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How To Care For Your Pearls

Written by Quick Jewelry Repairs
April 14, 2016

Imagine this: You’re at the jewelry store, and you see a beautiful pearl necklace unlike anything you’ve ever owned.  Hesitantly, you ask the clerk if you can see the piece.  You hold it up to your neck and look in the mirror, loving it even more than you thought you would.  But still, you’re not sure if you should buy it, because aren’t pearls kind of high maintenance?

Or maybe your mother or aunt is cleaning out her jewelry box and offers you a pair of gorgeous pearl stud earrings.  You accept, take them home, and put them away. Every so often, you consider wearing them to an event or evening out, but they always stay right where they are, because you’re worried about damaging them.

You’re not alone.  One of the most common questions we get asked at Quick Jewelry Repair is how to properly care for pearls, so we’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to help you out.

When Wearing Them:

  • Try to avoid getting makeup, hairspray, or perfume on them, as over time this can weaken your pearls.  Ideally, putting your pearls on as the finishing touch to an outfit should reduce contact with these materials and keep your pearls looking lustrous.
  • Never wear your pearls in the pool, shower, or ocean.  Aside from the fact that the water can damage the string for pearl bracelets and necklaces, which is commonly made of silk, pools have harsh chemicals that can destroy these items.
  • Pearls are sensitive to high temperatures and humidity, which dry them out and can turn them off-color.  Try to avoid significant periods of direct exposure to heat and sunlight to keep them beautiful.

When Storing Them:

  • Before putting away your pearls after wearing them, it’s important to wipe them with a soft cloth to ensure that they are clean and have no oils or residue on them.
  • Each piece should be stored flat with no other pieces touching it so as to avoid tangling strands which can be difficult to separate without damage.
  • Close all clasps and pins to reduce the risk of scratches should your items come in contact with each other.  If possible, use a compartmentalized jewelry box to reduce this risk further.
  • Keep your jewelry box in a cool, dry place.

When Cleaning Them:

  • Pearls are a natural, organic substance, which don’t take kindly to harsh cleaning products or chemicals.  They should never be cleaned in an ultrasonic machine.
  • Unlike many gemstones, cleaning with mild soap and a toothbrush is not recommended.  Toothbrushes and other abrasive cleaning products may damage the pearls.
  • The best way to clean pearls is to use a cleaner which is labeled “pearl-safe” or to have a jeweler clean them for you.  This doesn’t need to be done after each wear, but should be done if they appear dirty or the sheen fades.
  • In between professional cleanings, it’s best to wipe clean with either a wet or dry soft cloth after each wear to reduce the number of cleanings needed.

Other Tips:

  • Keep pearls away from detergents and cleaning products whenever possible.
  • Check strung pearls before wearing them for any weak spots in the string.  Ideally, pearls should be restrung every 1-2 years depending how often you wear them.
  • Check for loose settings on unstrung pieces to avoid scratches by damaged prongs or loss of the pearls due to fragility.

Do you have other questions about pearls and their upkeep?  Let us know in the comments!

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