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Pearl maintenance guide

Pearls are reactive to certain chemicals and acids so proper care is necessary to keep them beautiful and lustrous.
Natural and cultured freshwater pearls

Pearls are the world's only organic gems and are composed of calcium carbonate. With a hardness of 2½ to 4, pearls are softer than most gemstones but still considered to be fairly tough and durable. Although pearls are exceptionally cohesive and shock-resistant they may easily be scratched by contact with sharp objects or other gemstones. To prevent tangles and scratches they should be stored separately in a compartmentalized jewelry box.

As organic gemstones, pearls are vulnerable to acids, alkaline solutions, and different levels of humidity. Perfumes and hairsprays, which contain alcohol and acids should be avoided on areas where pearls are worn. Perspiration can also harm the beauty of pearls, and dull their beautiful luster. After wearing, they should be wiped with a damp (not wet), soft cloth or a silicon cloth. If make-up and perfume accumulate, a very mild soap may be used.

Some women's skins are more acidic than others. If a pearl necklace is worn regularly, some of the pearls will be in close contact with the skin on the neck or at the shoulder line. Pearl pendants do not always have such constant contact but pearls in a necklace will gradually absorb acid from the skin and the acid will slowly eat into the pearls and affect a loss of luster. This process can be slowed by gently wiping the pearls with a soft cloth to remove body oils or dirt before putting them away.

When removing a pearl ring after wear, it should be grasped by the shank, or metal part, rather than by the pearl. This will prevent the pearl from loosening as well as from coming into contact with skin oil on your hand.

Look after your pearls.
Pearls should be kept away from chlorine bleach, vinegar, ammonia, fruit juices, and any acidic solutions as these substances will damage the pearls surface. It is also best to avoid direct sunlight or high temperatures such as in a sauna and avoid wearing pearls with rough fabrics as it may contain abrasive components.And since water can weaken the silk thread, pearls should be removed when showering or swimming and removed before exercising to keep them away from perspiration.
Personal care products can damage pearls.
Cosmetics, sun block, perfume and hair spray all contain chemicals that can dramatically dull the luster of a pearl. The natural acids contained in body oils and perspiration can also damage pearls in the same way. It is best to put your pearls on at least 30 minutes after applying any personal care products, and to remove your pearls off before getting ready for bed. A good rule of thumb to remember is that pearls should be the last things to put on and the first things to take off.
Have your pearls restrung once a year.
Even if the pearls are not worn often, they should be strung about once a year to prevent strand breakage. Silk thread is recommended but nylon thread is an acceptable alternative. The thread should be knotted between each pearl to prevent all the pearls in a strand from falling off should a break occur. Knotting also prevents possible damage from the pearls rubbing against each other. Both nylon and silk will soak up the oils from one’s skin and may turn dark after a time. Restringing the pearls with new silk or nylon is preferred over attempting to wash the thread as cleaning may weaken or stretch the knots.
Clean your pearls regularly
After wearing pearls, they should be wiped off with a soft cloth or chamois which may be dry or damp. This will prevent dirt from accumulating and keep perspiration, which is slightly acidic, from eating away at the pearl nacre. A drop of olive oil on the cloth may help to maintain luster. Pay attention to the areas around the drill holes where dirt may tend to collect. After washing, the pearls should be laid flat in a moist kitchen towel to dry. When the towel is dry, the pearls should be dry. Do not use commercial jewelry cleaners, unless they are labeled as safe for pearls, ultrasonic and steam cleaners or toothbrushes, scouring pads and other abrasive materials to clean your pearls.

Pearls should not be stored in airtight packages such as plastic bags because pearls need moisture. If the environment is too dry, the pearls may crack. When placing pearls in a safety deposit box or in a hot environment a damp cloth should be left to provide some moisture. When carrying or transporting pearl jewelry, protective jewelry pouches should be used. Leaving pearl jewelry in a security box for long periods may cause pearls to dehydrate, so enjoy them frequently. There is a saying that "pearls want to be worn," and it is true!


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