Susan Miller

·Master of Fine Arts in Jewelry Design, Pratt Institute, 2012

·Bachelor of Arts in Gemology, University of California, Los Angeles, May 2005

·Editor-in-Chief, White Victoria (2018 - present)

·Write and research feature articles and profiles for print and online publication

·Contributing Writer, Modern Jeweler and Ornament

·Write and publish freelance articles for IGS and WSJ Magazine

·Jewelry Appraiser (2012 - 2020)

People envision using pearls for a long time when they buy or get gifted. That is often not the case; the major problem results from a lack of proper maintenance. Over time, I've had people send me concerns and worries regarding the appropriate supervision of their pearls. By proper maintenance, I mean keeping, caring for, and making sure that pearls and pearl accessories last a good number of years. So, in this article, I'll focus on providing answers and suggestions to all your pearl maintenance concerns and how to guard against damage of any kind.

What Are Pearls Made Of?

Harvesting of pearls occurs from various freshwater and seawater mollusks like oysters, freshwater mussels, etc. The formation process starts when an irritant known as a foreign particle penetrates the oyster's body. 

Furthermore, the mantle secretes a fluid that encapsulates the substance while it deploys its defense system to combat the foreign particle. The fluid layers deposited are known as nacre, and they help to create the pearl.

Technically, the pearl originates from calcium carbonate. This calcium carbonate primarily originated from aragonite or a combination of calcite and aragonite. They occur from a tiny crystalline state that accumulates concentric layers within the soft tissue. 

Do Real Pearls Wear Down?

Pearls are charming and enigmatic and have long been valuable to humankind. They have amassed an illustrious history and earned the label "one of nature's finest feats." Because they tend to elevate even the most casual clothing, pearls make excellent jewelry choices. Under some situations, real pearls may peel. Some of these situations include the following:


Real pearls always deteriorate with time, particularly when neglected. Since pearls need moisture, keeping them in a dry environment for an extended period will eventually dry out and turn yellow. You can start to see fractures and possibly peeling on the pearl if enough time has passed.

Damages or Scratches

Pearls are exceedingly fragile stones, as we've already established. They are prone to damage if not handled carefully. For instance, your pearls could get scratched if you kept them next to diamonds or other hard jewels. 

The pearls are also prone to scratching from hard surfaces and rough textiles. In addition to being dangerous, chemicals in cosmetics and some other items degrade and cause pearls to become more fragile.

Sweat Exposure

Pearls are exceedingly fragile stones, as we've already established. They are prone to damage if not handled carefully. For instance, your pearls could get scratched if you kept them next to diamonds or other hard jewels. 

The pearls are also prone to scratching from hard surfaces and rough textiles. In addition to being dangerous, chemicals in cosmetics and some other items degrade and cause pearls to become more fragile.

Excess sweat and pearls are a terrible combination. Excessive amounts of sweat damage pearls, and this situation causes them to lose their luster. Additionally, it can make the pearls more likely to peel or trigger other damage.

Best Conditions for Preserving Pearls

It's ideal for storing pearls in a soft-cloth purse or a jewelry box with a soft inside. Never keep your pearls in a zip-top bag or any airtight container. As living objects, pearls do contain traces of water. They will grow brittle and lose their shine if you store them in an enclosed space.

What Happens When You Preserve Pearls Wrongly?

Pearls tend to lose some of their peculiar characteristics when they are not properly maintained and preserved. This situation results in the following;


Due to their similar hardness to fingernails, pearls are milder types of jewelry, being softer than the bulk of other stones. If not handled correctly, this feature makes it difficult for them to keep their luster and form. 

Real pearls are more accessible to chip or peel than other jewelry. Dry surfaces are more susceptible to chipping or peeling. The likelihood of having a peeled pearl fixed is rather slim. Since there is no other choice except to replace them, avoiding chips and peels is crucial.

Yellow Coloration

White pearls can become yellow, while yellow pearls do exist in nature. Real pearls tend to lose moisture over time when exposed to dry environments. Lack of proper maintenance of pearls could result in them aging and turning yellow, which makes them drab and unattractive to sight.


Pearls contain 2% to 3% moisture, similar to the human body's high water content. As a result, pearls tend to dry up and generate cracks the same way the skin does if it isn't adequately hydrated.

A proper understanding of proper pearl maintenance prevents dealing with these issues.

How to Care for Pearls

Although pearls are a classic fashion choice, they will only endure for a while without adequate care. Pearls require regular maintenance, whether they are natural or cultured. Some ways to care for pearls include: 

Wear Often

This advice is one of the easiest and best of all. It would be best if you kept pearls in a wet atmosphere to prevent drying out and brittleness. As the pearls will collect moisture from the atmosphere and the wearer's skin, wearing your jewelry regularly will avoid this.

Don't Wear Them Immediately After Using Personal Care Products!

To avoid an ugly stain, you must hesitate a minimum of 30 minutes after using personal care items before donning pearl jewelry since pearls absorb beneficial and unfavorable things. This claim holds for moisturizer, hairspray, makeup, and sunscreen.

Clean with a Damp Cloth

Use a delicate, wet cloth to carefully clean any blemishes from your pearls. Even while cleaning your pearl jewelry with a soft cloth typically suffices to prevent stains, mistakes sometimes occur. 

Wear your jewelry once thoroughly dried to avoid damaging the strands by stretching or deforming them.

Clean Regularly

Natural body oils, sweat, and other environmental contaminants can still discolor pearl jewelry even if you follow all the proper procedures before using them. 

The most straightforward approach to get rid of ugly build-up is to give your pearls a light wipe-down after each use or as regularly as possible. 

Avoid Plastic Bags

Keep pearls away from plastics. Plastic has the potential to release chemicals that harm pearl surfaces. Furthermore, pearls have a little moisture content and might dry out if kept in an airtight environment.

No Stacking

Despite how adorable it may seem, you should avoid wearing pearls layered with some other metal chains or bracelets that could harm them by banging and rubbing against them all day.

Store Appropriately

It would help if you didn't store metallic and pearl jewelry in an exact manner. It's preferable to arrange your pearls flat to prevent the strands from sagging. Also, avoid keeping your pearls near other, more durable jewelry.

Don't Wear While Exerting Yourself

You should avoid wearing pearls in situations when you could sweat profusely. The acidic pH level has the potential to be damaging to pearls, not the wetness or salt.

Avoid Exposure to Extreme Heat

The exact manner pearls require air to avoid drying out; they also need to be protected from direct heat. Wearing pearl jewelry is okay on a warm day, but keep it away from the fireplace mantle.

Annual Inspection

A yearly checkup by a jeweler is one of the finest things you can do to preserve the durability of your jewelry. This procedure enables a professional to do a delicate but comprehensive cleaning and routinely inspect the condition of your pearl strands.

How Do You Clean Pearls?

It doesn't take long to clean your pearls properly. However, you must be careful to preserve their nacre-coated exterior. You recover the pearls' stunning natural shine by cleaning off any debris and dust.

What You Need

Taking a few minutes getting ready for the cleaning process is worthwhile. The nacre layer that protects each pearl is easier than expected. It's prone to acid damage and scratches. 

Consequently, choosing delicate cotton is an absolute must. Obtain a little bowl of warm, soapy water. Preferably, use soap flakes or pure soap.

What To Avoid

Other detergents, dishwashing soap, and liquid can harm these stones. Chemical exposure might cause the nacre to lose its brilliance or, worse still, change color in the pearls. Also, avoid jewelry cleaners unless labeled for use on pearls.

Step 1: Examine Your Jewelry

Make sure your jewelry is in good shape by taking a moment to inspect it. Typically, a silk thread with knots between each gem hangs these pearls. You will recover the pearls if the thread breaks. 

Inspect the silk between the pearls to make sure it has not stretched. Ensure your necklace's clasp functions properly by paying close attention to how it opens and shuts.

Step 2: Clean

Using a gentle bit of white cotton towel that has been soaked in lukewarm water, carefully clean the pearls. Fight the urge to submerge the bracelets or necklaces in water since doing so might weaken and strain the silk thread. 

You'll be astonished by the amount of filth and dirt from carefully cleaning individual pearls.

To ensure the complete removal, gently wipe the pearls with a moist white cotton piece after being thoroughly cleansed with soapy water. It's crucial to complete the task meticulously, as pearls risk losing their shine if done without care.

Step 3: Let Your Pearls Dry

Finally, carefully dry each pearl using a delicate piece of white cotton. They should now appear stunning. When the necklace or bracelet is dry, lock the clasp and place it on a soft cloth. 

To avoid accidentally scratching the pearls, make it a habit always to close the clasp. The silk thread will restore its flexibility if the pearls dry naturally.


With the information in this article, it is evident that pearl maintenance requires deliberate action. But if done correctly, you have pearls that last you for as long as a lifetime.