Pearls: How to Care for these Unique Gems

All of our gems come from below Mother Earth’s surface but one. As a gift of our seas and rivers, pearls are the outlier.      

Two earlier blogs, Pearls: An Ancient Treasure and Pearls: A Modern Passion, explored the history and romance of pearls as well as how pearls are priced. 

The magnificent history of pearls combined with their increasing affordability make buying them irresistible.  

Good jewelry is an investment. To help you protect that investment, we offer the following simple tips to make sure your pearls and the thread that holds a necklace, bracelet, or earrings together remain in good condition. 

Your Pearls 

Pearls are softer than other gems. Nacre[i] covers pearls and can be scratched by other gems as well as by sharp objects. Nacre also degrades when coated by common chemicals found in cosmetics, perfumes, and hair products. So: 

Rule of thumb 1: Last on, first off.  When dressing and undressing, this rule is golden. Don’t slip your pearls (whether a necklace, bracelet, or earrings) on until after you are completely groomed and dressed. This way you avoid spraying or rubbing anything potentially damaging on your pearls. The reverse is true when undressing. Take your pearls off first.

Rule of thumb 2:  Be gentle. Beware if you wear your pearl ring or bracelet while gardening, working in your workshop, or while washing dishes. Hitting a pearl with a hammer isn’t ideal for keeping your pearls pristine. Sweat (yes, sweat) can also damage nacre. 

Rule of thumb 3: Never scrub pearls. Forget about using toothbrushes or any scouring pads.  Don’t “wash” them with vinegar, ammonia, or chlorine bleach, and diplomatically refuse offers of ultrasonic baths. 

Rule of thumb 4: Pearls love to be gently worn. If you exercise minimal precautions, wearing pearls frequently for a night out or a business meeting benefits you and your pearls.  Pearls stay better hydrated when worn, which means their luster and glow will last longer.

After each use, remove dust, and sweat by wiping your pearls with a soft, lint-free cloth. Gentle pampering is good for us all. 

Rule of thumb 5: Store your pearls separated from other gems and sharp objects.  We store our pearls flat and in breathable, organdy bags. Breathable bags are better than plastic. Customers receive a complimentary organdy bag when they purchase pearls from White Orchid Studio.

Stringing Material

Protect the material used to string your pearl necklaces or bracelets. 

Rule of thumb 1: Make sure the stringing material is silk or a silk/polyester blend. Pearl stringers often use silk or a combination of silk and polyester.  Why silk; why the combo?  Both types of materials allow pearls to sinuously drape on your body and clothing.  The addition of a little polyester prevents fraying and stretching while allowing your pearls to lay properly. The combo also carries more weight.  Demand a silk/poly combo first, but if the stringer does not stock the combo, ask for a strong silk.     

Rule of thumb 2: Don’t allow a stringer to knot tightly. Some do. A tight stringing job prevents the pearls from laying properly. If a stringer strings a strand too tight, hang the strand on a nob in your bathroom for a day or two after a shower. The weight and humidity will stretch the strand. Store your pearls flat after this.

Rule of thumb 3:  Plan to have pearl necklaces restrung every year to 5 years.  The more often you wear a necklace or bracelet, the more frequently it needs to be restrung. 

Rule of thumb 4: When cleaning pearls, don’t immerse the strand in anything. The stringing material begins to break down when it is soaked. If the strand is dirty or stained, a gentle wipe with that soft cloth and a little gentle detergent will do the trick. 

Rule of thumb 5: Store your pearls flat. When you store a strand of pearls hanging, the stringing materials stretch. Sweaters are stored flat for the same reason. 

Our necklace Possessed embraces the full beauty of pearls by combining saltwater and freshwater pearls while incorporating Mother of Pearl in the necklace.  We hope you enjoy this celebration of our gifts from water and the ancient mollusk.

Pearls are a passion for White Orchid Studio. We hope these tips help you extend the life and luster of your pearls. 


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