Once you receive your tungsten carbide ring you ordered through your reputable online retailer, the tungsten in the ring has been through so many transformations in order to become the ring that will adorn your finger for a long, long time. What exactly did it go though to become your cherished ring?
As you may be aware, tungsten as we know it does not just appear out in the world in its present form. It must be extracted from the earth through mining procedures and is a very labor-intensive process. When the tungsten is initially discovered it is usually found as a mineral, scheelite or wolframite. Once the mineral is taken from the earth, the useful, metal portion must be extracted.
Today, when the tungsten ore is processed, the tungsten minerals are undergo a chemcila process similar to that used by the Spanish brothers and chemists Fausto and Juan Jose d’Elhuyar y de Suvisa during tungsten’s initial isolation, over 200 years ago, with a few tweaks.
The scheelite or wolframite mineral is crushed, before any chemical processing occurs. The crushed tungsten goes through a process called gravity concentration in order to refine the minerals. This process separates larger pieces of the mineral that may not have been crushed as well as needed from already workable ore. The larger pieces are then crushed more until they are workable. Once the pieces are workable, the ore goes through many methods to increase the concentration of tungsten ore, such as magnetic separation and roasting. Flotation is an interesting method also used, which entails mixing the crushed ore with chemicals and water in a flotation tank. Air is blown through the mix, carrying mineral-rich bubbles to the surface of the tank so that the mineral rich bubbles can be skimmed off the surface.
Once the ore has been crushed, it is then cleaned and treated in order to form tungsten trioxide. Once it is tungsten trioxide, using carbon as a reducing agent, the tungsten can be isolated. This isolation eventually creates the metallic mineral used later on to create the metallic tungsten. The metallic tungsten is then used by many producers to create a multitude of products ranging from the insides of a light bulb or parts used for space travel, to the elegant tungsten rings you are looking to purchase.
While there are lengthier discussions on the process of separating tungsten from its initial mineral stage to the final product, the method used to extract the metallic tungsten has remained virtually unchanged since it was first discovered.