Jewelry Advice: Caring For Pearls

Tips and techniques for proper cleaning and storage of pearl jewelry provided to help you maintain their brilliance and beauty.

Pearls are created when a small object, such as a grain of sand, becomes embedded in an oyster or clam.This occurs naturally in the ocean but man has also perfected the art by cultivating the oysters and inserting a small object into the oyster manually.Because pearls are organic in nature, they require more care than a gemstone such as a diamond or ruby.

Pearls should be protected both during wear and during storage.They are susceptible to the acids in our skin, the perfume we use, and the makeup we wear.A good rule of thumb would be to put on your pearls last and remove them first to avoid exposure to substances that could damage their luster.It is extremely important to remove your pearls before engaging in any type of water activity.Chlorine in a swimming pool can be quite damaging to a pearl ring or necklace and the soapy water you wash dishes in will eat away at their brilliance.

Heat is another damaging agent to the pearl.As pearls are formed inside an oyster that lives in the ocean, moisture is a large part of the makeup of the gem.Overexposure to a heat source, like standing over the stove cooking dinner, can greatly damage pearls.In the same respect, heat from a jeweler's lightcase or overexposure to sunlight can also cause damage.

Knowing how to properly store your pearl jewelry will add to its life as well.Pearls should be stored in a soft felt bag to keep them protected from scratches incurred by other jewelry.If possible keep a slightly damp piece of linen in the bag with them to keep some moisture level with the pearls as added protection.Instead of placing them in a felt bag, you can safely hang a pearl necklace when stored, but be aware that this could add stress to the silk thread routinely used when pearls are strung into jewelry.Silk, by it's own nature, will deteriorate after time and wear, thus one of the problems you may experience with keeping a nice pearl necklace is having it re-strung on occasion.

Pearls should be cleaned occasionally using a soft cloth dampened with plain water.Rub the pearls gently with the soft cloth followed by rubbing with a dry cloth.You can use a soft bristled toothbrush to remove stubborn grime from the surface as long as you use care and don't scrub too hard.Leave the pearls out on a soft cloth for a day or so to let the pearls and the silk thread completely dry before storing them away.If this method doesn't work to properly clean the pearls back to their original luster, consult a jeweler.


Apply makeup and hairspray before you put on your pearls. Wipe your pearls with a soft cloth when you take them off to remove any acids from your skin or makeup residue that may be left on the surface of the pearls. Re-string your pearls every couple of years, but consider having them appraised before taking them to be re-strung to protect yourself from unscrupulous jewelers.

If your pearls come into contact with any food substances, clean them immediately. Avoid commercial jewelry cleaners as they may contain chemicals that will damage the surface or luster of pearls. Never store your pearls in a plastic bag or container as the plastic may contain chemicals that could react badly with pearls and cause the surface of the gems to deteriorate.

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