Taking Care of Pearls

REMEMBER THAT A PEARL is not a rock. Pearls can keep their beautiful lustre for centuries, if their generations of owners are mindful how these jewels of the sea differ from other precious gem materials. Proper care of pearls is not difficult, for it is merely a matter of remembering that these gems are organic by nature, grown in water from the living cells of a living creature.

Like the oysters and mussels that formed the pearls, they require moisture. Pearls are usually worn on a silk string. This silk string will deteriorate over time and faster when wet. The more often pearls are worn the more they will need to be re-strung. This is normal.

Never expose pearls to chlorinated water. Like their ‘organic’ owners, pearls are prone to damage from pollution and injury. They can’t stand the heat, and they should definitely stay out of the kitchen.

What to do with pearls

  • Store pearls separately from other jewellery in a cloth bag or jewellery pouch.
  • Shield pearls from cosmetics. Apply cosmetics, perfumes and sprays first, before putting on pearl jewellery. Remember that although sun creams and insect repellents are good for you, they are bad for pearls.
  • Remove spills immediately if pearls come in contact with food acids. Use a soft cloth moistened in water to wipe the pearls down and then dry them with another soft cloth.
  • After wear, wipe pearls clean with a soft cloth. Makeup, powder, grime and skin acids otherwise will form a soft, gluey substance on the string, attacking both the silk and the pearls.
  • Re string pearls regularly both for the sake of the pearls and to avoid a broken string.
  • Replace individual pearls on the recommendation of a competent pearl stringer. Be aware that pearls worn against the skin can absorb perspiration and eventually lose their lustre.

What not to do with pearls

Avoid:

  • Perspiration and acids.
  • Make up, skin creams, perfume, hairspray, insect repellent, talcum powder.
  • Dust and grit.
  • Soap and detergent.
  • Scratches
  • Chlorinated and brominated water in showers, pools, or spas.
  • Storage over long periods in bank vaults where humidity is low
  • Dehydration from being wrapped in cotton wool and plastic bags, or from exposure to light and heat, and especially exposure to spotlights in shop windows and showcases
  • The kitchen, with all its acidic ingredients and the high heat used in cooking (pearls will tolerate temper¬atures up to 100 OC for a short time, but hot fat and stoves/ovens often reach damaging temperatures). For the same reason, pearls should not be stored near a radiator or sunny window.
  • Steam cleaning pearls or placing them into an ultrasonic cleaner

Did you know?

Queen Elizabeth 1 was probably the greatest pearl lover of all times, with more than 3,000 pearl beaded gowns, almost 100 pearled wigs, and chests filled with pearl strands and pearl jewellery. Five centuries later, many of Elizabeth I’s pearl treasures, and also the diadems, jewellery and sceptres of other royal houses, remain in excellent condition. Precious pearl museum pieces from as long ago as 300 B.C. still retain their lovely lustre today. Common sense care can assure that today’s pearl jewellery also will become tomorrow’s heirlooms.