Maybe you’re getting ready for a day at the beach, and you’re looking forward to dunking in the waves. Or, perhaps you’re heading to a tropical vacation where you’ll alternate snorkeling in the balmy ocean with lounging by the pool (with the occasional dip to refresh and cool off thrown in).
Regardless, if you’re also someone who can’t leave the house without a pair of earrings inserted or a watchband strapped, you’ll need to be careful about what jewelry you wear while swimming.
The truth is, no jewelry—with the possible exception of dive watches, and even they have their limitations—is completely waterproof. However, if not wearing earrings is going to drive you to distraction, look for a style in stainless steel. Made with the same carbon and iron as “regular” steel, stainless steel incorporates additional metals, including chromium and nickel, that makes it more resistant to corrosion. Earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, and anklets can all be made from stainless steel, so you're sure to find something that suits your taste.
If you want to let your jewelry be the focus of your outfit, go for a simple black swimsuit. Whether you prefer your stainless steel unadorned or decorated with crystals (hint: chlorine and saltwater are not gemstone friendly), your jewelry will shine both literally and figuratively.
Few watches are truly waterproof, but if you’re a serious swimmer who likes to do laps in a pool, look for a watch that has a water resistance rating of 100 meters (m). Water resistance is the ability of a watch to withstand water pressure and not allow water to enter the watch’s mechanism. Watches with a rating of 30 m are great for everyday use, and the occasional swimmer can get away with a watch having 50 m resistance. Swim watches come in various styles, so you can be as flashy or as discreet as you choose when it comes to what’s on your wrist.
Stick with one-piece bathing suits when you’re doing your laps. You’ll want to keep the lines of your swimsuit simple to decrease resistance as you stroke through the water, so look for a simple scoop or V-neck silhouette. For added sun protection for your back, try a rash guard.
Whether you are frolicking in the ocean waves or doing laps in a pool, leave your gold jewelry at home or in your room safe. Pure gold, also known as 24-karat (K) gold, does not react with salt or chlorine. However, 24K gold is soft and likely be easily damaged, which is why most gold jewelry comprises an alloy of gold with other precious metals, including silver, copper, nickel, and palladium. The combination of alloys used gives gold its color—for example, rose gold has copper in it—and the proportion of gold to alloy(s) affects the jewelry’s ability to withstand the elements. The lower the alloy, the more prone the jewelry is to being affected.
If you still choose to wear your jewelry into the water, rinse it off immediately in fresh water if possible. When you get back to your room, soak your jewelry in a dish of warm water to which you’ve added a couple of drops of a gentle dishwashing liquid. Rinse under cool tap water (remember to close the drain!), and then dry with a soft, lint-free cloth. Once you’ve cleaned your jewelry and put it back on, throw on a kaftan cover-up, head back down to the outdoor bar, and sip a frozen drink while you enjoy the breezy outdoors.
The same is true of sterling silver, which is an alloy of 92.5 percent silver (hence the “925” often stamped on sterling silver jewelry) with another metal, usually copper. Sterling silver often tarnishes—loses its shine and gets a black or brownish coating over it—when it reacts with other elements, such as the chlorine in a pool. If you’ve ever taken off a silver ring or earrings and noticed black around your finger or earring holes, you’ve experienced the effects of tarnished silver.
Silver jewelry goes with almost anything, so wear whatever suit fits your mood. If you’re feeling daring, pair a silver waist chain with a two-piece swimsuit. As with your gold jewelry, post-swim, you’ll want to gently rinse off your jewelry in warm tap water and use gentle dish soap. Do not use anything abrasive, such as toothpaste, baking soda, or a toothbrush, to clean your silver jewelry because you can inadvertently scratch it. Dry your jewelry with a soft, lint-free cloth. If any tarnish remains, use a polishing formula or cloth specifically designed to clean silver.
Our bodies have a tendency to react to temperature by either swelling in heat or contracting in the cold. So, no matter how much you want to show off your engagement ring, wearing it to the beach is never a good idea. Ocean water is generally colder than the ambient air, so when you first hit the water, you’re likely to shiver a bit. The last thing you want is for your ring to slip off! Instead, opt for costume jewelry. Leave your engagement ring in a safe place and pick out a fun cocktail ring, so your finger doesn’t feel bare. Accessorize your favorite patterned tankini top with a resin necklace or a few bangles in complementary colors.
If you wear jewelry while swimming, be sure to rinse it afterward. And remember—don’t wear anything you wouldn’t want to lose or have permanently damaged. Take proper care of your jewelry after exposure to saltwater and chlorine, and you’ll enjoy wearing your baubles for years to come.