Pearls are organic gemstones and as such are vulnerable to cosmetics, hairsprays and any other chemicals you may be in contact with as you prepare yourself for the day. The pearls’ luster can also be harmed by perspiration as well as your body’s natural oils. It is true special care is needed to prolong the life of your pearls, but it is not a difficult task just as long as you keep to a basic regimen of cleaning and caring.
A good rule of thumb to remember when wearing pearls is “Last on, First off.” Pearl jewelry should be the last thing you put on when you get dressed (after make-up, hairspray, perfume, skin lotion, etc.) and the first thing you remove when you get home. Simply wipe the pearls with a soft, damp cloth after you wear them. This protects the nacre from being damaged by the harmful build-up of chemicals and body oils.
It is recommended to take off your pearls when exercising or performing strenuous activities. Pearls can be damaged by the acidic properties in perspiration.
Avoid wearing pearls while showering or swimming, or even when doing loads of dish washing.
Avoid exposing pearls to harsh light or heat for long periods of time.
Wear your pearls often enough. Pearls delight in being worn. Regular wear helps maintain their unique warmth and glow.
If a soft cloth is no longer enough to remove dirt and residue, wipe your pearls with a cloth dipped in mild, soapy water. Then rinse the cloth in fresh water, preferably mineral or distilled since standard tap water may contain chlorine and other chemicals, and then finish off with gentle rubbing with a soft, dry cloth. Do not let soap or water sit on the pearls for too long.
Avoid ultrasonic cleaners or commercial jewelry cleaners. These can damage the pearls’ nacre.
Although pearls are exceptionally cohesive and shock-resistant, on a hardness scale, they still fall on the softer range whose surface is susceptible to scratches and abrasion.
Store pearls separately from other hard jewelry items such as rings or bracelets to prevent them from being scratched. To prevent tangles, fasten clasps and pins, then lay each item flat in a compartmentalized, soft-lined jewelry box or wrap them in a soft-cloth pouch or roll-out bag.
Avoid hanging a pearl necklace for storage as this puts a strain on the silk or nylon thread that strings the pearls and unduly stretches the necklace.
When traveling, carry your pearls in a protective fabric pouch.
Pearls risk dehydration if stored in a box for long periods of time. Most importantly, do not store pearls in air-tight cases like Ziplocks, safety security boxes or sealed containers. Pearls are grown in water and thus contain trace amounts of it. They need their “breathing space” where they can absorb moisture from the air. Otherwise, a lack of humidity can cause them to become brittle and lose their luster.
Pearls should be restrung every one or two years, especially if worn regularly, to prevent strand breakage. It is advisable that the strand be knotted in between each pearl to prevent the pearls from rubbing against each other and causing surface scratching. Knotting also prevents all the pearls in a strand from falling off all over should the string break.
It is better to restring pearls with new silk or nylon rather than washing the knots, as rigorous cleaning can weaken or stretch the thread prematurely.