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How to Clean Pearls Safely and Avoid Ruining Them

Since ancient times, pearls have been considered a symbol of purity which is why they are often worn by baby girls at their baptism and brides on their wedding day. These gemstones can make anyone look truly radiant. Pearl jewelry can ‘dress up’ even the most casual outfit. To maintain their natural luster and to keep them looking their best, pearls do need to be taken care of. The most important thing to remember though is these gems benefit from being worn regularly – not that you needed an excuse!

Why Do Pearls Need Cleaning?

Ideally, pearls should be gently wiped with a soft cotton cloth or a piece of chamois leather after wearing to enhance their natural luster. These gemstones are alkaline. Therefore, contact with any acids such as hairspray, cosmetics, perfumes and fake tan can damage them. That is why jewelers advise putting your pearls on last after perfume and cosmetics have dried out. If you do accidentally splash something acidic on your jewels, clean them as quickly as you can.

how to take care of pearls

How to Clean Pearls

Cleaning your pearls does not take long but it must be done carefully to protect their outer coating (the nacre). Removing any dust and dirt restores the pearls’ gorgeous natural luster. It is also the perfect opportunity to ensure that your necklace, bracelet or earrings are in good order.

What You Will Need

It is well worth spending a few minutes to prepare for the cleaning procedure. Each pearl is covered with a coating of nacre which is not as hard as you might think. It can be easily scratched or damaged with acid. Therefore, using a soft cotton is simply a must. Get a small basin of lukewarm soapy water. Ideally, use pure soap or soap flakes.

What to Avoid

Using other washing liquids, detergents and dishwasher soap can be hazardous for these jewels. The pearls could react badly to any chemicals resulting in the nacre losing its luster, or even worse, the color. Also, avoid jewelry cleaners unless it specifically says that the product can be used on pearls.

Step One – Check Your Jewelry

Spend a few minutes to check whether your jewels are in a good condition. They are usually strung on a silk thread that has knots between each gem. If the thread should break, the pearls will not be lost. Check if the silk has not stretched between the pearls. Pay attention to the clasp on your necklace to ensure that it opens and closes perfectly. It too can be cleaned with warm and soapy water. Ideally, your pearls should be checked once a year by a jeweler.

pearl maintenance tips

Step Two – Wipe Your Pearls

Clean the pearls very gently using a soft piece of white cotton cloth dampened in lukewarm water. Don’t be tempted to pop the necklace or bracelet in the water as that might cause the silk thread to stretch and weaken. If that itself isn’t enough, add a bit of soap. As you gently wipe each pearl you might be surprised by how much dirt comes off!

Once you have cleaned all the pearls with the soapy water, it is time to softly wipe them a second time with a damp piece of white cotton. It is important to do it thoroughly to ensure that you have removed all the soap. Otherwise, pearls might lose their luster.

Step Three – Dry Your Pearls

Finally, very gently dry each pearl using a soft piece of white cotton. By now they should look lovely. Close the clasp and lay the necklace (or a bracelet) on a soft towel until it is completely dry. Get into the habit of closing the clasp each time to ensure it doesn’t accidentally scratch the pearls. Letting the pearls dry naturally will help the silk thread to regain its elasticity.

How to Maintain Your Pearls

Pearls are organic gemstones and with care and attention, they can last a lifetime. Cleaning them is essential to protect their natural luster. However, regular maintenance is important too.

Store Your Pearls Correctly

Storing your pearls carefully will prevent them from getting dusty or damaged. These gemstones need to be stored flat and never in a tangle. It’s best to keep them separately in a cloth-lined box. Some jewelers use velvet, others – chamois leather or silk. Have in mind that pearls do need to ‘breathe’ so the box shouldn’t be airtight. These gemstones benefit from a little moisture which is why it’s essential to wear them regularly. Therefore, don’t keep them in a tightly wrapped plastic bag. Jewelry racks and trees are popular for storing necklaces and bracelets. However, they are not suitable for pearl jewelry since they might stretch the silk thread.

pearl storing tips

Wear Your Pearls Regularly

All jewelry is meant to be worn and pearls are no exception! Regularly putting these gemstones on offers an exquisite experience that one simply cannot forget. What’s more important is that it helps them stay moist and lustrous. Therefore, put on your pearls and show them off to the world!

Avoid High Temperatures

If you’re considering wearing your beloved jewels on a sunny day on the beach, reconsider it. Pearls are surrounded by thin layers of nacre that is kept together by conchine.  It’s an organic material that dries out when exposed to high temperatures for a long period of time. That, in return, results in pearl discoloration and the loss of luster. Therefore, avoid wearing these gems if you are in direct sunlight and take temperature into account when considering storage.

Keep Your Pearls Away from Chemicals

While it might be obvious that cleaning your pearls with detergents can be dangerous, avoiding the usage of cosmetic products might not. Don’t use perfume, creams, and hairsprays when you have your pearls on. These products might be slightly acidic and damage the mother of pearl (otherwise known as the nacre).

how to take care of pearls

Conclusion

Now that you know how to clean pearls, make sure to take care of them properly. Always, remember that they’re meant to be worn and not stored in a box!

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Karolina Miseviciute

Karolina Miseviciute

Karolina Miseviciute is a writer at ThePearlSource.com, a leading jewelry company that offers high-quality pearls at an affordable price. She is a fashion, jewelry and anything relating to beauty geek!
Karolina Miseviciute