The Do’s and Don’ts of Wearing Jewelry to the Beach

the do's an don'ts of wearing jewelry to the beach

Common knowledge used to say that it was taboo to wear jewelry to the beach. We’ve overturned that fashion rule alongside “don’t wear white after Labor Day.” Whether you’re at the beach for surf and sun, a wedding or just a day on the Boardwalk, it’s time to have fun and accessorize.

With that said, we do still have some tips to share about the types of jewelry you should choose. A beach environment can damage some materials more than others, and you may want to leave some particular pieces at home. We’ll walk you through common beach hazards and help you choose the best jewelry for whatever your day has in store.

What Jewelry Can You Wear in the Ocean?
It’s a warm, beautiful day on the beach. The sun is shining, the waves are calling, and you can’t wait to get in the water. Is your jewelry as ready for a dip as you are?

1. Saltwater Is Corrosive

It’s been a wonderful day at the beach. The sun was hot and bright, making the cool ocean water feel even better every time you dove in. You had a lovely dinner on the Boardwalk. You even managed to keep a straight face when you saw a seagull dive down to steal an entire hot dog, bun and all.

Now you’re pleasantly tired and finally getting ready for bed. As you take your necklace off, you realize that the setting for one of the stones seems a little loose. That’s odd — you don’t remember it being loose this morning. What happened?

The secret is in the saltwater. More specifically, it’s in the salt. The salt in ocean water will corrode metals and leave them weakened and tarnished. Saltwater poses a particular risk for jewelry made with blue or rose gold, both of which are gold alloys. Blue gold uses iron and rose gold uses copper, both metals that salt will quickly corrode.

Most other metals will show less obvious evidence, though corrosion is still taking place. Solid gold, gold-filled, platinum, and sterling silver jewelry are the best at handling salt water. The biggest concern about saltwater damage to jewelry is that the salt will weaken thinner areas more quickly. Some of those more delicate areas are the solder points securing prongs for a gem setting. As the solder points grow weaker, the prongs loosen, and you may be at risk of losing the stones.

the salt in the ocean water will corrode metals

What are the do’s and don’ts of protecting your jewelry from saltwater damage?

  • Do’s: Remove any metal jewelry before heading into the water.
  • Don’ts: Avoid wearing jewelry with set stones in the ocean as the settings may loosen or corrode and lead to lost stones.

2. The Sea Is Full of Lost Treasure

The surf rolls in, and shrieks of laughter fill the air whenever a wave knocks someone off their feet. You’ve been happily wading and swimming out here for ten or fifteen minutes. The cold water was a shock at first, but the sun is beating down, and now it just feels nice. You know that it’s best to remove your jewelry before you go swimming, so you left all of your jewelry on the beach.

Except for your wedding ring, of course. You never take that off. It’s a plain gold band, though, with no settings to loosen, so you’re sure it will be fine. Lifting your hands to push the hair out of your face, and you realize the ring is gone.

When your body is cold, most of your blood flow is redirected to your core to ensure your organs keep working. As circulation goes down in your extremities, their blood vessels contract and those extremities shrink. The difference is usually too subtle to spot with the naked eye, but it’s enough for a ring that normally fits perfectly to slip off of your finger.

In addition to temperature changes, the waves themselves might also be responsible for missing or damaged jewelry. Delicate items like cords or thin chains can break or slip off in rough surf. Unbacked earrings may also fall out when you duck your head underwater.

What are the do’s and don’ts of keeping your jewelry in place?

  • Do’s: Make sure that any jewelry you wear in the water is firmly secured. If you want to wear earrings, use sturdy backings.
  • Don’ts: Avoid wearing rings or other unsecured jewelry in the ocean, as it may lead to lost items.

3. Sea Creatures Are Curious

The ocean is calm today, which is just how you like it. You’re out just deep enough to tread water, enjoying the coolness all around you as you watch the bright blue sky. Even the noise from the beach behind you seems a little bit calmer from out here. You drift out a little farther, wondering how far you can go before a lifeguard calls you back.

you know that it's best to remove your jewelry before you go swimming

A slight shift in the current hits your leg. Then something catches at the little silver anklet above your foot and gives an exploratory tug.

Lifeguards keep a close eye on the water for potential dangers and post warnings if it’s unsafe to swim. Still, oceans are full of all sorts of creatures, and some of those creatures can be curious. You can make encounters with sea creatures even less likely through conscientious jewelry choices.

Shiny jewelry in the water can be like a fishing lure. Ocean mammals and fish see contrast very well from underwater and can mistake light reflecting off of metal for the gleam of fish scales. They may then swim up to investigate the light and movement. That investigation might not lead to injury, but at the very least, it’s likely to give you an alarming spike of adrenaline.

What are the do’s and don’ts of avoiding unwanted sea life encounters?

  • Do’s: Stick to non-reflective pieces if you plan to wear your jewelry in the water.
  • Don’ts: Avoid wearing metallic jewelry that may attract attention from fish and other creatures in the water.

How to Choose Beach Safe Jewelry

Of course, there’s more to a beach trip than splashing in the surf. Whether you’re sunbathing on the sand or exploring the Boardwalk, you want jewelry that attracts attention rather than damage.

Let’s soak up some tips on choosing the best jewelry to wear on the beach.

1. Sand Is Everywhere

You’re having a perfect beach day. You’ve planned to stay out of the water, so you’ve chosen a few pieces of jewelry to complement your bathing suit. With the metal glinting brightly in the sun, you look like you’ve just stepped out of a magazine spread. You spend most of your day sunbathing and catching up on your beach reading. You might even join in on a sandcastle contest.
By the end of the day, you feel like you’re wearing half the beach. As the light begins to dim and you start to pack up your things, you notice that your bracelet looks a little dirty. You start to brush it off and realize that what you’re seeing isn’t dirt at all. The metal is scratched.
Sand is abrasive, as anyone who’s encountered it already knows. Most of the individual minerals that make up its composition are too soft to scratch the metals or stones used in jewelry. However, sand also contains grains of quartz, which is on the higher end of the hardness scale. Any material with a matching or lower hardness — such as many stones and metals used for jewelry — is likely to come away abraded.
Some jewelry can weather sand’s abrasiveness with grace. Minor scratches that would be obvious on plated pieces will be nearly invisible on solid metals like solid gold and sterling silver. Stones with a higher hardness score than quartz, like diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds, will completely resist scratching.
What are the do’s and don’ts of protecting your jewelry from sand?
  • Do’s: Choose pieces made with solid metal rather than plated. If your jewelry incorporates precious stones, make sure the stones all have a Mohs hardness of 8 or above.
  • Don’ts: Avoid wearing pieces with softer stones or plated metal will lead to scratches and abrasions on your jewelry.

2. Salt Is Everywhere

The wedding ceremony has finished, and the reception is just beginning. You love that the bride and groom chose a beach venue. You’ve been here for a few days, using the wedding as an opportunity to take a short vacation. The ocean is beautiful, and you’ve spent hours walking along the beach, savoring the salty sea air.

You’re reaching for an appetizer when you notice that your favorite rose gold ring has started to look tarnished. What could have caused that?

Even if you stay out of the water, there’s still salt in the ocean breeze. While it’s less concentrated in the air than in the water, that salt is still enough to rust or corrode metal over time. It can affect more than just the metal in your jewelry, as well. As it works its way into more porous materials, salt air will eventually rot wood, brick or even stone.

What are the do’s and don’ts of caring for your jewelry in a salt-air environment?

  • Do’s: Keep your jewelry stored somewhere cool and dry with adequate ventilation.
  • Don’ts: Avoid storing your jewelry in a sealed or enclosed place that will encourage tarnish and rot.

even if you stay out of the water, there's still salt in the ocean breeze

3. Jewelry Sits Against Your Skin

You take sun protection seriously. You’re careful to apply a generous layer of sunscreen before you head to the beach, and you reapply faithfully throughout the day. As you finish up with your latest application, though, you can’t help but notice that your wedding band is looking a little dull. Now that you’re looking, you can also see some buildup in your watchband’s hinges and a hint of tarnish on the back.

Whether it comes as a lotion, a cream or a spray, sunscreen will cling to your jewelry as surely as it clings to your skin. It can work its way into nooks and crevices and build up there. Sunscreen can also create a film or residue on your jewelry that leaves it looking dull. Prolonged contact with sunscreen can cause cord or twine to weaken and break.

Sunscreen is only one factor impacting your jewelry’s appearance as you enjoy your time at the beach. Sweat also encourages a chemical reaction in sterling silver that causes it to tarnish.

What are the do’s and don’ts of countering the effects of wearing jewelry directly against your skin at the beach?

  • Do’s: Remove all of your jewelry before applying or reapplying sunscreen. Wait until your skin has completely absorbed the sunscreen to put your jewelry back on.
  • Don’ts: Avoid leaving residue from sweat or sunscreen on your jewelry, as it can lead to a tarnished, dingy appearance.

Tips for Wearing Jewelry to the Beach

When you’re choosing jewelry for your beach day, opt for pieces that are fun and easy to remove. Save your expensive or sentimental jewelry for another time. If you decide to take a quick dip in the ocean or the wind kicks up along the Boardwalk, you’ll be glad you did.

Also, remember that if you’re visiting the beach during the day, you will be exposed to the sun. Opt for delicate jewelry over chunkier choices to minimize awkward tan lines, or bring a travel case to remove your jewelry after taking pictures.

Storing Your Jewelry

It can be tempting to simply toss a plastic baggie into your beach tote on your way out the door and use that for your jewelry. Any storage is better than just throwing a ring or necklace loose into your bag. After all, that nearly guarantees that the jewelry will be either lost or damaged. However, some storage methods are definitely better than others.

A plastic bag with a sturdy seal is great for keeping sand from working its way into your jewelry. However, while the bag is sealing out sand, it’s also sealing out circulating air. As it sits in the plastic, your jewelry might start to oxidize and corrode.

Keep your jewelry somewhere cool, dry and well-ventilated. A small fabric-lined box with compartments will keep your pieces contained and prevent them from scratching each other. You could even use a few small drawstring fabric bags to avoid pieces getting tangled together.

keep your jewelry somewhere cool, dry and well-ventilated

Cleaning Your Jewelry

When you get home, be sure to give your beach jewelry some attention. Remember, there’s probably a layer of sunscreen on anything you wore. Sand and salt can also get stuck in settings and clasps. You can give your jewelry a quick, thorough cleaning in just a few steps:

  1. Use a soft brush to remove any loose pieces of salt or sand that might cause scratching.
  2. Mix a few drops of dish soap into a container of warm water and let your jewelry soak in the solution for a few minutes.
  3. Gently scrub with a new soft toothbrush.
  4. Place your jewelry in a new container of lukewarm water to rinse.
  5. Dry with a paper towel or a regular cloth, taking care not to snag any prongs.

Visit the Beaches in Ocean City, NJ

Now that you know how to choose and care for the jewelry you wear to the beach, come to Ocean City, New Jersey and wear your jewelry at the beach with confidence.

We have nearly eight miles of clean, safe beaches, making us the perfect place for a family vacation. Go for a stroll along the Boardwalk and grab some food at one of the great restaurants. Or, check out the shops to pick up some new shades to top off your look.

Take a look at the options for where to stay while you’re here — the perfect hotel, campsite or rental is waiting for you!

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