Many people are interested in knowing exactly what goes into the products they buy, and those purchasing silicone rings are often no exception. A common question area that's raised among some people who are buying a silicone ring for the first time: Is silicone a plastic or a form of rubber? 

At Enso Rings, we're happy to not only direct you to our wide selection of silicone rings, which ranges from wedding and bridal rings to numerous other styles like our etched floral collection and more, but also to answer any questions you may have about how our materials are sourced, produced and manufactured. What is silicone classified as, what is its chemical structure, and why is it completely safe for wearing as a ring or in many other formats? Here's a basic primer.

Is Silicone Plastic or Rubber?

Interestingly enough, there isn't consensus agreement on this among everyone in the silicone industry or related fields. Depending on precisely how one defines "plastic" or "rubber," silicone could technically be classified as either. In general, most people think of rubber as being a natural product made from the sap of certain trees, while plastic is man-made and typically made from petroleum products.

Silicone, on the other hand, is what's known as a synthetic rubber. It was originally developed in a laboratory setting, and its creation was based on observing the molecular structure of natural rubber. So, while it has some similarities to natural rubber, it also has significant differences.

In addition, plastic is generally considered to be a solid material, while rubber is generally thought of as being a bit more flexible. Silicone falls somewhere in the middle, as it can be either solid or liquid, depending on its precise formulation.

Chemical Structure of Silicone

To understand a bit more about why silicone can be tough to classify, it helps to have a grasp of its chemical structure. Silicone is a plastic polymer, meaning it's synthetic and contains a mix of chemical additives that come from fossil fuels. Here's how it's chemical structure works:

  • Silica: You may have heard some people talk about how silicone is actually made from sand, and while they're not all the way correct here on a technical basis, they are down the right lines. What they're referring to here is silica, or silicone dioxide, which is a raw material often used to make silicone resins. Beach sand is essentially pure silica, which is where the confusion likely comes from.

  • Silicon: Another important compound to know is silicon, which is the base element that makes up silica. Silicon itself is usually not found in silica in a natural state -- rather, it's seen when silica is heated at a very high temperature, which is part of the process of creating certain silicone products.

  • Silicone: Also called siloxane, this is the final silicone resin that's formed when hydrocarbons from fossil fuels are combined with silicon. The resulting products are called siloxane monomers, which alternate silicon and oxygen atoms and form the backbone of silicone polymers.

Because of the above, you can see how it's tough to classify silicone. Most plastics have a polymer backbone of hydrogen and carbon, but silicone's backbone is made up of silicon and oxygen. In some ways, then, it's more similar to a metal than it is to other plastics.

Silicone Safety

One important thing to understand here: When we're talking about solid-form silicone, such as you'd find in a silicone ring or several other products, silicone is completely safe and healthy. This is in contrast to liquid forms of silicone, which can be dangerous and should not be injected or ingested -- but for products like rings and similar areas, this is never a need whatsoever.

For this reason, you can rest assured that wearing a silicone ring is not going to harm you in any way. If you have allergies to certain metals, such as nickel, that's another story -- but in and of itself, silicone is perfectly safe for anyone to wear.

Other Characteristics of Silicone

Now that you know a bit more about what silicone is and how it's formed, let's touch on some additional key characteristics:

  • Temperature resistance: One of the big reasons why silicone is used so often in cooking products is that it's able to withstand extremely high temperatures. It won't melt like some plastics might, making it a good choice for things like baking mats and molds.

  • Hypoallergenic: As we briefly touched on above, silicone is also hypoallergenic. This means that it's unlikely to cause any skin irritation, even for those with sensitive skin or known allergies.

  • Flexible: One of the other key benefits of silicone is that it's very flexible, as opposed to being rigid like some plastics can be. This makes it ideal for products that need to bend or give, such as rings, baking mats, and more.

  • Recyclable: Another big selling point of silicone is that it's recyclable. This means that when you're done with a product made from silicone, you can recycle it rather than throwing it in the trash. This is good news for those who are looking to be more environmentally conscious in their product choices.

Now that you know a bit more about silicone, you can see why it's such a popular choice for products like rings. It's safe, hypoallergenic, flexible, and recyclable -- not to mention the fact that it can withstand high temperatures. If you're looking for a ring that ticks all the boxes, silicone is definitely worth considering.

For more on this, or to learn about any of our silicone rings or related products, speak to the team at Enso Rings today.

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