Pearls are one of nature's most beautiful miracles, and they have been prized by humans for millennia. Strands of pearls have been worn by ancient royalty and modern-day brides alike, making them a treasured jewelry staple that stands the test of time. In order to ensure your own precious pearl jewelry also lasts a lifetime, it is essential to maintain and clean your pearls with the utmost care.
When properly handled, your natural cultured pearls can be kept in pristine condition. Follow Alara Jewelry's best practices and detailed instructions below for safely cleaning your own pearl jewelry at home.
Pearl Jewelry Cleaning Best Practices
Perhaps the easiest guideline to employ is to remember that cultured pearls are organic. They should be treated with as much care as any living thing: a plant, a pet. Your pearls should be the very last thing you put on, after all cosmetics, hairspray, and perfume have been applied.
If anything lands on your pearls, whether food, lotion, or any other chemical, be sure to wipe it off immediately with a soft dry cloth. Food is an especially evil ruiner of cultured pearls, as acidity is everywhere: any pearl stringer can tell you how many pearls they’ve seen with dullness due to tomato sauce being allowed to linger!
And while we believe pearls are wonderful for daily wear, many people think of them as a dressy occasion accessory. Which means: perfume. Perfume, cologne, and any other fragrance product (including oils) can wreak havoc on your cultured pearls’ lustre. Put your pearls on last!
Materials For Cleaning Pearl Jewelry at Home
Prepare to clean your pearl jewelry by first collecting the necessary materials. We recommend:
- A shallow dish or bowl, lined with a washcloth
- Cool to lukewarm water
- Ideally, a delicate woolens wash (like Woolite); or a very mild dish soap in a pinch
- A soft, clean cloth for wiping
- A soft, clean towel for drying
Inspect Your Pearls
Before you clean your cultured pearls, take some time to carefully inspect your pearl jewelry. Use a small magnifying glass if you prefer. You are looking for any tell-tale signs of damage on the various features of your jewelry. For example, ensure clasps on bracelets and necklaces are functioning properly and remain secure when closed. Check pearl earrings to make sure the posts are firmly attached, or that any dangling elements are strong. In most cases, a single partially-drilled pearl is only held to its piece of jewelry by a little bit of jeweler’s epoxy. So, if something is wiggling, don’t wear it! Finally, any strands of pearls should be checked for integrity, meaning the thread has not stretched out, become brittle, or yellowed. Any damaged pieces should be taken to a jeweler for repair. (LINK: https://alara-jewelry.myshopify.com/pages/repair-refurbish)
Steps For Cleaning Your Pearl Jewelry
- Make a Barely Soapy Solution - Begin by mixing up your cleaning solution in a shallow bowl by combining cool-to-tepid water with a few drops of a delicate woolens wash or bleach-free, sulfate-free, mild dish soap. As you swish through the water, it should barely foam. Less is more when cleaning pearls. Remember that pearls are naturally and organically formed, producing the lustrous finish you see, called the nacre. The nacre is susceptible to damage if exposed to chemicals or even extreme temperatures.
- Dip the Cloth, Not the Pearls - In the case of pearl jewelry only needing spot cleaning, just dip a clean cloth into the mildly soapy solution, squeeze off excess water, and use it to gently clean the surface of your pearls. This is the best way to break down any build-up of surface dirt or oils.
- Remove Residue without Rinsing - Use another clean cloth to remove any soap residue from the surface of your pearls. If you truly used as little cleaning solution as possible, there is no reason to rinse when using this pearl cleaning technique.
- If More Pearl Cleaning is Needed for Your Pearl Strand - The key here is to not leave your pearl strand necklace or bracelet in the water for too long. But, if you find your pearl strand has silk knots that need a little whitening “boost,” or has multiple pearls that are dull because of residue, oil, or dirt, submerging in the mild soapy water is the best way to go. Make sure there is a washcloth lining your bowl, so that the pearls aren’t chipped by the bowl itself. Take about 2 minutes to gently “swish” the pearls in the water. Rinse under very gently running cool water for about 15 to 30 seconds.
- Let Your Pearls Dry - No matter which cleaning method you use, lay your pearl jewelry flat on a towel to dry completely before wearing or putting it away. This is the best way to ensure your pearls remain lustrous, and your silk strands maintain their elasticity.
Involve a Jewelry Professional in Your Pearl Care
Pearl strands should be professionally cleaned and restrung whenever the silk has stretched to the point that there is “wiggle room” between the pearls, or when the silk has yellowed, which implies it has aged and become somewhat brittle, and therefore more likely to break unexpectedly. If you have already cleaned your cultured pearls once using the submersion method above, you should schedule a trip to your jeweler for restringing.
By following these tips, you can confidently keep your pearls in pristine condition for generations to come. For more information on maintaining pearl jewelry, be sure to contact the fine jewelry experts of Alara Jewelry.
Alara Jewelry doesn’t just sell pearls–we love them! We have an on-staff pearl and bead stringer, which isn’t so common these days. See us for all your cultured pearl needs, whether they be restyling, restringing, or matching.