of the tiny dragon creatures from the World’s Most Popular Tabletop Game or the dog-faced candle-wearing kobolds from World of Warcraft. The inspiration for both of those came from the same place.

Because of its toxic nature, you will not be able to find a pure cobalt ring. Instead, what you purchase when you buy cobalt jewelry is an alloy called "cobalt-chrome," which contains tungsten, iron, and sometimes nickel.

The presence of nickel makes the metal cheaper, but cobalt chrome is only hypoallergenic without it in the alloy. Cobalt was discovered in the 1700s and added to the periodic table with all others.

The consistency of cobalt chrome

Cobalt chrome as an alloy is both lightweight and durable compared to its more traditional counterparts. Where gold is known for its malleability and will bend and warp over time, cobalt chrome is a hard metal that will keep its shape for years and is more scratch-resistant than gold or platinum. The cobalt properties make it a sturdy ring. Everyday wear will do nothing to warp cobalt chrome.

You may think that being as durable as it is would cause it to be heavier, but that isn’t the case. Cobalt sits light upon the finger, making it a good choice for a ring for a working man. Of course, scratch-resistant is not scratch-proof, so if there’s an activity you would ordinarily take your ring off to do, that will probably still be necessary.⚠️

Of course, you will also want to compare the consistency of cobalt chrome to things like tungsten and titanium. Both tungsten and titanium are harder than cobalt chrome. Still, the edge cobalt chrome has over them is the variety of colors that it comes in and the fact that, even though it’s a pain to do so, it can be resized if necessary, while tungsten never can.

Remember that being scratch-resistant does not make cobalt scratch-proof; there will still be wear and tear over time, especially if this is a ring you will be wearing every day.

The appearance of cobalt chrome

You may be concerned about the color of your wedding ring. If cobalt chrome is so lightweight and durable and capable of so much on a practical level, you may be thinking it must be ugly, or it would be more popular. That is not the case at all.

Cobalt chrome can come in several shades, but one of the most popular is the same color as white gold. Unlike white gold, however, cobalt chrome does not require rhodium plating to maintain its pale color.

The rhodium plating in white gold wears away with regular wear and has to be replaced once every year or so to maintain the stunning look. White cobalt chrome does not require periodic maintenance and is cheaper to buy in the first place.

It can also be made black or resemble rose gold in color. Regardless of what color you get your cobalt ring in, it will be low maintenance. As you can see, taking a white gold ring in for servicing is necessary at least once a year, but cobalt should never need to be serviced that way. Only occasionally cleaned with soap and warm water.

Cobalt chrome ring designs

Most of the time, if you’re looking for a ring in cobalt chrome, it will be very simplistic. The most exact shape to make a ring is a simple circle, which is part of why the vast majority of cobalt chrome rings were made with men in mind.

😎However, there are several variants of a cobalt chrome ring if you want something a little more unique. For instance, it is not uncommon to find a cobalt chrome ring with a circle of wood in the middle and cobalt on either side of that inlay. Some cobalt chrome rings are also designed with dark shapes along the surface or with artful grooves on the outside.

They can also be found inlaid with gems, but only smaller ones in simplistic patterns. This pattern is not unusual for men’s wedding rings, even those made from more traditional materials like gold or platinum.

However, it is always possible to find something more ornate in a conventional metal, and cobalt chrome will almost always be a simple design due to how difficult it is to work with.

The price of men’s cobalt wedding bands

A cobalt ring is often cheaper though less intrinsically valuable than gold or platinum. The same ring in white gold, for example, will often be seven times more expensive than the cobalt counterpart, making cobalt a good choice if you’re trying to budget for a wedding in places that won’t be obvious to the naked eye.

Most cobalt rings are about $100-$200. If you want customizations, engravings, or a different style, it may be more expensive.

Of course, this is both a pro and a con because many people want their wedding ring to be valuable. Even so, most people won’t be able to tell the difference at a glance, and with any luck, that ring won’t be anywhere but on your finger for many years to come.

However, on top of being less expensive, it is also much harder to modify. A cobalt chrome ring cannot be resized easily, and even if you do it, there is a limit to how far it can go.

There is a good chance that the ring will need to be replaced at some point, but having to buy two or three cobalt chrome rings will typically not amount to the same price as a single white gold one. This is especially true once you’ve factored in maintenance costs.🏷️

Cobalt is hypoallergenic

Getting a suitable metal can be extremely important for people with sensitive skin. Nickel alloys often irritate the skin of sensitive people, but cobalt chrome is often used in dental implants and surgical tools. In those areas, it is essential that the patient not have an allergic reaction.

Most of the time, if one has an allergic reaction to a piece of jewelry, it is because of the presence of nickel in the alloy. Nickel is often used when smelting jewelry because it is cheaper than some other metals used and makes it easier for companies to stretch their supply of more expensive metals.

A good cobalt chrome ring will not contain any nickel and will be hypoallergenic to the wearer.🦸🏻‍♂️ Jewelry made of other metals can also cause an allergic reaction, so if this is a concern for you, pay attention to what is in the jewelry you are buying, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

The pros and cons of a cobalt ring

If you’re looking for a quick reference as to why you might or might not want to go for a cobalt ring over another metal, look no farther. Here are some bullet points to glance over at your convenience if you don’t have a lot of time to read up on the details:✅

Pros:

  • High luster and shine make the cobalt chrome look naturally like white gold or platinum😚
  • Affordable price compared to more traditional metals
  • High durability compared to more conventional metals; it won’t warp
  • Hypoallergenic; will not set off sensitive skin
  • Medium weight for people who want to feel the ring on their finger but not be burdened by it
  • It comes in traditional colors as well as black
  • Low maintenance

Cons:

  • That same durability makes it challenging to resize
  • Hard to engrave for the same reasons
  • Not intrinsically valuable enough for resale like other precious metals
  • Scratch-resistant, not scratch-proof. It will show signs of wear over time
  • Designs are limited, especially for women
  • It may not be available at your local jeweler
  • Harder to find someone to do maintenance if it does become necessary

Frequently asked questions about cobalt chrome

Here are some commonly asked questions regarding cobalt jewelry. Being one of the less commonly used metals in rings, naturally, there will be things that don’t feel like obvious answers compared to metals like gold or platinum.

Can I resize a cobalt ring?

It is possible to resize a cobalt ring up or down one size, but it is so tricky most jewelers will not be willing to do it. Fingers change sizes over time, so it’s essential to get the right size to begin with and understand that you may need to replace the ring at some point down the road.

Given how inexpensive cobalt chrome is, this is less dramatic than replacing one with gold or platinum. Still, if you are one to get sentimentally attached to your jewelry, it might be for the best to choose a different metal.

How should I care for my cobalt jewelry?

One of the significant draws of cobalt is that it is low maintenance. It is scratch-resistant but not scratch-proof, so when you have a cobalt ring, it is crucial to take it off while doing a strenuous activity with your hands. When in storage, keep it in a separate bag or box from other jewelry, so it doesn’t get scratched.

As long as you remember to do those things, there isn’t any polishing or servicing that should need to be done. You can maintain cobalt’s shine by running it under warm water with a mild soap. That’s all it takes.

If cobalt is so hard, can my ring still be cut off in an emergency?

Yes. Cobalt will be more challenging to cut off than gold or platinum, but you can still cut through it to free yourself if you need to.

How does cobalt compare to tungsten and titanium?

Tungsten is even cheaper and more durable than cobalt. However, because it is so hard, you cannot resize it, even with incredible difficulty. Neither can titanium. All three can be hypoallergenic.

If you are looking for a durable wedding ring that you won’t mind replacing later because you cannot resize it, tungsten might be the better choice. Tungsten is the only metal that boasts of being entirely scratchproof.

They also tend toward different colors. Tungsten and titanium are darker than cobalt and will not give you that nice white gold coloring.

Can I get a cobalt ring in blue?

Yes, there are cobalt rings available in blue if you are looking for the color of cobalt rather than all of its other features. Remember that if you are looking for a ring in blue, there is a good chance you will find an edgier design than if you were looking for something in a yellow or white tone. Cobalt is also available in black.🤪

Should you purchase a cobalt ring?

Whether or not a cobalt wedding ring is right depends on quite a few factors, but here are some reasons you might want to choose cobalt over another metal.

Are you a man or a woman comfortable with wearing a men’s ring? Or perhaps someone of the persuasion that likes to push or bend gender norms? Cobalt rings are typically made in masculine styles, and even those are limited.

Are you someone who is looking for practicality over style? Cobalt might be the right choice if you want a simple ring.

Are you someone who needs a ring that will be durable and low maintenance? If you don’t have the money to keep taking it back to a jeweler but still want it to look nice, cobalt keeps its shine with minimal effort and isn’t expensive to maintain.

Do you get sentimentally attached to your jewelry? If the answer is yes, you might want to avoid cobalt as eventually, it will run out of room for resizing and need to be replaced.

Where should you purchase a cobalt ring?

Several excellent vendors offer cobalt chrome rings.

Blue Nile has several designs for the discerning gentleman, for example. There are also several good designs available on Etsy, though caution is advised when shopping there as with anywhere that has several independent vendors.

Finally, if you have your heart set on cobalt chrome and want a little bit less simplistic design, Revolution Jewelry Designs has several more ornate ones.

Though there is a good chance you will not be able to find cobalt chrome at your local jewelry store, if you are shopping online, that is a good reason to lean toward cobalt chrome over traditional metals as it isn’t something you will just be able to go out and find in a display case somewhere.🧐💪🏻

Conclusion

Whether looking for a new ring or trying to figure out how to treat the one you already have, cobalt chrome is a different kind of jewelry metal. Cobalt chrome is durable, scratch-resistant, cost-effective, and truly stunning to behold.

It is an excellent choice for someone who walks off the beaten path and isn’t afraid to break with tradition.🎆 If that is what you’ve decided on, you will surely have a solid piece for years to come.

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