Titanium is a very shiny silver metal. It has metal’s highest strength to weight ratio, which means that for being so light, it is surprisingly strong! This versatile metal is durable, it doesn’t rust, and it is biocompatible. Where does titanium come from?
When supernovae occur, large amounts of titanium are formed. Fittingly, the scientist named the new element after the powerful sons of the Greek Earth Goddess, Gaia, the mythological Titans. Along with the nearby iron, copper, silver, gold and tungsten, this transition metal is part of the main group of metals that make up the earth. In fact, it is very common! Unlike some metals, which are mined in large deposits, the advantage of titanium is that it’s easily found in any igneous rock.
A Brief History of Titanium
In the late 1700’s both British William Gregor and German Martin Klaproth found an unknown element in the ores they were studying. The Englishman sent his report to the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall in 1791, and Klaproth, who gave it the name titanium, confirmed those findings in 1795. At this point, it was only known to exist in ore. Over a century passed before an American chemist, tried to melt titanium to make light bulbs in 1910. It didn’t work, but he found a way to purify the metal. Another chemist, William Justin Kroll, became interested in this unused element and he developed another method to extract pure titanium in 1932. Using the Kroll process, the manufacturing of titanium components officially began.
The Uses of Titanium
The unique properties of titanium make a wide range of applications possible. The most common consumer applications are for powdered titanium dioxide, used as a colour additive. Titanium is not toxic and produces the whitest coloring pigment, so it can be found in a range of food products (like marshmallows). Since it can absorb ultra-violet rays, it is common in sunscreens and cosmetics. And of course, one of the most basic paint colours is titanium white!
Titanium is the material of choice for many parts of aircraft and spacecraft. Many strong, but lightweight products, such as crutches, golf clubs, and laptops are made with titanium.
The medical applications of titanium are fascinating since it osseointegrates and is non-corrosive. This makes it the perfect metal for implants, as it will fuse with living bone and it will not disintegrate or flake. As soon as titanium or a titanium alloy is exposed to air, it creates a protective layer against the air itself and any other chemicals or acids. This is what keeps it intact and makes it so durable. In contrast, iron, steel, and even precious metals like gold and silver rust or corrode.
Researchers are now studying radicals created by TiO2 to see if they can kill bacteria. This would open a whole new range of possibilities for the use of titanium in the medical field.
Why is Titanium in my Jewelry
A newer phenomenon is titanium jewelry. Titanium wedding rings were made popular in the 1989 film “The Abyss”, and jewelry made of titanium has been slowly becoming more popular since then.
The processing of titanium is more complicated than other metals because it is highly reactive. This makes it a difficult material to form into jewelry. Nevertheless, it is still less expensive than many softer, precious metals.
Accessories made of titanium are light and don’t scratch easily. You don’t have to remove them since they don’t tarnish in chlorine, soap or seawater. The metal’s high strength allows for more durable and delicate stone setting than softer metals.
Since titanium started being used in the medical field, medical grade titanium was standardized. If an accessory is labeled “medical grade” it has been tested and approved by USP or ISO standards for biocompatibility. In other words, it is hypoallergenic and will not react with the skin. All JUST-TI earring hooks, posts, and earring backs (clutches) pass quality control testing to ensure that the proper grade of titanium is used. We use an XRF (like a plasma mass spectrometer used in labs but using x-rays) to confirm the titanium is medical grade.
The special properties found in this metal make it a perfect choice for those who want long-lasting jewelry. And now that jewelry made of medical grade titanium is available, it is the perfect choice for those who have nickel allergies.