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  1. #1

    Default Damage to cultured pearl. What happened?

    Hello

    I'm new here. I am not a pearl enthusiast, but I have several of my mother's old pearls and a few of my own.

    I have a unique problem. I received a beautiful pair of cultured pearl stud earrings over 30 years ago for my high school graduation. I wore them very infrequently and put them away.

    Fast forward many years.. my 6 year old daughter has taken them from my jewelry box and played with them and lost one. I was upset but there wasn't anything I could do. A few years ago my husband gave me a diamond pendant and I thought that adding the pearl to the bottom would be nice. And for a couple of years it was. Then a few months ago I noticed it *felt* kind of strange on one side but didn't think much of it, it just felt like it needed cleaning. Then my daughter commented that it looked weird. I never noticed it, it always looked fine to me. But I took it off yesterday and saw that it is disintegrating. That's the only way I can put it. It is misshapen, it has lost all of the nadre in one spot, the place where it rests against my skin and it's flattened out somewhat. I don't know what happened. I have never exposed it to chemicals, or other jewelry. But as you can see, the nacre lustre is gone. Any help would be appreciated. I'm sorry this is a cruddy picture, my camera is dying but I can try to take others if it will help. Thanks for any help.

    Lisa

  2. #2
    Pearl Enthusiast Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Pearl Dreams's Avatar
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    That is really upsetting!

    Unfortunately it is not necessary to have exposed the pearl to chemicals. Even our sweaty/oily skin secretions can cause damage to pearls over time, and it looks like that is what happened to yours, where it was in contact with your skin.

    I realize this particular pearl had sentimental value to you -- and maybe it can be re-set, good side out, in a new item of jewelry, so you can still wear it. But you can also replace the pearl-- and if so, consider using a pearl that does not have a bead nucleus: extremely high quality, round freshwater pearls are now available, which have no bead to ever wear through. They are all nacre.

  3. #3
    First-graft Pearl Senior Guide Member Pearly Shell's Avatar
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    I have worn the nacre off of cultured akoya pearls too. I had a station necklace that I used to wear day and night, in the shower, and even to the gym. After years of wear like this, the nacre was gone and all I had were shell beads.

    I agree with Pearl Dreams, if you can find a good face on the pearl you could re-set it with a mounting that keeps the pearl off of your skin.
    Donna
    Graduate Gemologist & Pearl Devotee

  4. #4

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    Thanks It is shown with the bad side, which is the side that is on the back. The *good* side is facing out. I'm confused because every site I went to (before this one) said having it against the skin was good for it. I guess not. Is there anything I can put on the bad side to stop it from getting worse?
    Last edited by Caitlin; 08-03-2010 at 04:42 AM. Reason: Sorry, I clicked by accident! Nothing was changed

  5. #5
    Pearl Enthusiast Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Pearl Dreams's Avatar
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    I don't know of anything, never having tried to treat a damaged pearl, but perhaps someone else will post.

  6. #6
    Rare Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Caitlin's Avatar
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    Thanks It is shown with the bad side, which is the side that is on the back. The *good* side is facing out. I'm confused because every site I went to (before this one) said having it against the skin was good for it. I guess not. Is there anything I can put on the bad side to stop it from getting worse?
    Lisa
    Pearls do like skin free of oils, perfumes and hairspray, but you need to wipe them after each wear and be sure they don't come into contact with perfume, hairspray, glitter, etc. Those can eat pearls up. but basically the nacre was very thin to wear out just since you started wearing it as a pendant. My advice is to replace it You can put another pearl on the finding you are using.

  7. #7
    purveyor of pearls Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert pearlescence's Avatar
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    Hi
    The pearl was probably a sea pearl, an akoya pearl. These are grown in molluscs on a bead shaper. How durable they are depends on how long they are left to grow which equals how thick the layer of nacre - pearl substance - is on the inside bead.
    With a combination of age , not being worn for a while so the thin layer has dried a bit and simple friction against your skin (rub rub as you move around) the layer of nacre (like a layer of nail polish on a nail or a thin gold plating on base metal) has simply worn away.
    If it doesn't bother you, and because the pearl is special to you, continue to wear it. With no friction on the outside face that will probably last for a while yet.

  8. #8
    Pearl Journalist Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert GemGeek's Avatar
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    My skin has a high ph and eats away at everything. That's why I always clean my pearls before putting them away. It helps to have a pendant that can't flip -- that way only one side gets worn down.
    GemGeek
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  9. #9
    Natural Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert CLICLASP's Avatar
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    That very troubling that a pearl needs at the same time, moisture from the skin and get spolied by acidity of same skin, so what to say to customers?
    Everywhere we read that pearls "like to be worn to stay alive", and if not they "just might die"
    Wear pearls on clothes? but never a pearl will be more beautiful than when worn directly on skin.

    I'm in trouble.
    CliClasp

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  10. #10

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    Thanks again. We live in a very humid area so it's unlikely it dried since it's been mounted. The pendant doesn't flip. It's still very disconcerting. It's a pretty big pearl. The jeweler told me it would cost about $150 to get one that size and even then he couldn't match the color. He sent it to two places who couldn't match the color. It's the same color as the pearls in my mother's ring. Very pretty creamy color with a lot of luster. Oh well, I'll just wear it as is if nothing else bad can happen to it. Thanks again
    Lisa

  11. #11
    Super Moderator Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert jshepherd's Avatar
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    The color is very difficult to match with new pearls. Every time a customer brings in an older strand of akoya, they have this creamy color that really only comes with age. Matching a single pearl or pair of earrings to them is nearly impossible.

  12. #12
    Pearl Girl Senior Guide Member Ashley's Avatar
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    Hi Lisa,

    I'm sorry to hear that your pearl died- that's really a shame, especially since it has such sentimental value...

    I wanted to take a moment to chime in and say that your jeweler is correct- matching the color (the side that still has nacre) is going to be a tough job. Pearls are organic gems, and they absorb (as Caitlin and the others have said) skin oils, perfumes, sweats, acids, etc., and over time- for Akoya pearls especially due to the thinner nacre layers- it ages the pearl, and turns them a distinct, deep creamy color that cannot be matched with the exception of other aged Akoya.

    I'd definitely agree with Gemgeek that your best bet would be to replace it with a gem-quality Freshwater pearl- the expense will be closer to half of what your jeweler quoted, and the pearls are extremely durable! Composed completely of crystalline material, the absorption rate of acids and oils will be slower, and you'll never wear away the outer layers only to expose a bead nucleus underneath! The luster will be different- softer, more touchable and satiny, but in reality, it's the closest you can get these days to what an actual, natural pearl would look like- the way they handle light, luster and color are all fairly comparable due to their solid-nacre composition.

    Best of luck!
    Ashley McNamara, CEO
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  13. #13
    purveyor of pearls Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert pearlescence's Avatar
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    Isn't it a single pearl so there isn't anything to match it to?

  14. #14
    Pearl Girl Senior Guide Member Ashley's Avatar
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    That's true, but I was under the impression that she wanted something close to the original's shade...
    Ashley McNamara, CEO
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  15. #15
    Rare Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Caitlin's Avatar
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    I don't wear makeup, use hairspray or anything else that can get on my neck skin. Even if you put pearls on after your skin is dry form from whatever you put on it, any body moisture will activate the chemicals on the skin.

    My advice is to put a towel around the neck to use spray products and don't put makeup, perfume, glitter, on the lower neck and upper chest, where the pearls will sit. Be sure to wipe the pearl(s) after each use. (This is the main reason I use synthetic thread to knot. Then I can wash the pearls off- except for thin skinned akoyas). Too bad pearl buyers often know next to nothing about pearls and do not know what happens to thin-skinned akoyas when worn often- or that there is such a thing that will wear out quickly from friction, let alone acids.

    That shape will be hard to replace exactly also; it is a slightly drop shaped pearl
    Last edited by Caitlin; 08-03-2010 at 07:26 PM.

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