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How to Care for Pearls

By Pauline Weston Thomas for Fashion-Era.com

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Care Of Pearls

Pearls are Organic Substances

To keep pearls looking their very best you need just a little knowledge on how to care for them correctly.

Pearls, including freshwater pearls are delicate organic gems that are made of the natural product called calcium carbonate.  This product is drawn from the lake or river by the mussel that the pearl lives in.

Your freshwater pearls were once living and growing so you will need to make sure that as with all living things they stay out of harm.  The products that harm pearls most are the very things that the woman who loves pearls probably wears without a second thought.  You've guessed it already - the most harmful product to a pearl is the application of perfume, hair spray and cosmetics and face creams when the owner is wearing the pearls.

These grooming products and other household chemicals if sprayed near pearls can build up on the pearl and damage the lustre.

These grooming products and other household chemicals, if sprayed near pearls, can build up on the pearl and damage the lustre. The nacre can become marked, dull, pitted and generally lose that marvellous luminous lustre that defines a pearl.

Rules of Pearl Care

The most important way to prevent damage to your pearls is by following the golden rule of putting your pearls on as the last thing you do when finishing your grooming.  Put the pearls on after you have applied make up, perfume and hair sprays, never before.  Don't spray your perfume on the neck area where the pearls will actually sit and avoid touching your pearls when you have just applied hand cream. If you need to reapply hair spray at some time, slip the pearls off for a moment and put them well out of the damage zone.

Likewise make pearls the first thing you remove after a night out, before you wipe your face and neck with cleansers or facial wipes, or night creams.  As you remove your pearls wipe them with a soft damp cloth.  Buff them occasionally with a silk cloth to enhance their shine and lustre.  Try not to fling them in a jumble on the dressing table, but discipline yourself to put them back in their original container.

Storage

Many pearls such as those from Pearls Plus are sold with a Chinese silk jewellery pouch and this is the best way to store your pearls.  Velvet lined boxes with separate compartments are also safe to use as are chamois leather pouches.  Your pearls may arrive protected by bubble wrap, but you should never store the pearls in this plastic long term.

If you throw pearls into a jewel box full of other tangled jewellery your pearls will soon lose their lustrous sparkle, the surface will become scratched, wires will become bent and clasps scratched.

Never put your pearls on top of a fireplace, television set or a radiator as the heat will discolour them often turning them brown overnight.  For the same reason avoid steam cleaning them.

Don't touch your pearls with your fingers if eating bar snack foods which sometimes have chilli style powders on them.  Such spices can damage the surface of pearls.  I once damaged my new Mabé pearl earrings when eating chilli style taco biscuits at a party. One earring still has a minute little speckle spot where the chilli powder rested.  I was lucky the spot is so tiny, but the spice speck literally burnt into side of the pearl.

Store strung pearls flat as they won't stretch so quickly as when hung.

Don't store pearls in a very dry room, nor in a safe deposit box.  Pearls appreciate a little moisture so wearing them regularly is important.

For the majority of women the best place to keep your pearls is on your neck!  Wearing your pearls gives them the chance to breathe and the body produces natural oils that pearls love.  Body warmth and the expression of this fine natural body oil through the skin keeps the pearls looking good.

Whilst some women can improve the look of pearls there are unfortunately a few other women who may have a more acid balanced skin type and such acid skins can sometimes cause pearls to lose their lustre.  However by regularly wiping the pearls after use you can slow the process down enormously.  This is very important as body perspiration is acidic and can eat away at the nacre, likewise the alcohol content of perfume can suck out the moisture from a pearl leaving it brittle.

Cleaning

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Jewellers can clean pearls or you can buy a special pearl jewellery cleaning solution.

Don't clean pearls using any of the jewellery cleaners especially for gold or silver on the market. Such products usually contain an ammonia base.  Also don't use the ultrasonic cleaning sets as the vibrations can make the pearls rub against each other and cause scuffing.

If the pearls are old and the lustre is dulling wipe them with a soft damp cloth that has been dipped in a very gentle natural soap solution, next wipe them with a detergent free damp cloth and then allow them to dry flat on kitchen paper.  After the pearls have dried, a cloth with a fine smear of olive oil will help restore some lustre.

Stringing

Good pearls will last longer if they are restrung every year if you wear them every day or every two years for less frequent wear.  They should only be restrung with pure silk thread or special nylon necklace cord.  Other yarns like cotton break and rot more easily.

Every string is best knotted between each pearl.  The knot not only helps keep control of your pearls should they break, but also helps stop the pearls rubbing too much against each other.

Some people do not like the look of a knotted string and newer alternatives are spaced pearls on wires held in place by gimps.  Such necklaces have a fresh modern look, but must always be stored as flat as possible to prevent the polymer coated wire from getting bent.

August 2004

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