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With This Ring I Thee Bled

Claim:   Titanium rings can be removed from swollen fingers only through amputation.


Example:   [Collected on the Internet, October 2003]

Do you have any information on the idea that titanium rings are almost impossible to cut off in the case of an emergency ... particularly aircraft grade titanium? I have heard several stories where a person was wearing a titanium ring and for whatever reason his finger swelled and they could not get it off and his finger had to be amputated or severe damage was incurred with the way the ring was finally cut off.

Origins:   We started collecting versions of this belief about titanium rings in 2003, when that substance began to find favor among the about-to-be-weds as wedding band material. This lustrous element is a strong, light, corrosion-resistant material of a greyish color whose strength-to-weight ratio is the highest of any metal. It appears to offer very good value for those seeking a less expensive alternative to traditional Titanium wedding band gold for their wedding bands because it's tough, lightweight, and a fair bit more scratch-resistant than other metals commonly used for such purpose.

Titanium rings are perfectly safe to wear — even if a finger bearing one becomes swollen or otherwise injured, removal of the circlet generally involves little more than properly using a jeweler's saw. Contrary to rumor, fingers so trapped do not need to be amputated, smashed, or otherwise further injured to effect rescue from the encircling ring. (Interestingly, a number of those who reported encountering the rumor about titanium-encircled fingers needing to be amputated say they heard this claim from jewelers who were trying to warn them off from purchasing such bijoux and perhaps were trying to steer them towards more expensive items.)

Titanium can be cut with a bolt cutter or a jeweler's saw, or indeed by just about any other implement that can slice through stainless steel. Most such jewelry items (including rings) are fashioned of commercial-grade titanium, which is 99% pure. A common ring cutter, standard equipment in most emergency rooms, is all that is needed to remove a titanium ring from whatever body part it adorns. Aerospace (or aircraft) grade titanium is more difficult to saw through because it is not pure but rather a special alloy meant to be used under high stress conditions, and it should therefore be eschewed by those seeking titanium jewelry in favor of its commercial grade version because its removal could present additional problems. One could still be cut loose from it, but the process would be a bit more involved.

There is one additional difference between removing a titanium ring from a swollen body part and freeing said digit from a band fashioned of a different metal:
titanium doesn't bend easily. That means two cuts must be made in the ring (one on each side, thereby dividing the band into two distinct halves) if the item is to be easily removed. By contrast, a gold ring would require only one such cut, after which it could be effortlessly pried apart.

Those worried about getting titanium bands off their ring fingers should consider that such circlets have been successfully removed from other body parts, some a great deal more sensitive than fingers. For example, in 2005 a German medical journal described the removal of a titanium thumb ring of 2 mm thickness from a patient's penis. Said situation (in which the ring was excised with the aid of an electric cutting tool) was described as having presented "an interdisciplinary challenge for urologists, jewelers, and locksmiths." (While folks of more sedate tastes might not think to put wedding rings to such use, the practice is far from unheard of. Many an emergency room professional has had to deal with such cases, as mentioned in our article about a revenge legend involving a deliberate act of wedding band entrapment.)

One noticeable downside to a titanium wedding ring is its innate inability to be resized should the wearer gain or lose weight or should the configuration of the finger it's worn on change over time.

Barbara "immutable, in a way that brides and grooms are not" Mikkelson

Last updated:   23 August 2013

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    Heebner, Jennifer.   "Titanium's New Push."
    Jewelers Circular Keystone.   1 January 2002   (p. 94).

    Pry, Will.
      "Titanium's Strong, Light Characteristics Gain It Fans, But Is It Really the Superhero of Metals?"
    The Dallas Morning News.   2 November 2000.

    Weidemann, A.   "Inappropriate Use of a Titanium Penile Ring."
    Der Urologe.   January 2006.