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How can I look after my pearl jewellery?

Pearl jewellery is super fashionable at the moment but pearls need a little bit of TLC to get the best out of them and help them stand the test of time. This is my handy guide as to how to look after your pearls.

I'm sure the reason why everyone is so drawn to pearls is because of their stunning iridescence and lustre (glow). Even white or ivory pearls can showcase shimmers of pinks, green, gold and blue which brightens up the skin when worn. The fact that they can come in so many colours, shapes and sizes makes them really versatile for jewellery design. Historically they symbolise purity which is why they have been traditionally used in wedding jewellery.


How pearls are formed...

fresh water pearls across a pearl oyster shell

It is very very rare to find a natural pearl now and so most pearls are 'cultured'. The term cultured means that a human has had to intervene in order for the pearl to be formed.


In nature mollusc (oysters for example) get rid of irritants that get into its shell by covering it in the materials that the shell is formed with. This covering is called 'nacre' and forms the pearl. The nacre is what give the pearl its iridescence. When pearls are cultured a small bead is placed inside the shell of a mollusc (which is raised specifically for the purpose of making pearls) and the creature will see it as an irritant and cover it in nacre in the same way as it would in nature.


Depending on the mollusc and where it lives (in the world and type of water) you will get different types of pearls. These range greatly in value, size and colour. For example a black lipped oyster will produce deep grey pearls and south sea pearls take a long time to produce due to their thick nacre making them very valuable . Freshwater pearls are most commonly used in jewellery design as they can be formed in many shapes and colours at a more reasonable price point.


Now that you know how pearls are made let me explain how to look after them...



Damage to pearls by perfume can not be reversed
You can see flaking, yellow patches and loss of lustre on these vintage pearls

Tip #1 - Don't spay perfume when wearing them!

Perfume is a pearl killer! The alcohol in perfume dries the pearls nacre out meaning that it will become thin, yellow, flaky and crack leaving dull patches on the pearl. Sometimes the nacre is not very thick and so with lots of flaking the bead inside will be exposed. This goes the same for hairsprays and fake tan! If you want to wear perfume put it on first and allow it to dry before putting on your pearls, or just keep perfume to where you are not wearing pearls!



Tip #2 - Wipe them after wear

Throughout the day pollutants, perspiration and any perfume or tan you have been wearing will build up on the surface of the pearl which can erode the surface also. Make up can also build up on the surface - especially when wearing dangly pearl earrings. Use a soft damp cloth but ensure they are fully dry before storing.

Tip #3 - Store separately from other jewellery

I'm sure we are all guilty of throwing our jewellery into a jewellery box but the nacre on a pearl is actually quite delicate so other jewellery can scratch and chip the pearl. The best way to store pearls is in silk or a chamois leather.


Tip #4 - Wear them

Pearl love the natural oils in our skin - it moisturises them and enhances the lustre of them.


Tip #5 - ...but take them off in water

Salt water pearls do enjoy a dip in the sea but freshwater pearls would not thank you for it! Water containing chlorine is very damaging for pearls.


Tip #6 - Give them some love

It is possible to buy specialist cleaning cloths for pearls which can help restore some of the lustre of your pearls. I would recommend 'Town Talk polish co' (non affiliated). They do a whole range of cloths for cleaning and polishing.



I am always happy to chat to you about how best to look after your jewellery. Just pop me a message. Or take a look at my range of pearl jewellery here.


If you found this helpful pop me a comment in the box below.


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