Be Gentle: 7 Tips for Caring for Pearls and Pearl Jewelry

If June is your birth month, and you love pearls (as I hope you do), treat them gently. Pearls are not as rugged as their crystal mineral counterparts. Made up of layers of tiny crystals of aragonite, they’ll scratch, fracture, discolor, and dissolve if not treated with loving kindness.

Punctuating this bracelet of off-center-drilled, egg-shaped pearls, orange carnelians give the strand a burst of sunlight. Photo by Matthew Arden, courtesy Eve J. Alfillé Gallery and Studio Evanston, Illinois.

Punctuating this bracelet of off-center-drilled, egg-shaped pearls, orange carnelians give the strand a burst of sunlight. Photo by Matthew Arden, courtesy Eve J. Alfillé Gallery and Studio Evanston, Illinois.

7 Tips for Caring for Pearls

  1. Never wear pearls when exercising; perspiration can attack them. They don’t like household chemicals, either. Never wear them swimming in a pool. (If Cleopatra’s pearls dissolved in wine, just think what chlorine can do to them.)
  2. Don’t wear them if you’re doing work where they’ll come into contact with hard surfaces. A bracelet constantly thwacking on a desk or filing cabinet can only harm the pearls.
  3. Put them on after you’ve applied your makeup and perfume. Wipe them down with a soft cloth after you take them off to remove pigments and alcohol that can damage them.
  4. Store them in a soft cloth bag to protect them from being scratched by the other jewelry in your box (or drawer, suitcase, steamer trunk . . . ).
    This colorful strand of out-of-round, nubbly-surfaced pearls is an elegant strand of worry beads you’d never be tired of wearing. Knotted to prevent loss and damage. Photo by Matthew Arden, courtesy Eve J. Alfillé Gallery and Studio Evanston, Illinois.

    This colorful strand of out-of-round, nubbly-surfaced pearls is an elegant strand of worry beads you’d never be tired of wearing. Knotted to prevent loss and damage. Photo by Matthew Arden, courtesy Eve J. Alfillé Gallery and Studio Evanston, Illinois.

  5. Give pearls a gentle bath, periodically, if you wear them often. Lay them out to dry thoroughly. Do not hang pearl strands—the string can stretch.
  6. If you wear your pearl strands frequently, inspect them regularly and have them restrung periodically.
  7. Knots between pearls protect them from rubbing against each other at the fragile drill hole. Knotting also prevents loss should the strand break. You’ll only be scrambling around on the airport floor looking for one pearl, not dozens. Because Mrs. Murphy says that if your pearl strand is going to break, it’ll break at the most inconvenient place and time possible.

Sharon Elaine Thompson is a GG and FGA who has been writing about gemstones and jewelry for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 1987. She also writes a line of birthstone romance novels under the name Liz Hartley.



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