A lot of people are curious about if they can wear their jewelry like watches and rings when going through airport security. They worry that TSA may not allow them to bring these things through or that they will set off the metal detectors.
If you’re not sure what to do then you’re at the right place because in this article we will outline everything you need to know about bringing jewelry through airport security!
Can you wear jewelry through airport security?
Yes, you can wear jewelry through airport security but there are a few key considerations you need to think about to make traveling with your jewelry easier and safer.
For example, small and light jewelry items typically will not set off the metal detector but larger and heavier jewelry items may trigger the alarm, sometimes leading to a more thorough security inspection.
Keep reading below for some specific tips and recommendations that will surely help you out!
Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!
Should you travel with jewelry?
The first question you should be asking yourself is should you even be traveling with your jewelry?
Jewelry is not only easy to lose when traveling but it can also make you a target in certain destinations.
Thieves may be attracted to your specific jewelry items or simply profile you as someone who is financially loaded or not cautious based on your display of expensive jewelry items.
You’ll then be on their radar for as long as they can hang around and as soon as you put your guard down they may be ready to pounce.
Unless you really feel like it is necessary to travel with expensive jewelry I would recommend leaving it at home as much as you can.
When trying to decide on whether or not you should bring your jewelry consider that about 20 percent of people have experienced loss or theft of fine jewelry when traveling. That’s one in five people!
Related: Can You Bring Makeup on a Plane?
Bringing jewelry in your checked baggage
TSA recommends against bringing your jewelry in your checked baggage.
This is for a couple of reasons.
First, your checked baggage could get lost permanently and you will never be reunited with your valuable jewelry items again.
Second, it’s possible that someone could tamper with your checked baggage when you are not around and steal your jewelry.
I’m with the TSA on this one — it’s best to avoid putting jewelry in your checked baggage. In fact, you should always strive to avoid putting anything in your checked baggage that you can’t imagine living without.
Related: Checked Baggage Ultimate Guide
Bringing jewelry in your carry-on
The best way to bring jewelry through airport security is to either wear it or place it in your carry-on.
I have a small compartment in my backpack where I place all of my valuables like my Apple Watch, phone, wallet, and any other little thing I need to retrieve. I place these objects in the compartment just before going through security.
As soon as I exit security, I find a bench or table to put my bag on and take a second to first breathe and then check on all of those items to make sure that they are there. It’s an easy way to keep up with all my valuables.
You only have to take your eyes off of your bag for a few seconds when getting screened and so this could be the optimal way to get special high-valuable jewelry items through.
If you’re worried about a TSA agent inspecting your bag with your valuable jewelry in it I don’t think you should be too paranoid.
For one, they typically do these heightened screenings right in front of you so you can always see what they are doing.
Plus, if you’re worried about other people seeing your valuables, you can ask the TSA officer to screen you and your valuables in private to maintain your security.
Consider putting a TSA lock on your bag to essentially force the TSA agent to only view your items in front of you after you unlock the bag.
Tip: One way to cut down on enhanced screening of your bag is to make sure you don’t have any electronics or potentially suspect items in it such as powders, liquids, drugs, cash, etc.
Related: How Much Cash Can You Travel With?
Bringing jewelry on your person (wearing it through security)
When you go through a TSA security checkpoint, you will be going through a full body scanner or possibly a walk-through metal detector.
You can opt out of the full body scanner if you would like.
Also, if you have TSA Pre-Check you can pass through a traditional metal detector while getting to enjoy the following benefits:
- Shoes can stay on
- Belt can stay on
- Light jackets can stay on
- Laptops allowed to stay in bag
- Liquids (3-1-1 Rule) can stay in bag
Let’s first talk about the walk-through metal detector experience.
Walk Through Metal Detector (WTMD)
Most of the airports are going to be using walk through metal detectors which rely on pulse induction technology.
Without getting too technical, basically coils in the metal detectors send short pulses of current which generate a magnetic field within the “arch” of the WTMD.
When you step through this magnetic field with certain metal objects they disrupt the field enough to send a signal back to the receiver coil and trigger the alarm.
Some more sophisticated walk through metal detectors can even locate where within the magnetic field the metal object is located. For example, it might be able to indicate if you have an object in your left hip area.
Different sensitivity levels
One of the most important things to be aware of is that walk through metal detectors at airports have different levels of sensitivity.
This is something that I don’t think a lot of people are aware of and it is something that adds to a lot of frustration.
If you’ve done enough traveling you probably already noticed or experienced this before.
Sometimes your watch or shoes set off the metal detector but other times they don’t.
The sensitivity levels of airport metal detectors could even vary within the same airport. So a security checkpoint at one terminal could have a more sensitive metal detector than a terminal right next-door.
It’s also reported that the metal detectors used for TSA Pre-Check screenings are less sensitive than the metal detectors used for the general public. I’ve had difficulty verifying this officially but based on my personal experience it seems very possible this could be the case.
So the take away here is that you can’t always predict what the metal detector will pick up. For that reason it’s usually best to reduce the chances of a metal detector picking up on your jewelry by simply removing all or most of it.
Metal detectors and different elements
It’s also worth pointing out that some materials get picked up better by metal detectors than others.
Generally, ferrous (iron containing) metals are the easiest for metal detectors to find due to their magnetic properties. But even non-ferrous metals can be picked up and these include:
- copper alloys
Stainless steel is difficult for metal detectors to pick up because of its low magnetic permeability. This also applies to gemstones, bones, and stone figures.
Just keep in mind that while some of these non-ferrous materials may be harder for some metal detectors to detect, these materials can still be picked up by security in airports.
Full body scanners
There are different types of full body scanners TSA has used but now they pretty much rely on Millimeter Wave AIT scanners exclusively, which are designed to peer through clothing to look for both metal and non-metal objects.
These scanners utilize microwaves and can pick up even the smallest items, including small drugs. So there is no doubt in my mind that the full body scanners can detect most or all of your large and small jewelry items, regardless of material.
The question is what does the agent working with the software do with that information?
For example, if he or she recognizes a signal on your wrist but sees that you’re just wearing a watch they could possibly ignore it and allow you to get through a full body scanner with a watch on.
Or they could determine that you need to be inspected closer which could slow down your time getting through security.
So for that reason, when dealing with full body scanners, I would recommend that you simply remove all or most of your jewelry items. It leaves no room for agent discretion to slow down your travels.
Your overall metal load
When going through a metal detector, you need to think about the overall amount of metals on your person that you are bringing through the scanner.
You may have a metal watch that by itself would not set off the metal detector but because you also have metal on your belt buckle, that might put you over the threshold.
Remember, some metal detectors pick up the amount of electromagnetic fields coming from certain regions of your body. Your watch may be hanging near your belt which could create a stronger electromagnetic signal within that mid torso range.
Below, I’ll talk about some items that may commonly trigger metal detectors.
Beyond thinking about the overall amount of metals you have you also have to consider the composition of those metals.
Some types of jewelry will be more likely to be detected by metal detectors if they have certain types of metals.
It’s definitely possible to get through airport security metal detectors without setting off the alarm if you have gold, silver, platinum, etc. Even steel and titanium jewelry objects can get through okay. But again, it often comes down to size and quantity.
At the end of the day the rule of thumb for bringing jewelry through airport security is that if the items are light and small they won’t trigger the alarm but if they are large and heavy you probably want to take them off before going through.
TSA Pre-Check allows you to keep your belt on so I usually proceed through security with my belt on. There have been times when my belt triggers the metal detector and other times it has not, so belts can be hit or miss.
If you don’t have Pre-Check then you will have to remove your belt so this may never be an issue for you.
Glasses can also trip the metal detector.
Typically, if you are wearing prescription glasses the default is to keep them on and many people have metal frames that do not ever trip the metal detector so it is not always an issue.
Even if you do trip the alarm, the agent may be able to tell that the alarm is coming from your head and if all they see is a pair of glasses on your head, they may just waive you forward.
Sunglasses can be a little bit more tricky. Sometimes they want you to put them in a bin but other times you can get through with them on your head.
Although I usually remove all of my jewelry items, I’ve had success bringing my Apple Watch through metal detectors without a problem.
One caveat is that I have a sport band which does not contain metal so that brings down the total metal content.
If you have a full-sized metal watch, that can definitely be enough to set off the metal detector at some airports but at the end of the day it probably comes down to the sensitivity of that specific machine.
Necklaces and bracelets
A normal sized necklace should not be enough to trigger the metal detector so you don’t always have to take these off. The same thing should also apply to bracelets, anklets, etc., although thicker articles like bangles may trigger the alarm.
Earrings and nose rings can usually stay in when going through airport security and many times they don’t cause any problems with the metal detector. This is true even for people that have multiple piercings.
If you have exceptionally large or heavy earrings you might trip the alarm, though. In that case, an agent might still allow you to pass through once they realize it is just your earrings tripping the alarm.
But it is also possible that they might want to pull you aside for a closer inspection. For example, they may run the wand around your body to eliminate any other potential sources for the metal.
Based on all of my research and personal experiences it seems very rare or nonexistent for an agent to ask you to remove earrings.
Just like earrings, rings such as wedding bands can usually always stay on without a problem. In fact, many travelers never take off their wedding rings when in the airport (or anywhere).
The same logic would apply to toe rings which should not be enough to set off the alarm by themselves.
Check out: Bringing an Engagement Ring through TSA While Keeping It a Secret from Your Partner
For the most part you can wear small jewelry items through airport security without having to take them off.
With that said, you can guarantee a smooth ride through airport security by simply taking off all or most of your jewelry items and placing them in your carry-on bag as you go through security.
Bulkier jewelry items and certain accessories like watches and belts are more likely to trip the metal detector alarm and make you have to go through additional screening so at the very least removing those is usually a good idea.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.