I have always been in love with pearls as they have the capability to add a touch of elegance and royalty to even the most basic outfits. However, at the same time, maintaining pearls can be challenging.
Here, I would like to bring you my experience and knowledge about how your pearl might be getting damaged and how I have learnt to maintain my pearls, and prevent them from being worn out.
Do real pearls scratch?
Yes, real pearls do scratch when they come in contact with jewelry parts that are hard, rough and sharp. These could simply be the jewelry strings or the clasps and locks. Processed pearls are generally soft enough to get scratched by other pearl strands that they come in contact with. Keeping pearls with other jewelry pieces and hard gemstones can also lead to scratches. Some varieties of finer pearls can be so delicate that even heavy work on your dress can cause scratches on them!
Can pearls scratch each other?
When you rub two pearls together gently or roll them together in between your palms, there may be slight abrasion due to the friction between them. But that would rarely cause visible scratches on the surface or make the pearl unfit to be worn. However, if two pieces of pearl jewelry come in contact with each other, it may lead to scratches by the exposed metal parts or the strings. Also, if the jewelry is hanged for storage for longer durations, instead of being kept horizontally, the string might cause damage to the holes in the pearls.
Is my pearl scratched?
While the surface of a real pearl may not be smooth and have fine lines, it does not necessarily mean that the pearl is scratched. Rather, most of the real pearls are slightly rough in comparison to imitation pearls which are always perfectly round in shape and smooth in texture. Only the pearls categorized as AA will not have visible fine lines (and these can be REALLLY EXCLUSIVE and not to forget, PRICEY!).
If there are irregular lines on your pearls that can be clearly observed without the use of readers, they are most likely scratches.
Do real pearls peel or chip?
Pearls are among the softest jewelry pieces, having the same hardness as your finger nails, making them softer than most of the available stones. This makes it hard for them to retain their sheen and shape if not handled carefully. Real pearls can chip or peel fairly easily in comparison to other jewelry items. When dry, there are higher chances of getting chipped or peeled.
Unfortunately, the chances that your chipped pearl can be fixed are minimal. Replacing them is the only option left and hence, preventing chips and peels becomes important. Moisturizing your pearls and preventing them from dryness can significantly help prevent chipping and peeling.
I find that the pearls in the rings are most susceptible to damage followed by the pearls in bracelets especially when worn while doing household chores! The pearls in your earrings can also chip or peel with the pointed edges of bobby pins or hair clips in case you do your hair after putting on your jewelry.
This is the reason why I do not recommend keeping your pearl jewelry on for longer durations. It must be removed first thing you reach home and should only be worn just before you step out!
Can pearls crack?
Just like the human body which has large water content in it, pearls also have 2-3% moisture in them. Consequently, the same way our skin tends to develop cracks and fine lines if not moisturized properly, pearls also tend to dry up and develop cracks.
Pearls are also impacted by the use of air conditioning and heating where they are stored.
Do real pearls turn yellow?
While yellow pearls also occur in nature, even white pearls can turn yellow. Real pearls, when exposed to drier conditions for longer duration, they tend to lose moisture. The naturally yellow pearls are shiny and lustrous whereas the pearls that get yellow as they age are dull and unappealing to the eye. Therefore, preventing dryness, if you wish your pearl jewelry to last long, is important.
Can you fix a scratched pearl?
If there is a minor scratch on the outer surface of your pearl, there is still a little chance that gently cleaning your pearl and hydrating them by light washing can reduce the visible marks. However, if the nacre of the pearl is damaged, unfortunately, replacing the pearl is the only option available.
Only small damages at the surface can be fixed by a skillful jeweler who can polish them or gently scrape off the outer layer of a pearl. The sad part is, there are very few jewelers who can do that for you. I have never got this done for any of my pearls.
Can you polish a pearl?
As pearls are also living things, they might tend to lose the luster over time and may also get damaged due to various reasons like not getting enough moisture or being exposed to sunlight for longer duration. In case you notice the same with your pearl, don’t fret. It is most likely the outer layer of your pearl that has been damaged. Your entrusted jeweler can help you here!
Pearls can be polished and your jeweler can assist by removing the outer layer of the pearl without damaging its nacre and your pearl will get back its luster! Harder pearls are easier to polish in comparison to softer ones as soft pearls tend to get damaged during the process if not carried out with precision.
Can pearls be buffed?
Pearls can certainly be buffed to provide that extra sheen to the outer surface post polishing. Buffing helps pearls with fine lines to look shinier and smoother at the surface. In case you decide to get your jewelry polished, buffing will remove the fine lines that may form on your pearl attributable to the polishing process.
However, one must be careful not to buff too much as it may change the natural luster. Make sure you discuss the process thoroughly with your jeweler before you decide on getting your beloved pearls polished and buffed.
What to do if my pearl is scratched badly?
A pearl from my ring once came undone and fell on the floor. I found it fortunately, only to see there was a dent on it! It was deep and clearly could not be polished.
In case you happen to be in a similar situation and polishing and buffing do not seem to be an option, find yourself a designer who can design your piece of jewelry where a layer of metal covers the scratch or hole in the pearl. This would make your damaged pearl last years.
In case your pearl does not have a hole, the dent could be the perfect spot to make one! This pearl can then be mounted in a string or be designed as a beautiful pendant.
How do you keep pearls in a good condition?
In order to keep your pearls looking lustrous, any kind of damage needs to be checked. Understanding the factors that may pose a threat would help keep them in check! Let us identify various factors that may lead to damage:
- Softness of the pearl: The softer a pearl, the more it is prone to damage by exposure to any external harder object.
- Storage: If the appropriate storage condition are not maintained, the pearl might lose its sheen and become yellow. You must never keep pearls stored in plastics bags especially in areas that are hot and humid. Also, the storage box or bag should be soft enough not to cause any scratches or bumps on the surface. This is why this is my favorite jewelry box to store daily wear pearl jewelry. This not only keeps the items safe, but also makes your jewelry easy to access. I earlier used this old box that came with Ferrero Rocher someone gifted me. I layered the box with a soft velvet cloth and placed my earring wrapped in cotton cloth in the box.
- Handling: Improper transportation, handling leads to scratches on the surface.
- Temperature the pearl is exposed to: At higher temperatures, pearls lose their moisture and become brittle.
- The duration a pearl remains in the oyster: A pearl is most likely to develop marks and minor holes on the surface if it remains inside the oyster for too long.
- Exposure to chemicals and sweat: The chemicals in laundry detergents, perfumes, lotions and creams considerably impact pearls. If the pearls are exposed to sweat for longer durations, its surface gets damaged. This is why I always clean my pearl jewelry with a soft and slightly damp cloth before putting it back in the velvet layered box I use to store my pearl jewelry.
- Exposure to unnatural lights: Over exposure to unnatural light sources such as halogen bulbs can have have a deteriorating impact on the natural color of your pearls.
- Maintenance of pearls: If your pearls turn yellow or get peeled or chipped, there is not much you can do to reverse it. Therefore, how often you check them for damage and if you get an annual clean up done or not largely decides the life of your pearls.
- Cleaning impurities or chemicals post workout: If you wear your pearls while working out, wipe them with a damp cloth as soon as you are home as sweat damages them. If swimming is a part of your workout, avoid pearls completely as chlorine has the potential to damage pearls completely.
How to avoid scratches in pearls?
In addition to the factors discussed above, there may be many other factors that may lead to your pearls getting scratched. Following are the tips and tricks that have helped me keep my pearls safe over the years.
- Unlike other precious gemstones and jewelry that must be kept locked in safes, pearls are the safest in your bathroom cabinet! The reason is, pearls tend to lose moisture in enclosed areas as they tend to be dry. If you must store your pearls in a locker or safe, consider placing a small container of water that would help maintain the moisture level.
- Wear your pearls! Pearl jewelry absorbs moisture and natural oils from the skin. The more you wear them, the softer they remain. All you need to do is be cautious not to bump them with harder objects while you wear them.
- Put your pearls on after at least 15 minutes of wearing your perfume or sunscreen so as to prevent them from acids.
- Store your pearls separately in a pouch, or a box layered with soft fabric such as this one or this one. Ensure that the metallic ends of the neck-piece or bracelets do not come in contact with the pearl by fastening them or keeping the ends or edges covered with a piece of soft cloth or cotton. I store mine in these silk pouches, for necklaces I use these velvet pouches. If you carry your jewelry when you travel or simply prefer keeping your smaller items organized at one place, you may check out this amazing jewelry organizer from amazon. It is available in different colors and is certainly not a bad deal under $20! If you travel often and carry your pearls along, you can check this one out as well. It is perfect for storing pearls on the go and also comes with a mirror.
- While cleaning your pearls, keep a soft cloth under them in order to prevent abrasion with the surface underneath.
- Be extremely careful while handling your pearl jewelry pieces and try to avoid falls. For the same reason, if possible, ask your jeweler to tie the string at the end of each pearl. In case, the string of your bracelet of necklace breaks, it would impede other pearls from scattering on the floor and getting damaged.
- When you are washing your pearls under the tap, keep an extra layer of soft meshed cloth under the sink that allows the water to pass but would catch any pearl that falls off. This would also minimize the impact on the pearl, thus preventing scratches.
- Getting your pearls professionally checked and necklaces restrung once every 2 years if not every year can keep damage near the holes at bay.
- I generally hydrate my pearls very lightly using jojoba oil that help my pearls maintain the sheen. All I do is take a drop in my hands and rub it gently between the palms and then I run the strands of my pearl necklace softly between my hands before keeping it in a silk bag. Jojoba oil is very hydrating for the skin as well and tat is what I primarily use it for. If you do not have it already, you can easily buy it here.
I never wear any piece of pearl jewelry, especially earrings or necklaces while going to get my hair done. The probability of a heating equipment being used on my hair (closer to the neck and ears) is high. The heat from the equipment can completely damage my pearls. Also, the chemical substances from the hair sprays or conditioners can also prove to be harmful in the longer run.
When it comes to scratches in pearls, prevention is the best cure.
I hope with the tips shared above, your pearls look timeless and you are able to pass them on to the coming generations.
Until next time!