Tungsten cubes may have reached meme status as sales soar, yet that isn’t helping suppliers of the hefty metal cash in on the craze.
Tiny cubes of the high-density metal usually sell well during the holiday season, with heightened sales typically lasting a week. Yet this time, with tungsten capturing the eyes of crypto traders, the sales surge for tungsten cubes is heading into its fifth week. That’s boosting sales for suppliers, though not enough to bump up profits or spark supply risks for the industrial metal used by the likes of NASA and NASCAR.
“Even with the amount that we’ve been selling it’s still less than 10% of our business,” said Kevin Anetsberger, general manager of Midwest Tungsten Service, an Illinois-based supplier. “It doesn’t have a direct impact on our margins or on the price of the metal.”
Tungsten prices have risen more than 40% in the past year, moving up with surging energy and transportation costs around the world. Refining and consolidating raw tungsten into a finished product is highly energy intensive, while increasing shipping expenses are also adding to costs of a metal that’s mainly produced in China.
“It’s been a challenge for us to keep pricing where it should be from a profit standpoint based on the cost of replacing our inventory,” Anetsberger said Friday in an interview.
Tungsten has traditionally been used for filaments in incandescent light bulbs and in cutting tools, though its weight also makes it useful as ballast for autos and aircraft. The metal is even used by some NASCAR drivers to add heft into their race cars. Tungsten can also be used for radiation shielding and in particle accelerators. Or, in the latest craze, as a novelty item.
“We serve a lot of different markets from NASA to NASCAR,” Anetsberger said. “Tungsten has an esoteric kind of use, its not something you find on shelves.”
(By Alvaro Ledgard)