The study is based on unlubricated sliding self-mated tests with high-grade alumina in three different contact geometries. In each contact geometry, both mild and severe wear were observed; at the normal force of 30 N that was applied on each test, the transition into severe wear occurred at a velocity specific to the geometry. The wear transition involved surface fracture caused by mechanical and thermal stresses. Part of the wear debris produced under severe wear was compacted under friction and formed smooth tribofilms on the mating surfaces. Larger contact areas allowed slightly higher sliding velocities under a given normal force. The bearing capability of alumina, however, was quite low. Alumina can be recommended only for dry sliding applications in which the load and speed safely remain below the limit for the transition from mild to severe wear.