If accessorizing with jewelry at the beach is your thing, go for it—just know there’s a responsibility that comes along with wearing bracelets, earrings, and necklaces in and around the water.
“Chemical or mineral residue from chlorine or salt water will remain on the jewelry’s surface and continue to damage it,” Kelsey Perry, formerly of the jewelry brand Silpada, explained. “It can lead to tarnishing and corrosion of the finish but can also break down functioning components such as clasps, connection rings, and stone settings.”
If the waves don’t prove too tempting to jump into, remember to remove your jewelry before you dive in. Water alone will accelerate tarnishing—add in salt or chlorine, and the possibility of discoloration, bleaching, and messed-up finishes becomes a danger.
“If you’re wearing your gold chains daily and not taking them off between sunscreen, pool, shower, shampoo, lotion, your chains can accumulate guck,” said Jennifer Fisher, founder of Jennifer Fisher Jewelry. That means that cleaning your jewelry soon after a trip to the beach or pool is imperative. “I would recommend cleaning your chains with a soft cloth or a jewelry cleaner appropriate for the type of metal your jewelry is made of at least once a week in order to keep your jewelry maintained and shiny.”
“We recommend washing immediately after exposure and before extended storage,” Perry added, nothing that you can also use whatever mild soap you have on hand (be it hand soap or body wash). “Making sure the item is completely rinsed and dried is just as important as the actual cleaning too.”
Metal’s not the only material to keep off the beach, either. Woven leather pieces can start to peel, dry out, and turn funky colors after being introduced to water. “Don’t wear those pieces in water,” Ryane Delka, formerly of Silpada, said. “Keep leather dry at all times and clean with a soft, damp cloth or specially formulated leather cleaner.” Same goes for costume jewelry: “It should never be worn in the pool, the ocean, salt water or in chlorine,” Fisher said.
But even if you’re not getting into the water, that doesn’t mean you’re quite off the hook. You’re still going to want to either take off your jewelry if you’re going to sweat or wear sunscreen (which, by the way, you absolutely should) and give it some extra TLC when you get home. “You wash your workout clothes; you should wash your jewelry,” said Fisher.
Also, be sure to take your jewelry off before you apply that sunscreen: Putting sunscreen or even spraying perfume directly on it can cause damage, according to designer Monica Vinader. Delka added: “The chemicals in sunscreen and the salt content of sweat act very similar to pool and ocean water, accelerating the rate of tarnishing and corrosion. Sand can act as an abrasive to metal, leather, and stones, while sun exposure can fade components, soften adhesives, and discolor metal.”
The key takeaway? Before you head out for any sort of fun in the summer sun, whether it’s a day at the beach or a game of tennis, consider removing your jewelry.