Durable and delicate at the same time, pearls are a beautiful and unique gemstone created by mollusks instead of the ground and their care is different than what you would expect for a gem. Here are five tips to help you ensure that your pearls are treasured for years to come.
Stay away from acids
If you have ever seen the grammar school science experiment involving an egg and vinegar, you’ll remember that the acid in the vinegar dissolved the shell and left a naked egg. That is because the egg shell is made of calcium. Your pearls are made of calcium carbonate too. That is why you want to avoid acids. When we think of acid, we usually picture something dangerous, however, we use acidic substances every day. In addition to vinegar, acids in our homes can include chlorine and citrus fruits. Our sweat also has an acidic pH which is why, “Pearls are the last thing you should put on and the first thing to take off,” is advice that has been handed down for generations. Avoid overnight wearing and always make sure to wipe the pearls off with a soft cloth before storing.
How to store your pearls
The best investment to store pearls is a soft cloth of silk, satin, or cotton. These can usually be found at your jewelers. Avoid storing your pearls in plastic as the chemicals released over time can destroy your pearls. You also want to store each of your pearl items individually. The nacre of pearls is hard, but in comparison to the metals and other gemstones in jewelry, it is quite soft and can be easily scratched. Do not store pearls in a dry space or safety deposit box – pearls need moisture. Of course, the best way to keep them hydrated is to wear them!
Be selective with certain pieces
Because pearls are a softer gem, you’ll want to make sure that you are limiting the use of rings and bracelets. Not only are you more likely to scratch a pearl ring or bracelet, you are also more likely to soil them. Save your rings and bracelets for special occasions. Earrings and necklaces are much better for daily wear, however, make sure that you are not wearing them when you apply makeup, hair products, or perfume.
Washing your pearls
Occasionally, you may need to wash your pearls. The best way to wash pearls is with a soft cotton cloth dampened with lukewarm distilled water. Tap water has chlorine which can damage your pearls. Gently rub the pearls until they are clean. If just water won’t clean them, you can use a natural soap as well. Stay away from steam, detergents and jewelry cleaners that do not specifically say they are safe for pearls. If the pearls are in a necklace, make sure not to pull or stretch the string in between, especially if they are not individually knotted. This can cause wear to the string and cause the strands to break. No one wants to crawl around searching for their pearls.
The best way to take care of your pearls is to make sure to check them at regular intervals. Make sure strands holding the pearls are still strong and supple. Make sure that pearls in settings are not loose. For stranded pearls, you should have them restrung by a jeweler every few years. Especially if you wear them a lot. Individually knotting them is more expensive but it pays off in the end. Having pearls on necklaces and bracelets individually knotted is more secure in case you do have a break. Better to lose one pearl than to lose all of them.
Pearls are organic and continue to change with time and they require a different type of maintenance from other jewelry. With the proper care, your pearls will maintain a high luster and be handed down generation to generation.