Airport Security exists for our protection. Yet even when we are innocent it can feel pretty intimidating going through the security checkpoint.
Let’s be clear from the start. You don’t need to remove any jewelry when going through airport security.
However, if you trigger an alarm going through the metal detector you might need to undergo “additional screening”. In the United States, this usually takes the form of a physical pat-down from the Transportation Security Administrator officer.
For many people, the pat-down is an invasive uncomfortable process and something they want to avoid. The TSA agent needs to touch all areas of your body including the groin area. Check this video for a demonstration of the TSA pat-down.
This post looks at traveling with jewelry and the best practices to avoid the pat-down, protect your dignity, and protect your valuable items.
TSA Jewelry Rules: Do You Have To Remove Jewelry At Airport Security?
I couldn’t find anything on the TSA website so I checked Twitter where @AskTSA regularly field questions from members of the public.
Genna asked the right question:
In general, jewelry doesn’t need to be removed before going through security. However, we recommend putting on heavy jewelry after you go through security, to reduce the likelihood of an alarm that results in a pat-down screening.@AskTSA on Twitter
So you don’t need to take off jewelry when you travel but you should pack heavy jewelry in your carry on bag and put it on after screening.
This begs the question…
How heavy does jewelry need to be before it will trigger an alarm?
It depends on what metal the jewelry is made from.
The metal detector that you walk through at security is a magnetic field. Gold and silver are not very magnetic so they don’t disturb the magnetic field very much and set off the alarm.
Cheaper jewelry such as costume jewelry is often made using more magnetic metals like iron.
If you are interested you can check this video. The cheaper “fake” necklaces cling to the magnet whereas the real gold doesn’t interact with the magnet.
This means that you can test how magnetic your jewelry is using a magnet. If there is little attraction then it should be safe to wear through the scanner. If it clings to the magnet it might be better to pack it in your carry on bag.
If you don’t have a magnet handy (who does?) and you want a rule of thumb you can wear expensive jewelry through the TSA scanner but cheaper heavy costume jewelry will be more likely to trigger the alarm. Plastic pieces are not magnetic and will not trigger the alarm.
Let’s continue to look at some specific types of jewelry.
TSA & Wedding Rings
Tasha asked the TSA if she could leave her wedding ring on:
The TSA replied that “wedding rings are allowed to remain on while going through the security screening checkpoint”. They don’t mention anything about weight.
So you can definitely keep your ring on when going through the scanner. Don’t make the mistake of removing your ring and placing it in the screening tray.
As Susan says, you are asking for it to be stolen:
Most small rings or wedding rings will not trigger the metal detector.
If you are delayed while walking through the metal detector your things will come out the xray machine and someone could grab your wedding ring when it is unattended.
While most rings don’t set off the alarm some do. Katrin showed a large ring that triggered the metal detector:
And Karin makes a good point about weapons. Anything that could be deemed a weapon won’t be allowed on a plane.
For example these diamond knuckle dusters:
While jewelry is generally fine to take through airport security you can’t bring something that blurs the line between jewelry and a weapon.
And remember Killing Eve?
Is that a decorative hair pin or a deadly weapon? Use your common sense and don’t try to go through security with anything sharp or dangerous.
Going Through The TSA Checkpoint Wearing Earrings
Cassie asked the TSA about earrings.
And they assured her that most earrings don’t need to be removed before screening.
But most does not mean “all”.
Rachel said that her bra and earrings set off the alarm.
Angela was wearing large earrings when she was subjected to an invasive pat-down that brought her to tears.
Natalie doesn’t like the mixed messages from the TSA about earrings:
The truth is small earrings should be fine to wear but larger heavier earrings might be better off packed in your carry-on suitcase.
The TSA Scanner & Bracelets
Stefanie asked the TSA about her Cartier bracelet.
This time the TSA used the phrase “bulky jewelry”.
Other Body Piercings
They say that you learn something new every day. Today I learned what a Prince Albert piercing is.
It’s a piercing of the glans of the penis and yes it can potentially trigger the metal detector alarm as Jake found out:
So if you have any heavy bulky piercing then you should remove it before flying.
Is Jewelry Allowed On Airplanes?
To finish up I wanted to talk about where to pack jewelry when flying.
The TSA say that you can pack jewelry in both carry on bags and checked bags:
It’s legal to pack your valuables in checked luggage but here is why it’s a very bad idea to do so.
It’s always better to pack any valuables in carry on luggage, but there are a few potential scenarios you should be aware of.
Firstly, if at the security checkpoint the TSA wish to inspect the contents of your carry on luggage you can request to do this in a private room. That way nobody else in the airport gets to see what valuables you might be carrying.
Secondly, if when you get to the boarding gate the overhead bins are full you might be asked to check your carry on. At this point your should remove any valuables from your suitcase and put them in your purse or another small bag. For this reason I usually pack a very small packable daypack in case I need a bag to keep my valuables close. A travel jewelry case is also a good idea so you can quickly take your gold and silver out your carry on and put it in your purse.
Thirdly, be aware of the possibility of in-flight theft. Thieves do operate in the air too and while you are snoozing someone might be rummaging through your suitcase. The best place for your jewelry during the flight might be in the bag at your feet rather than in the overhead bin.
Travelers can wear real gold or silver jewelry through airport security. You don’t need to take it off.
Cheaper “costume” jewelry might trigger the alarm if it contains magnetic metals.
Never pack your valuables in checked baggage.
Pack any jewelry you are not wearing in a travel jewelry case and be ready to remove it from your carry-on if you are forced to check your bag at the boarding gate due to a lack of overhead bin space.
Don’t assume that since you are in a plane there are no thieves. Keep an eye on your valuables when you are in the airplane cabin too.