5 Ways You’re Ruining Your Jewelry (and What to do About it)

Weekend jaunts and full-fledged vacations are obvious perks that come with come the territory during the summer, so it’s no wonder that summer fashion tips—i.e., what to wear, what to pack, what to buy—are at the forefront of our minds. One thing that’s probably not on our radar? How the summer can ruin your jewelry. Namely, how things like sun, salt, sand, and shifting temperatures can affect our beloved pieces, and how we can keep them secure while jetting off somewhere sun-filled.

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According to the experts at The International Gemological Institute (IGI)—the world’s largest independent laboratory for testing and evaluating gemstones and fine jewelry—our jewelry can take a serious beating when exposed to common summer activities such as lounging in the sand, applying suntan lotion, and traveling. Whether your plans include a weekend trip or a week abroad, read on for 5 easy tips to care for your jewelry all summer.

Leave the sand castles to the kids.
As much fun as it is to really get down and dirty in the sand, be sure to remove your rings and bracelets first: Even the finest sand poses a risk to jewelry as it acts like coarse sandpaper on gems.

Sunbathe sans sparklers.
Sunscreen can coat gemstones, which reduces refractive and reflective light. Essentially, this means your stones won’t be nearly as brilliant or bling-y. To avoid this, leave your fine pieces at home if you’re heading to the beach or the pool for the day, and be sure clean them regularly all summer. If your gems are colored, skip wearing them in sunlight altogether: Bright light and high temperatures can fade the hue over time, particularly on stones that have been treated.

Remember fingers swell in heat, but shrink in cold water.
Here’s the thing about the summer: Our finger swell in the heat, but shrink in cold water. This means that even if your precious rings feel snug while laying out, they’ll loosen up as soon as you dunk into water, so be sure to take them off before swimming so they don’t slip off.

MORE: 101 Fashion Tips Every Girl Should Know

Separate your stuff while traveling.
When jumbled together, your jewelry doesn’t always get along. For example, a diamond can scratch a pearl, and a bracelet can get caught on a necklace, so always pack pieces in individual soft cloth pouches or lined jewelry boxes to prevent scratching, dulling, and the oh-so-dreaded tangling of chains.

Buying jewelry while traveling? Not so fast.
Oftentimes, vacation destinations are also prime shopping destinations, so if you get the urge to commemorate your trip with a new fine jewelry purchase (as opposed to a couple of locally-made friendship bracelets, which are a must!),  make sure you’re buying from a jeweler that’s been in business for several years. When in doubt, check a retailer’s reputation and rating with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbbonline.org) and also learn the store’s return policy. Most reputable jewelers have at least a 30-day money back guarantee wherever you are.

In addition, ask for a IGI grading or identification report prior to purchase. Along with providing an unbiased assessment of the stone’s qualities, a certificate informs you if the stone is synthetic or has undergone any treatments, which can dramatically affect value.