Caring For Your Pearls

Last week, a client and friend of mine brought in their strand of beautiful pearls that were a complete mess. Every so often, it is important to bring your pearls to our repair shop for a proper cleaning. We take the strand apart, individually clean each pearl, check the clasp, and restring them with proper knots.

Between these professional cleanings, here are a few facts of interest and some helpful tips on how to maintain that beautiful, totally unique luster that pearls offer.

The pearls that most of us wear today are cultured pearls. A diver inserts a rounded mother of pearl nucleus into an oyster, the oyster coats the foreign object with nacre, the substance that gives pearls their unique luster. The depth of the nacre depends on the type of creature involved, the water it lives in, and how long the foreign object is left in the oyster before it is removed. As nacre thickness increases, so does the quality and durability of the pearl.

Caring for your pearls requires special attention. Even pearls with thick coats of nacre are more fragile than most other gemstones, so handle them carefully. It is best to put your pearls on after applying makeup and perfume and to take them off before applying hand and body creams. I suggest the following guidelines for cleaning:


1) Dampen a soft, clean cotton cloth with a solution of 2 cups of warm water and a few drops of a mild dishwashing soap.
2) Rub each pearl individually
3) Let air-dry overnight
Do not clean pearls with a solution that contains ammonia, harsh detergents, or any type of abrasive cleaner. This can wear away the nacre coating, leaving you with a plain looking bead.
Do not use an abrasive cloth for cleaning.
Do not put pearl jewelry in an ultrasonic cleaner.

Storing your pearls properly is also important for maintaining their nacre layers. Don’t store your pearls with other jewelry because they can be scratched easily when metal or gemstones rub against them. Find a special slot in your jewelry box for the pearls, or keep them in a soft bag made from chamois or another non-abrasive material.

Don’t forget to bring in your pearl jewelry to be cleaned or restrung professionally so that you’re sure the stringing is secure, clasp are working, and they are as beautiful as the day you purchased them.