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Jewelry Care: How to Prevent Tarnishing and Other Damage While Traveling

On the short-list of items that require special care when traveling, jewelry is somewhere close to the top. Their precious metals and delicate settings are just a few of the characteristics that make them more susceptible to damage both while en route and once you arrive at your destination. Whether you’re traipsing around a tropical island and need to protect your pieces from tarnishing or just trying to keep them clean after a long day of traveling through an airport, where they could be exposed to bacteria or accidental bangs and bends, it’s best to stay prepared.

Luckily, there are a myriad of jewelry care tips and tricks to protect your pieces while you’re away from home—we’ve consulted with experts in the field to find out their favorites.

How to prevent tarnishing on vacation

According to Jacqueline Kim, the account director at consulting firm DEH Jewelry Solutions, tarnishing occurs primarily due to chemical reactions between metals and elements in the environment, such as oxygen. “Metals like silver, copper, and also brass are particularly susceptible to tarnishing because they react with sulfur compounds present in air and water to form sulfides, leading to discoloration and dullness over time,” Kim says. “This process is accelerated in humid or acidic environments.”

On vacation, this can look like sitting by the pool at a tropical resort or hiking in the desert where sweating and exposure to chlorine or saltwater is imminent. But in order to prevent tarnishing and discoloration from happening, it’s important to keep your pieces as clean as possible and tucked away when not in use to minimize oxidation.

How to protect your jewelry while traveling

Aside from the oxidation and tarnishing of your pieces, there are other risks that come with bringing jewelry on a trip: Chains can get tangled up, which can lead to knots or broken links, and abrasions might come from the precious metals clinking together or tiny grains of sand and gravel scratching the otherwise smooth surface. Atara Lev, the head of design at Material Good, also points out that one should be cautious of sporting their favorite rings on travel days in particular, since you’ll likely be handling and lifting baggage, which can cause the metal or settings from bending.

This is also one of the reasons why she suggests not wearing your jewelry to the hotel gym—especially rings. “So many types of workouts involve using our hands in some capacity,” Lev says. “Rings are made of precious metals and have the ability to bend, crack open, or snap apart, depending on the thickness of the piece. It’s so easily avoidable.” It’s also worth mentioning that running and other high-cardio workouts tend to make your body swell, which can make getting rings off difficult and in more severe cases, cut off your circulation.

How to safely pack jewelry on vacation

Our experts agree that properly storing jewelry when it’s not in use avoids exposure to harsh chemicals, perfumes, cosmetics, and any other damage. This means securing your pieces in air-tight containers and soft pouches made from fabrics like velvet, suede, or leather. Calpak’s travel jewelry case is a great option—it has a drawstring compartment and five slit pockets that can comfortably fit bangles and statement earrings. For smaller studs and huggies, it features a 28-hole earring card to keep each style on full display, as well as five snap tabs to keep your necklaces, chain bracelets, and rings secure. For those who don’t want to commit to a full-fledged organizer, Ziplocs or Stasher bags will do, so long as you’re not packing pieces that could get tangled up.

How to clean jewelry on vacation

There are a few different options when it comes to cleaning your jewelry on (or after) a trip. If you want something a bit more tailored to high-end pieces, Jessica Kiraly, a PR luminary in the high jewelry industry with more than a decade of experience in the field, calls Diamond Drunk a luxe cleaning experience for fine jewelry that you can take with you on the go. Simply submerge pieces into a prepackaged detox solution before going to bed, then wake up to sparkling clean pieces. (The brand also suggests a ‘Quickie Dip’ option, which means dunking your jewelry for a few minutes before wiping them clean. This is particularly beneficial for more delicate items like rubies, sapphires, and solid gold watches.)