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How much wear can they take?

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  • How much wear can they take?

    Hey guys,
    I've bought some new Akoya pieces lately, and I am wondering how often you can wear Akoya without ruining them immediately. I've read that the nacre can come off with daily wear on an item like an Akoya necklace, and obviously I don't want that to happen. How long does that take to happen usually? Ideally, of course, I'd like to have my pearls last a lifetime, but I also want to enjoy them. I'm assuming that a necklace would take wear pretty badly, a ring would be worst, and earrings you could get away with for the most part, but I don't really want to find out by trial and error. I am hoping to get the Pearl Paradise Freshadama set next time my budget allows (or hopefully my boyfriend will take the hint...) but until then I want to wear some Akoyas without ruining them. Any advice? I know nothing about pearl care and want to make the most of my pearls!


  • #2
    Hi Olivia,

    Despite their oft-bashed reputation in this forum filled with Freshwater pearl lovers (me included), saltwater Akoya pearls can bring their wearer plenty of years of joy and wearability. Just be careful!

    Here are The Ten Commandments:

    1) Only put on your pearls as the "Finishing Touch" to your outfit- this is after cosmetics, hairspray and perfumes have all been "applied and dried" pardon the pun. This ensures that your pearls' delicate surfaces come into minimal contact with these harsh chemicals that will eat away at the nacre, and speed up the aging process.

    2) Everytime you're finished wearing your strand for the day, wipe it down with a soft cloth to remove any chemical residues.

    3) Wear them!!! Wear them semi-often!! Akoya pearls, like all pearls, were originally born in the water and definitely do benefit from absorbing the oils that your skin naturally secretes throughout the day. So go ahead and show them you care!

    4) Every once in awhile, store them in the bathroom so they can absorb moisture from the steam in the shower (don't put them in the shower, on the countertop should be fine ).

    5) No swimming- chlorine damages nacre, and even if it's just earrings you happen to be wearing, the chemicals in the water can loosen the adhesive holding pearl to post.

    6) Restring every two years- once a year if you're an every day devotee.

    7) Store them wrapped in a soft cloth/jewelry pouch to keep them from getting scratched by other jewelry items in your box. It is not really recommended to hang the pearls for storage either, as this may place un-necessary strain on the silk.

    8) See the post on "Pearl Baths", aka "The Guide to Cleaning and Caring For Your Pearls" from previous P-G discussions if your pearls ever get really dirty- I found the thread highly interesting and very informative.

    9) The Sad Fact: Akoya pearls can and will age. This means that their nacre will over time (accelerated if you smoke- tar is yucky for pearls), will gradually discolor to a very unique Cream that is notoriously hard to match or replace. The bright, shiny Silvery-Rose color you buy today, will be Ivory in 20-30 years, and there is nothing to do about it.

    10) The Good Fact: Akoya pearls can last a lifetime if properly cared for and worn in moderation. Inspect the strand carefully for any pits and cracks in the nacre, I recommend buying AAA quality, and start out with a strand that doesn't blink at you, and you should be just fine!

    I hope this helps, there's not much more to say on the subject...

    Enjoy your pearls, and next time, buy Freshwater!


    • #3
      Thanks so much! I will definitely keep all of this in mind... and invest in some nice freshwaters that can take a little more of a beating!


      • #4
        Will white freshwaters and South Sea pearls also develop that cream color with age or is that unique to akoya?


        • #5
          Originally posted by xeresana
          Will white freshwaters and South Sea pearls also develop that cream color with age or is that unique to akoya?
          Good question...

          I wouldn't know where to look for strands of SS and freshwater 50+ years old to get some idea. Besides, if I did find them, who knows what treatment and what wear they might have gotten through ?

          I could tell you a word or two about natural pearls: I don't think they 'cream' left to their own devices. However, most are cream because they were never bleached stark white to begin with and the usual natural 'white' of pearls is slightly cream. There are natural ones with the brighter pinkish white color and since these are old, I would assume the color persisted as is. The white-white is rare is jewelry as is in nature, so... no reason to believe that many of those turned cream. I'm mostly guessing - no real 'controlled experiments' to rely on here.

          These being said, some pearls are obviously affected by age: turning grayish or brownish, cracking... drying out. If natural pearls decay this seems to be very much due to something that happened to them - the way they were stored, worn etc. The resins used to attach pearl in some old jewelry damages them. Metal oxides from silver or low-karat gold do too. Jewelry meant for frequent wear containing pearls tends to show a little damage to the pearls. Those Victorian pieces with hundreds of half seed pearls makes pretty good evidence: you may find a couple of darkened or cracked pearls in a piece, among dozens and dozens of perfectly healthy ones. And that's after more then a century of wear and storage. Hard to tell if those pearls that aged were damaged at setting or what not. It would be great to have observed strands of old pearls, but there aren't that many just laying around

          The scenario is not worse then you'd see for other jewelry stones sensitive to common household chemicals and sweat - like turquoise, or coral, ivory... I believe turquoise to be more sensitive (changing color), and I would consider pearls to be the most durable of all organic jewelry materials I am aware of, including mother of pearl.

          I would love to know for sure that cultured pearls are as enduring as the naturals were. Except for treatment and thin-nacre issues, why wouldn't they be? At least, that is what I like to believe.

          Oops for the long post... wanted to explain where I've got whatever conviction I have about pearl durability, to allow correction.


          • #6
            'Thought the next two make a rather interesting example of something. Just not sure of what !?

            What could have made such a difference for how these two pear rings endured?

            Not sure if the links to individual items work. They are lot No.616 and No.638 in the latest Fine Jewelry auction (Sale 2375) at Skinner.

            Click on the thumbnails below for full blown pictures:

            Sale 2375 Lot 616: Edwardian Pearl and Diamond Ring, set with a pearl flanked by old mine and old single-cut diamonds, platinum-topped gold mount, size 2 1/2. Estimate $500-700. (Sold for: $3642)

            Sale 2375 Lot 638: Art Deco Platinum, Pearl, and Diamond Ring, bezel-set with an ivory tone pearl with rose overtones, measuring approx. 3.55 mm, shoulders set with baguette-cut diamonds, size 3 3/4, (pearl with damage). Estimate $700-900. (Sold for: $760)

            I would guess that the estimates were meant to reflect the value of the vintage settings, mostly... Which turned out right for the one with the damaged pearl. And the hammer price of the undamaged pearl may reflect the buyer's direct examination of the pearl in person (that might have amended the dull picture) and high hopes that the pearl might be natural.

            Sorry for the adds on Imageshack Not much I can do about that... and still post large pictures.
            Last edited by Valeria101; 10-01-2007, 02:08 PM.


            • #7
              Thanks Valeria, the explanation was really interesting, and those pictures are amazing. I actually like the creamy "patina" that older pearls can get, but the cracking on the art deco ring looks awful. Hard to believe that someone would buy that when you can have yourself a nice new ring for the same price or less.


              • #8
                Valeria, when you say that silver and low karat gold can damage pearls, what do you mean by low karat? My pearls are all set in 14k, and that seems to be the standard. Do you mean low as in 5k can damage pearls, or would you recommend going with the highest karat available whenever possible?


                • #9
                  Originally posted by olivia24
                  Valeria, when you say that silver and low karat gold can damage pearls, what do you mean by low karat?

                  I had in mind this image of old, darkened gold jewelry. I wouldn't know if current alloys are better or face the same fate.


                  • #10
                    OK, I guess I'm in the clear... I got a little worried there. That's interesting tho, I've never heard that before, but it makes a lot of sense. What a shame for all the pearls set in silver, tho I suppose the sad conclusion of this thread is that pearls will age no matter what.


                    • #11
                      Unless they're Tahitian...?
                      Josh Humbert
                      Pearl farmer and Tahitian pearl farming consultant.
                      FB: http://www.facebook.com/Kamokapearls


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Josh
                        Unless they're Tahitian...?
                        Hi Josh,
                        that probably depending on the dark colour, saving the Tahitians from looking poor!

                        I hope that high quality Freshwaters do not share the same fate as the Akoyas though, always given the fact, that the pearls are cared for properly.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by olivia24
                          ... I suppose the sad conclusion of this thread is that pearls will age no matter what.

                          I'm not sure. There are many hundreds of years old that are still among the best specimens today. If something does make a difference between some pearls that endure and some that do not... beats me what exactly that is.

                          It so happens that the oldest pearls still in jewelry use are natural pearls. And the oldest with documented history also happen to be exceptional... But that's just because cultured have simply not been around for that long. And the best pearls got a lofty fate and safe heaven from history mistreatment, not necessarily decay.

                          And I haven't heard of any 'ageing test' done of pearls natural or otherwise.

                          Besides, even between those two rings - the older pearl looks better ...

                          Basically. No idea. Seriously


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Josh
                            Unless they're Tahitian...?
                            You have some as black as Ag2S, Josh ! ? Cool!

                            Still wouldn't want them stained dull.. dried out and chemically peeled


                            • #15
                              Despite their oft-bashed reputation
                              The number one akoya basher has moved on. I am probably the number two akoya basher-though I have feel I have said my piece and have little more to say-

                              even I say that good quality akoyas will last for years, even when worn daily. The example I like to give is that of my mother-in-law's pearls---all early cultivated akoyas from the 30's and 40's. Those showed a lot of wear when my m-i-l died, and she wore them daily for 60-70 years (She liked to wear ropes and ropes of pearls at a time- so they got a lot of wear!)

                              It was darn near impossible to find replacement pearls the right color, so we had to combine the best parts into one strand. Even so, one strand's worth of five or six means about a fifth of the pearls are still in reasonable condition, just worn around the holes. They weren't in perfect condition by any means, but still had some more use in them....

                              So unless they are thin-skinned, blinking akoyas, they should last you years, though I think the skins are thinner than they were 60-70 years ago.

                              Blinking means when the shell nucleus shows though the skins, it blinks as you move the pearls. It is a good test for how much wear your akoyas can take. Blinkers will not last- they just don't have enough nacre on them. Wear 'em for the wedding, then for a few other occasions and pow, they're goners.......

                              No one knows how long cultured Tahitian and or SS pearls will last under similar circumstances of wear, but they both have more depth of nacre than akoyas grown today have. So my prediction is that your average Tahitian or SS grown today will also last at least 60-70 years of daily wear.

                              We already know that well cared for freshwater pearls such as the Duke of Norfolk necklace can last from Queen Mary Tuder's day to the present, (over 400 years)though you know it didn't get daily wear!

                              Other really famous natural pearls like La Peregrina which is a saltwater natural from Panana has held up for hundreds of years too.

                              How to hand-knot pearls without a tool

                              My avatar is a Sea of Cortez mabe pearl. One of a pair of Mexican handmade earrings.