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Wearing jewelry all summer? How to protect it from swimming and sweat

Before hitting the beach or diving in, use these tips to keep your bling looking its best.

On left, person wearing gold jewelry on wrist while sitting on the beach sand. In middle, beach shore as dusk. On right, person smiling while wearing gold jewelry. Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / Lyudmila Chernet / Crystal Bolin Photography / ska / Kar-Tr

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Accessorizing is always in season—even during beach season. Whether you’re wearing your everyday earrings or draped in influencer-loved body chains, you have plenty of options to add some sparkle to your swimwear.

But when it comes to bringing your bling to the beach or pool, how can you keep jewelry safe from sand, water, and sweat? Avoid getting, ahem, salty when your jewelry tarnishes from the sea water or even a particularly sweaty workout—here’s what to keep in mind.

Can you wear jewelry to the beach?

Person displaying hand with gold rings.
Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / Dasha_Romanova

Preserving the life of your jewelry begins with the type of metal you're sporting.

As for whether you can dive into summer sporting all your go-to jewels? It depends on the metal type and how long you plan to be in the water. “If it's a short duration of time, it's okay, but if it's extended use…be mindful of that,” says Albert Kvint, master jeweler and director of operations at Quick Jewelry Repairs. “Nature will take its effect on everything over time.” Gold will maintain its appearance best, he says, followed by silver and platinum.

If your jewelry ends up discolored after some fun in the sun, blame the formation of an “oxidation layer”—a chemical reaction that happens on the surface of jewelry, causing it to dull. “Gold itself doesn't tarnish, silver doesn't tarnish, but it's the oxidation layer that builds up,” says Kvint, adding that a jeweler can clean and polish the pieces.

If you prefer costume jewelry, however, you might want to leave it at home during a day at the beach. Because cheaper metals often contain copper, sweat and salt water can cause the metal to oxidize, producing that dreaded turn-your-skin-green effect. Plus, if the jewelry has just a thin gold plating (often called “gold filled”), it will wear down quickly when exposed to the elements, changing the appearance of the jewelry.

Regardless of what type of jewelry you rock at the beach, watch out for rocks and sand. Even a few grains can cause small scratches on your jewelry, which will require buffing out.

How can you protect your jewelry from tarnishing at the beach?

If you decide to wear your jewelry for a dip in the ocean, try to keep it brief and rinse it off with fresh water once you’re back on dry land. You can also use soap to “remove any oil residue that may be in the water,” says Kvint. Either way, be sure you rinse well and dry off the pieces as quickly as possible afterwards.

Is sunscreen bad for jewelry?

While sunscreen is essential for keeping your skin safe, it’s not always safe for your jewelry. Whether you spray it on or apply it as a lotion, some of it can get underneath the stones and in crevices of your jewelry. “It tends to stay there, so it would require cleaning and, in most cases, cleaning with ultrasonic machines,” says Kvint, referencing cleaning machines that use ultrasonic waves to remove built-up debris.

Can you wear jewelry to work out?

Person doing a crunch work out.
Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / jacoblund

You might want to slip off your bling before a sweaty summer gym session.

Even if you don’t frequent the beach, your jewelry may still be exposed to salt in the form of sweat, which also can contain chemicals from whatever cosmetics and fragrances you might wear. While some companies market their jewelry as “sweatproof,” the term is a “slippery slope,” says Kvint. He recommends wearing fine jewelry coated with a see-through ceramic layer that protects the metal underneath (until it wears off and needs to be recoated). If your jewelry doesn’t come with a coating, which he says retailers sometimes list as a component of the piece, jewelers are able to add one to virtually any piece to provide protection from the elements.

You should also take care while lifting weights. Removing your rings before lifting helps prevent them from becoming bent. Unless your jewelry is made of stainless steel, the metals will “tend to react to any force that's being applied to them,” says Kvint, meaning the stone could possibly pop out of your ring if it’s unintentionally bent. What’s more, keeping your rings on while you’re pumping iron could lead to painful post-workout blisters.

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