Vintage Jewellery care, PearlsBy
I’ve just been cleaning a lovely vintage set of cultured pearls, it was such a shame to see them grubby but after a little work they look as good as new. Fortunately these cultured pearls have been kept in their original box and so there was no damage just years of grime. Do you own a string of cultured pearls and do you know how to look after them?
What are cultured pearls?
Cultured pearls are similar to natural or pearls in that they are grown inside an oyster. The pearl starts forming when a foreign body such as a piece of grit or sand enters the shell. The oyster coats the grit with layers of “Nacre” which form the pearl. With a cultured pearl there is a small piece of plastic inserted into the oyster shell by hand and the oysters are kept in pearl farms. The dept of the coating determines the size of the pearl. The very best Cultured pearls are genuinely considered to be from Japan with the most famous name being Mikimoto.
Storage of pearls
This advice applies to both cultured and natural pearls. The coating on a pearl can be damage if the pearls are stores along silver silver and gold jewellery in a jewellery box. If possible store the pearls in their original box, if this is missing you can wrap them in a little acid free tissue paper to protect them from other jewellery.
Pearls should be put on last after make up and perfume as both of these can attack the nacre. After wearing the pearls given them a gentle clean with a soft cloth. If you do get make up or perfume on the pearls if would be best to give them a gentle clean
Please take specialist advice if the pearls are set into jewellery with other stones. If your jewellery is made of pearls and stung on as a necklace or just set with gold or silver you can follow this method:
A little water with a drop of soft soap (Not harsh detergents). Dampen a soft cloth in the water and soap mixture and wring out well and the wipe the pearls with care. I recommend that you do not soak strings of pearls as the stringing material may stretch. wipe off the soap mixture with a damp cloth and pat dry.
Do not put pearls into an ultrasonic jewellery cleaner or into standard jewellery cleaner as the nacre can easily be damaged.
Stringing pearl necklaces.
Pearl necklaces can be strung with knots between the pearls or with out the knots. The knots on the string protect the pearls from rubbing together and also if the string breaks you do not loose as many pearls. Check the stringing regularly, if it is stretched or worn then you can take your pearls to your local jeweler for re-stringing. I suggest that you have them strung in the same way ( knotted or unknotted) as they were originally. The current cost for a single string of peals of average length will start at about £25. A more complex or longer string will cost more. Do shop around and check the quality of the work before you leave the shop.
How long will my pearls last?
If you follow the advice given here your pearls should last for many many years and could well become a family heirloom. Looking to buy some pearl jewellery? AntiquesAvenue usually has several nice pieces of vintage jewellery set with cultured pearls.