What is Black Zirconium?
First, what it is not.
Ok, let’s get this out of the way right now. Let me tell you what zirconium is not. It is not ‘cubic zirconia’! Yes, I realize ‘zirconia’ and ‘ziconium’ sound similar and are are spelled nearly identical. But they could not be more different from each other.
Zirconia, as in cubic zirconia (commonly called CZ), is a man made diamond simulant. It is a very cheap and inexpensive stone found in costume jewelry. It is also seen in some precious metal jewelry when folks can’t afford the real thing. It is made in a laboratory. It has no real value. It’s a fake diamond.
Now zirconium, that’s a different story. It is not a man made creation, cooked up in some laboratory or factory. It is a natural element found in our earth. It has the symbol Zr and the atomic number 40. It’s natural color is a grayish silvery white. (But the article says “black zirconium”, what’s up with that? More about that later. Read on.) And most of it comes from mines in Australia and South Africa.
Zirconium has a super high resistance to corrosion. For many years, it has been used in the space, aeronautic and even the medical industry. It is bio-compatible and non-toxic. By far the biggest user of zirconium is the nuclear power industry at about 90% of the world’s production.
Also, zirconium has a very high melting point of 3370 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, gold has a melting point of 1948 degrees Fahrenheit. Not that you will probably ever want to melt your zirconium ring…
How zirconium is used in jewelry.
First the jewelry manufacturer or shop will need to purchase the material. How does it come? Typically, we will purchase round bar stock. You can see the picture of the bars laying up against the wall. Just waiting for Mr. Chad to do his awesomeness to it!
The most common zirconium alloy used is Zr702. This alloy is 97.5 -97.9% pure zirconium and 2.0 – 2.4% Hafnium.
Mainly we are seeing rings being made out of the zirconium. But I think soon we will see the introduction of jewelry accessories out of this material. To make the rings, the the round bar stock is milled to get the design. It’s all computerized. No free hand stuff. And not cast. So everything is precise with amazing tolerances.
After the ring is milled then it goes through an oxidation process. The ring is heated to a very high temperature. The extreme heat causes a chemical reaction on the surface of the zirconium, and the result is a beautiful black color. This black layer is actually the oxidation that took place.
The oxidation layer is extremely hard. How hard? I’m not a metallurgist, but it’s safe to say it’s as hard as sapphire. And sapphire is used on high end watches, such as Rolex, for the crystals due to the scratch resistance qualities. (By comparison a glass crystal or a mineral crystal on a watch scratches and chips pretty easily.) Sapphires are hard to scratch. They are the hardest natural gemstone, behind diamonds. Well, this blackened zirconium is kind of like that. Yes, you can scratch it, but it’s tough to do.
And the black color is permanent. It does not fade, tarnish, or otherwise change color. To get a two tone look a diamond tool is used to cut through the black oxidized shell. The underlying color is gray-silver. So you can create a striking pattern on the ring this way.
Why do guys like black zirconium rings?
It’s just a really cool metal. It’s black, but you can get a two tone look also. It pairs well with other materials. We’ve combined it with meteorite, sterling silver, gold and copper. With more combinations to come! And we can customize a black zirconium ring for you. Your design can come to life. Just hit us up and let’s work together designing your very own ring.
It’s affordable. Most black zirconium rings are $200 – $300 range, with some basic styles under a hundred bucks.
We are seeing growing demand from our customers for black zirconium rings. So we will be adding to our designs of this exciting metal.
See some really cool black zirconium rings here.