The pearl–the June birthstone symbolizing wisdom and purity–is one of the most uniquely beautiful gemstones. Pearls are lovely but delicate and require proper care. Unlike other gemstones, they’re made of layers of organic materials secreted by a mollusk or oyster to soothe an irritant. Their organic makeup makes them soft and subject to change over time, but with proper care, high-quality pearls can last a lifetime or longer. Even though pearls are softer than most other gemstones (with a Mohs hardness of 2.5–4.5), they benefit from frequent wear. Pearls are delicate on the surface but also compact, so they can be scratched but cannot be easily cracked or crushed. The better you clean, store, and care for your pearl jewelry, the longer it will retain its original color, luster, and beauty.
What do you need to clean pearls?
Caring for your pearls well only requires a few simple items.
A soft cloth for wiping
Gentle soap (baby soap recommended)
A soft cloth for drying
How to clean pearls
After every wear, wipe your pearls with a soft cloth to remove any perspiration, makeup, or dirt that they may have picked up. But when your pearl is visibly dingy, it’s time for a more thorough cleaning.
Mix water with gentle soap.
Dampen soft cloth with soapy water and gently rub the pearls.
Gently dry the pearls with a soft dry cloth. Make sure the pearls have dried completely before storing them.
We recommend taking your pearl jewelry to a jeweler for a check-up and deep cleaning once a year.
How to clean a pearl necklace
Pearls are strung on a silk thread to create a necklace. You must be careful not to damage the thread when cleaning. It should not be submerged in water or stored away before it’s completely dry. Pearls on a necklace should be wiped one at a time.
How to clean pearl earrings
Pearl earrings and rings are mounted rather than strung. You don’t have to worry about a silk thread, but, otherwise, you care for them the same way. The gold or other metal your pearls are mounted on can be cleaned just like the pearl, but if the metal requires deeper cleaning, you can use rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab–just make sure not to touch the pearl with the swab.
Can you clean pearls that have yellowed?
Pearls come in many colors, yellow being one of them. Natural yellow pearls are desirable, butyellowed pearls are not. Yellowing happens to all pearls over time, but you can take preventative measures to prolong aging for a century or more. Pearls age and turn colors when their organic materials dry out. Once pearls have yellowed, you can’t usually correct their color by cleaning. To prevent your pearls from drying out and yellowing, wear them often and don’t store them in air-tight containers. Do not try to restore their color with nail polish remover as some articles recommend. Nail polish remover is too harsh for pearls and will do even more damage to your jewelry.
How to bring back luster to pearls
A pearl’s luster is the result of a thin layer of nacre coating the nucleus of the pearl. You can wipe your pearls with oil to make them shinier, but once a pearl has lost its original luster, you can’t bring it back. A pearl can grow dull from perspiration or from drying out. Because moisture in your skin can keep pearls from drying out, it's a good idea to wear your pearls often, as long as you wipe them after every wear and clean them regularly.
Pearls are made of a nucleus surrounded by a very thin layer of lustrous nacre and held together by colchicine, a natural adhesive that dries out after prolonged exposure to heat. A thicker nacre results in a more durable but also more expensive pearl. Pearls are strung together on a silk thread to create a necklace. Pearls cannot be polished like other gemstones, so scratches are permanent. Because pearls are so delicate, proper care is a must.
Pearl jewelry care tips
Wear pearl jewelry often to retain moisture.
Never clean pearls with heat (no ultrasonic jewelry cleaners).
Protect your pearls from harmful chemicals like bleach, hairspray, toothpaste, lotion, or acids. Putting your pearls on last and taking them off first helps prevent exposure.
Don’t wear pearl rings daily to protect the pearl from scratches.
Don’t wear pearls cleaning, washing dishes, washing hands, or showering.
Wipe pearls after every wear and deep clean them at a jewelers once a year.
Can you wear pearl jewelry every day?
Wearing pearl necklaces every day is beneficial for pearls. It helps them to retain moisture and to keep shining. Pearls make everyday wear easy since they look good dressed up or down. However, you may want to reserve your pearl rings for special occasions because they’re more likely to get bumped and go missing or suffer scratching. If pearl jewelry is your go-to, make sure you wipe it down every time you take it off.
How often should your pearls be restrung?
In most cases, pearls should be restrung every 2 years. If you wear your pearls every day, you may need to have them restrung every year. When the thread is discolored or stretched and your pearls have loosened, it’s time for them to be restrung. It is also possible for a jeweler to replace a damaged pearl during this process.
Can you get pearl jewelry wet?
Soaking your pearl jewelry is never a good idea. Water will ruin the necklace string or the binding glue on rings or earrings. So don’t shower in pearls or wear them to the pool. Wiping with a damp cloth is the best way to clean pearl jewelry.
How to store pearls when not wearing them
Do not hang pearl necklaces. This will cause the thread to stretch and sag. Instead, lay your pearl necklaces flat with any clasps fastened.
Keep pearls in soft, fabric-lined compartments. Chamois leather, silk, or velvet are great materials for holding pearls.
Do not store in an air-tight container.Pearls need moisture from the atmosphere or they will dry out. The best storage containers for pearls allow for some airflow.
Do not store pearls in plastic. Chemicals in plastic can erode pearls.
Store pearls away from other gemstones. Pearls should stay isolated in their own compartment or storage container to keep from getting scratched by other gemstones.
Make sure your pearls have enough moisture. Storing them with a damp cotton ball will help keep your pearls moist.
Keep your pearls out of the heat. Heat dries pearls out, so a warm, stuffy attic is not the best home for your pearls.
Don’t leave your pearls in storage for a long time.Don’t let them dehydrate; enjoy wearing them instead!
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