Carbon- and oxygen-isotope ratios are commonly used to correlate shallow- and deep-marine successions. Carbon- and oxygen-isotope analyses were performed on bulk-carbonate samples from two Kimmeridgian sections of the Swiss Jura platform in order to correlate them with biostratigraphically well-dated coeval sections in the adjacent basin. On the platform, a general decrease in δ13C and δ18O values from the base to the top of the studied interval is measured, whereas time-equivalent pelagic–hemipelagic carbonates record an increase in carbon- and oxygen-isotope ratios. Moreover, the measured δ13C and δ18O values are generally lower than those indicated for the Kimmeridgian open ocean and show high-frequency variations superimposed on the general trend. Samples were screened for diagenetic alteration using optical and cathodoluminescence petrography and coupled carbon- and oxygen-isotope and trace-element analyses. Some observations favour a role for diagenetic alteration, but isotopic and elemental trends as well as sedimentological evidence suggest that the more negative values of δ13C and δ18O relative to Kimmeridgian seawater are also due to local environmental conditions. High-frequency changes in δ18O and δ13C values most likely result from variations in salinity and carbonate production and accumulation rates. These variations were produced by different water masses that were isolated from the open ocean and developed their own geochemical signatures. Repeated isolation was induced by high-frequency sea-level fluctuations and helped by irregular platform morphology. Consequently, carbon- and oxygen-isotope records in shallow-marine carbonates can be used for stratigraphic correlation only if their origin is well known.