Pro track athletes in particular are notorious for competing in jewelry. As Runner’s World’s Mark Remy points out, serial necklace-wearers include Olympic medalists Bernard Lagat, Sanya Richards-Ross, and Jamaica’s Asafa Powell.
Clearly, nothing has stopped them from adding sparkle to their speedsuits. But if you’re concerned about keeping your jewelry in pristine condition, there are some things you should know.
In general, there are two components to fine jewelry: gemstones and metals. Whether your jewelry can withstand your workouts depends on what it’s made of and what you're doing. Let’s start with gemstones.
“Sweat and chlorine won’t bother gemstones,” says Russell Shor, senior industry analyst for the Gemological Institute of America. “Nothing will bother them except for a hard, sharp blow.” Crystalized gemstones like diamonds, rubies, and sapphires are difficult to scratch, but they have a grain like wood, Shor says. If you whack them on something, they can chip or fracture along the grain. As for pearls and opals, leave them at home; they’re delicate and scratch easily. And if you have a thing for kunzite gemstones, keep them indoors, because their violet color can fade in the sun.
As for metals, know that chlorine can react with precious metals, including gold and silver. “If you’re in the pool every day with a gold ring,” Shor says, “it can cause pits in the gold’s surface that look like little dents.” In general, platinum doesn’t react with chlorinated pool water, but some platinum rings contain gold solder that can. Precious metals are also soft, so they can scratch easily if, say, they clank against a dumbbell.
Metallurgist Shahram Sheybany says the best metallic material to wear working out is stainless steel, “specifically type 316 stainless steel, which is resistant to chloride attacks from sweat and sea water.” Titanium alloys also stand up well to training, he says.
No matter what your jewelry’s made of, one thing is certain: all of that sweat and chlorine will dull its brilliance, so make sure to clean it. According to the GIA, most colored gems can be cleaned in warm water with mild soap and a soft brush. Precious metals should be cleaned similarly.