The Best and Worst Jewelry for Travel, According to TSA


(Image credit: @_sierramayhew)

This past weekend was my first time flying since I signed up for TSA PreCheck, and I don't know what I was waiting for. At the end of last year, I traveled nearly every other week, and the constant pauses and pat-downs drove me crazy. I know a thing or two about getting through TSA in a hurry, but when I was assigned the topic of finding out what jewelry you can get by with, I was at a loss for words. After a quick chat with TSA representative Lisa Farbstein, I now know every gritty detail. Farbstein first let me in on a relieving sentiment: "TSA officers don't want to give pat-downs, and travelers don't want to receive them." So we're on the same page.

Farbstein told me that while there are no specific guidelines, she's learned a thing or two holding a role that keeps her so close to the metal detectors and tubular X-ray machines. Her main advice is to avoid wearing anything bulky, but you're good with the majority of your everyday pieces. "People often take off jewelry that they don't need to take off honestly. Sometimes they take off light earrings or a dainty necklace. They often end up leaving this behind," she shared. If you don't want to lose your jewelry, wear it through security or leave it in your carry-on.


(Image credit: @_sierramayhew)

If you can't go a day without wearing your favorite statement necklace or are worried it'll get lost if it's not on your person, Farbstein let me in on a pro tip that supersedes anything I've ever learned. "If you are wearing a necklace, take the necklace and swing it to the back so the necklace is hanging down your back instead of your front. That way, if the TSA office has to resolve an alarm, the pat-down is on your back and not on your chest. Much more comfortable for everyone involved," she said.

Now, let's get specific. I can name a few things that are absolute faux pas at the airport and the four that Farbstein mentioned are must-knows. See the four items she suggests leaving in your carry-on below and what I'd replace them with.

Leave It in Your Suitcase: Brass Knuckles

Wear Whenever: Simple Bands


(Image credit: @emilisindlev)

"Skip rings that go over two or three fingers, as they might trigger an alarm. It’s not a good idea to bring that with you." 


Leave It in Your Suitcase: Bulky, Statement Earrings

Wear Whenever: Studs or Delicate Hoops


(Image credit: @javiera)

"Pass on anything super large and bulky earring-wise. The machine is looking for your body, and if all of a sudden something is protruding from your body, the machine might trigger an alarm."


Leave It in Your Suitcase: Stacks of Bangle Bracelets

Wear Whenever: One or Two Lightweight Styles


(Image credit: @_sierramayhew)

"If you like to wear lots of those bangle bracelets, keep them in your carry-on bag. It will go faster for you," Farbstein shared. I've seen jokes on social media about having to locate the key to a Cartier Love bracelet due to getting through airport security, so I asked Farbstein about it. She told me not to worry. "They’ll just do a pat-down of that area to make sure that it’s not a weapon," she explained.


Leave It in Your Suitcase: Southwest-Inspired Buckle Belts

Wear Whenever: Minimalist Styles


(Image credit: @tylynnnguyen)

A belt isn't technically jewelry, but this note from Farbstein is too good not to pass along. "If you’ve got one of those big belt buckles, Southwest style, that really will trigger an alarm, but of course, you’re supposed to take your belt off," she said.


Shop more delicate jewelry:

Up Next: 6 Outdated Trends We're Leaving Behind and 6 We're Wearing in 2023

Associate Editor

Sierra Mayhew was always destined to work in fashion, but she didn't know it at first. Growing up with no choice but to wear a rotation of school uniforms and activewear, her love for fashion really blossomed when she moved away for college and was able to finally define her very own personal style. Shortly thereafter, she interned at Elle magazine and instantly knew that editorial was for her. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame, she worked for ShopBazaar, contributing regularly to, and finally made her way to Who What Wear, where she is an associate editor. When she’s not working, you can catch her always trying to catch a flight, rollerblading through New York City traffic, or exploring the latest luxury vintage boutique.