Care and Maintenance of Pearls

Care and Maintenance of Pearls

Here is a more in depth look at how to care for your pearls.

Pearls are organic and are sensitive to both chemical and physical environments. When pearls are worn a lot or are subject to certain hazards they can be damaged if not handled with care. Good quality pearls with a substantial nacre thickness are less sensitive than pearls with a thin nacre or blister pearls.

Pearls are mostly calcium carbonate that can be damaged by acids. One of the major acids to effect pearls is the sweat produced by the body. Our sweat contains salt, trace elements, and lactic acids. That sounds pretty ugly. These acids after a period can wear away part of the surface nacre of the pearl. As you can see, pearls with a thinner nacre are more susceptible. Different people have different levels of these acids in their skin and pearls react harshly to people with higher acid content in their bodies. It stands to reason that if you are sick or are taking strong medicines the acids will be stronger and it is not a good idea to wear your pearls. 

Pearls are also sensitive to drying out. In this case, pearls shouldn't be left in a drawer or safe for long periods of time. They should be worn to keep them from drying out. This exposes them to natural humidity in the air and the good surface of the human skin. Pearls dry out more quickly in hot weather or near any heating elements.

As you might imagine, pearls should not be worn while taking a shower or swimming in the sea, lake or swimming pool. Swimming pools have chlorine and the sea has a host of other contaminants. 

As well, pearls shouldn't come in contact with cosmetics, perfumes, hair sprays, powders or creams. Perhaps you have heard that pearls should be the last thing you put on and the first thing you take off. It makes sense. Just in case you were thinking of doing your dishes or vacuuming while wearing your pearls, don't. 

So, what do you do?

Regular cleaning of pearls with a soft cloth, even with a touch of alcohol after wearing them is the best maintenance. The sweat and dirt are cleaned away by the alcohol.

Once or twice a year, your pearls should be thoroughly cleaned. You can do this yourself or have me do it. I would take your necklace apart and clean the pearls individually and when they are dry, I would restring them. If you are ding this, put your necklace, bracelet, or earrings in lukewarm water with a few drops of dishwashing detergent, perhaps Ivory Snow for 15-20 minutes. Each pearl can be cleaned with a very soft toothbrush. Make sure it is very soft so it doesn't scratch the surface of the pearl. Rinse thoroughly and layout on a soft cloth to dry for at least 24 hours. Don't try to dry them with any kind of heating unit. Make sure the string is completely dry.

It is also recommended to treat your pearls with an Extra Virgin Olive Oil every two to three years. I confess. I haven't done this, but it does seem like a good idea.

And lastly. I know you know this. Do not put your pearls in your jewelry box where they can rub against other metals and gemstones that will scratch the pearls. It is best to keep pearls in a separate little bag that is not plastic or cotton that will dry them out.

The best you can do for your pearls is to wear them and then give them a wipe down with a soft cloth and some alcohol. But...wear them.


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