How To Care For Pearls: Keep Your Pearl Jewelry at It’s Best

care for pearls pearl bracelet

The Best Way to Care for Pearls

It can be argued that pearls are the most elegant and flattering of gemstones. But these exquisite gems are also very delicate and need special care.

When you realise that they measure just 2.5 on the Moh’s Hardness Scale compared to diamond’s 10 score, you can appreciate how soft and delicate they are.

But, the fact that they are soft and need good care and maintenance does not mean they are so precious that they should rarely be worn or handled. Indeed, you can confidently wear your pearl jewelry every single day (think of the late Queen Elizabeth who wore her favorite pearls every day – or at least every public engagement – for many decades).

With the correct care, maintenance and attention – which means keeping them clean, in storing them well, protecting them from chemicals and regular maintenance – your pearls will last generations.

pearl jewellery collection

Indeed the famous and very large La Peregrina pearl, as we talked about in our History of Pearls article, found in the late 16th Century was famously presented to Elizabeth Taylor for Valentine’s Day by Richard Burton during their first marriage many hundreds of years after its discovery.  Elizabeth Taylor wore this pearl for many years (she even found it inside her puppy’s mouth after dropping it once – which is obviously not a recommended way to care for pearls!).

Without proper care and attention your pearl necklace or bracelet string may end up with perished thread, the pearls may be irrevocably damaged and their famous lustre may be diminished beyond repair. A great many second-hand pearls are damaged. Sadly, many jewelers and other jewelry resellers find they can’t resell the pearls that are brought to them as they have not been looked after properly and are too badly damaged. 

This is so unfortunate because pearls are SO beautiful to look at and it’s difficult or hard to take care of pearls. It only needs a few cautionary steps in storing, wearing and cleaning them to ensure that they will hold their quality and lustre for, literally, hundreds of years. 

Our guidelines below offer general guidance in how to care for pearls and maintaining your pearl jewelry but please do take expert advice on individual items that are precious to you.

How to Care For Pearl Jewelry

Beauty Preparations and Perfume

Beauty products, lotions and potions may contain alcohol and other chemicals which are extremely damaging to pearls. This is especially relevant to perfumes which can be very damaging to pearls. Never spray perfume or hairspray on after you put on your pearls, always apply any chemicals before you put on pearl jewelry. Try to avoid placing pearls against skin which has had lotions and perfumes on unless its completely evaporated/dried.

Moisture

Never get your pearls wet. Don’t shower or bathe in your pearl jewellery and never dip them in jewellery cleaning fluid if(even cleaning fluid that says it’s suitable for pearls) if they are glued or strung. The thread that pearls are strung with are silk and will stay wet. The string can then blacken which could mark any pearls next to them causing spotting. If your pearls are glued instead, getting them wet can still cause them to come loose from their setting.

Clean your pearls by merely wiping them with a damp cloth (never wet) and dry thoroughly afterwards. Wiping them in this way will remove any traces of perspiration (which attracts dirt) and chemicals that may have inadvertently got onto the surface of the pearls.

Removing Your Pearls

Gently remove your pearls, being careful to hold the chain or setting rather than the pearl alone before gently pulling. Often pearls are glued, screwed or pinned in place and you want to keep the integrity of the setting intact as much as possible. Similarly if you have a magnetic clasp to your necklace or bracelet (these are marvellous on bracelets), hold the clasp and joint where it meets the main bracelet to open rather than pulling on the chain or pearls themselves. 

Storing Your Pearls

We have already mentioned how soft a pearl is. This means they are easily scratched by other, harder gemstones and claws. They can also have their surface damaged by chemicals and strong sunlight, which can cause their color to fade. Always store your pearls in a box or soft cloth away from other jewellery which will easily scratch your pearls.

A plastic bag which seals out moisture may dry out your pearl leading the the nacre (the outer layer of the shell) to crack and peel. 

Maintenance

To maintain your pearls you should ideally have your pearls restrung every two years. Larger, heavier pearls may stretch the silk threads and may need restringing earlier than this.

To Sum Up …

Looking after your pearls is not hard or laborious and will extend their life considerably. Dull, grubby, mis-colored pearls on dirty thread look awful and the tiny bit of effort involved to care for pearls will reap rewards exponentially.

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