How to Care for Pearls

If you're a fan of jewelry, chances are you own a strand or two of cultured pearls. But do you know how to properly clean and care for the delicate gemstone? This guide breaks down the do's and don'ts on how to maintain the timelessness of your pearls and keep them looking new for decades to come. 

As most know, pearls are formed by oysters secreting a substance called nacre around an irritant, such as a grain of sand. The nacre builds layer upon layer and soon, a pearl is formed. On the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, pearls rate between a 2.5 and 4.5 out of 10, meaning they are very soft and vulnerable to scratching. Additionally, pearls can lose their shine or luster if exposed to chemicals, sweat, or other abrasives. But don't let this deter you from owning a strand of your own -- pearl care is much easier than it sounds! 

Taking care of your pearls: 

  1. The Golden Rule of pearls: they should be the last thing you put on and the first thing you take off. This means you should apply any makeup, lotions, perfumes, and hairsprays before you bring out the pearls. When you're ready to take them off for the night, make sure you remove your pearls before getting undressed to ensure they don't get snagged. 
  2. After removing your pearls, gently wipe with a soft cloth to remove any excess body oils. To store your pearls, keep them wrapped in a soft cloth or in a pearl envelope. This will ensure they don't get damaged or scratched when not in use. 
  3. Pearls need to breathe! You read that right, pearls shouldn't be kept locked in a box for extended periods of time. Since nacre is an organic material, pearls can dehydrate if not regularly exposed to air. Wearing your pearls on occasion also helps keep them hydrated thanks to the oil from your skin!

Things to avoid while caring for pearls: 

  1. Always remove pearls before exercising or performing other strenuous activity. The acid and pH from sweat can destroy the nacre and cause permanent damage to your pearls. 
  2. Always remove pearls before showering, swimming, washing dishes, or reapplying lotions, makeups, perfumes, and hairsprays. 
  3. Never store your pearls in any kind of plastic bag. Plastic can emit chemicals that can eat away at the surface of your pearls. 
  4. Never store pearls in direct sunlight or near any heat source. 
  5. Always keep your pearls separate from other jewelry and store them flat, avoid hanging them with your other necklaces. Keeping them secluded from your sharp metals and harder gemstones ensures they'll be safe from scratches. 

But accidents happen, so if your pearls ever do need to be cleaned, here's a foolproof way to keep them looking fresh: 

  1. Combine a small amount of gentle, natural soap (not detergent) and lukewarm water and submerge pearls for no longer than 15 seconds. Never use anything abrasive or with ingredients like lemon, baking soda, or vinegar as it can remove the pearl nacre. 
  2. Wipe each pearl with a clean, wet cloth in both directions to remove any dirt and excess soap. Don't forget to clean the clasp and around the drill holes on each pearl. 
  3. Dry your pearls with a clean cotton cloth and allow them to lay flat on a towel to absorb any remaining moisture. 
  4. Never use an ultrasonic or steam cleaner for your pearls and avoid using any type of brush. 

If you don't feel comfortable cleaning pearls yourself, bring them to your trusted jewelry store and have a professional do the cleaning. It's always better to be safe than sorry when dealing with such delicate gemstones! If you have any questions or concerns about caring for your strand, feel free to call or stop in and speak to one of our experts. We're here to help you make the most of your jewelry purchase!