Pearls are timeless, classic, and the only gemstone on Earth that comes from a living creature. Pearls are classified as natural or cultured based on how they are formed. Both types are “real” pearls, but one requires some human intervention to create.
Natural pearls are harvested from the wild and are extremely rare and difficult to find on the market.
Cultured pearls are used to make most of the pearls used in jewelry today, and are created when a tiny bead or other “irritant” is inserted into an oyster shell by a pearl farmer. The oyster then produces layers of nacre, an inner shell layer that is smooth and crystalline. This nacre forms the outer layer of the pearl.
While most people are familiar with white or ivory-colored pearls, pearls come in a variety of shades, from light pink to deep green and even black. Whatever color or type you select, here’s our guide to caring for your pearls so they never lose their luster.
Caring for Your Pearls
Avoid Contact with Acids
Perfume, hairspray, and cosmetics can all damage pearls because pearls are alkaline. Put your pearls on after you’re done getting ready, and make sure any hairspray, cosmetics, and so on have dried thoroughly.
Wear Your Pearls Often
Pearls shouldn’t just be reserved for special occasions. In fact, regular wear is one of the best ways to maintain that lustrous look you love about your pearls. That’s because pearls can dry out when stored for long periods, but with wear, the natural oils from your skin can keep them in good condition.
Clean After Every Wear
Wipe the pearls with a soft cotton cloth after every wear. This will protect the nacre and remove any dust, dirt, or perspiration. Be aware that pearls can be easily scratched, so be sure to use the softest cotton cleaning cloth you can find.
Use pure soap or soap flakes and avoid detergents, dishwashing soap, handsoap, or other common cleaning products you might find around your home. All of these contain chemicals that can be harmful to the nacre.
If you’d like to use a specialty cleaning product for pearl jewelry, make sure it’s labeled for this purpose.
Before you wipe your pearls, check that the entire piece of jewelry is in good condition. It’s a good idea to have your pearls checked every year by your jeweler (we can do this at Coffin & Trout). But there are some things you should also check at home after every wear.
Check the thread and clasp. If you have a pearl necklace or bracelet the pearls will likely be strung on a silk thread with knots tied between each. This ensures that pearls won’t be lost if the string breaks. Check to make sure the string hasn’t stretched out and also check the clasp to make sure it opens and closes properly. You can wash the clasp with the warm, soapy water you’ll use for the pearls.
To clean your pearls, use a soft piece of white cotton dampened in lukewarm water and gently wipe each individual pearl. If the damp cloth doesn’t do an adequate job of cleaning, add a tiny bit of the pure soap. Never immerse your pearls in water.
Next, wipe each pearl again with a damp piece of white cotton to remove any soap residue.
Lastly, dry each peal with a dry piece of white cotton and wait until they are completely dry to store them.
Don’t Expose Pearls to High Temperatures
Pearls can dry out and become discolored when exposed to heat. Avoid putting them in direct sunlight and try to avoid wearing them in situations where you may perspire.
Storing Your Pearls
Lay them flat in a cloth-lined box that isn’t airtight. Don’t keep them in a plastic bag and don’t hang them, because this can stretch the silk thread. Also, avoid storing them alongside other jewelry, which could scratch your pearls.
Pearl Jewelry You’ll Cherish
Now that you know more about pearls, you may want to consider adding more pieces to your collection. From pendants to earrings and rings, we have just the pearls you fancy.