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Guide to Cleaning and Caring for Pearls

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  • Just use any fabric that is soft and smooth. Avoid rough fabric due to its abrasive effect. Wool has scales (imbrications) like human hair does, so avoid wool.

    Different things make for coarser fabric. The coarseness of weave (a fine weave is softer); the twist of the thread (loosely-twisted is softer), the pattern of the weave (a satin weave is smoother).

    Don't overthink it. If it feels soft and smooth, your pearls should be okay.


    • Not sure if it was already mentioned, but use something that was freshly washed or stored away from dust. A hand towel that has been out in the open would collect some dust and that is made up of abrasive grit, mostly bits of quartz. Any softer gemstone could be scratched by dust embedded in a cloth.


      • Pearl Dreams and GeemGeek, thanks for educating me
        "All of our humanity is dependent upon recognising the humanity in others" - Desmond Tutu


        • Hi Everyone!

          I'm a long-time lurker and first time poster. Wanted to say a big THANK YOU for all the wonderful & informative posts here on the P-G forum, and of course, for all the amazing drool-worthy eye-candies, too! I have quite a few questions so please help!

          1) I wanted to confirm that it is ok to store pearls in a safety deposit box in dryer areas as long as I keep a small jar of water in the box too, yes?
          2) Of course most pearl pieces are set with gold-based metals. But when we end up with pieces set in silver, the dilemma is that silver tarnishes faster in humidity, but pearls need humidity! Any suggestions on what to do in this case? Make sure pearls have enough humidity and just clean the tarnish off of the silver regularly?
          3) Any recs on pearls safe tarnish remover products? I've seen sunshine cloth being posted on this forum. What about Jewel Brite. Are those ok to use?
          4) Any recommendations for a good pearl re-stringing person in NYC/Manhattan? I see that lots of ladies on the forum re-string for clients, but seems like most people are located on the West Coast. Any Manhattan pearlers here?
          5) I saw the post on John Tu, any recs for similar pearl suppliers in Manhattan?

          Thank you all SO MUCH in advance!



          • 1. I suppose you can store pearls in a safety deposit box with a jar of water, but it seems to me the extra moisture would not be good for the important documents you are also probably storing there.

            If you are just putting them in the box for a short time (for example, if you are traveling and don't want to take them with you), the dry air will not be a problem. It's long term storage that is an issue.

            The way I see it, pearls that are in a safe deposit box are not being worn and enjoyed. Better to find a safe place to keep them at home.

            2. I don't think it's humidity that causes tarnishing so much as exposure to air. Tarnish is oxidation. My silver jewelry tarnishes less quickly if kept in a case or drawer. You can buy little anti-tarnish paper squares to tuck into your jewelry box, too.

            When the findings eventually tarnish, I use a Sunshine cloth. If the strand has silver spacers as well, I restring, taking the opportunity to clean the silver.

            3. I don't think there is any silver cleaner that is safe for pearls.

            4. Not an answer to this question, but I urge you to try restringing yourself! It is the least expensive way by far, and Pattye's slippery Serafil thread makes it a cinch to place the knots correctly.

            Last edited by Pearl Dreams; 09-29-2020, 01:35 PM.


            • Thank you so much Pearl Dreams!

              Haha I scan most of my important documents and store them electronically. Sadly I live in Manhattan (shoebox sized apt) so it is difficult for me to have a proper drilled-into-the-concrete-floor type of safe storage at home. So I have a safety deposit box at a bank branch across the street from my apt and I rotate my babies periodically. I get a bit nervous when I keep everything at home...

              And don't worry all my pearls get rotated and get lots of wear when they are at home, no one is being neglected!

              Ok will give Sunshine cloth a try and have bookmarked your stringing tutorial, but will take some time for me to get my act & supplies together to start practicing! Oh boy, I'm gonna have to lock Purranha (my kitten) up in the bedroom when I eventually attempt to re-string the pearls lol...



              • I too recommend restringing yourself. I have a thread posted using the no tools Japanese method that might work for you.
                I don't have any experience with the value of added water to store pearls. I have seen that suggested by others.

                A misconception about tarnish on silver is that oxygen combines with the silver. The actual culprit is sulfer compounds produced by combustion (autos, fires & More) that is present in the air. A safety deposit box would have some air circulation. Use a zip lock plastic bag inside your safety deposit box. This limits the amount of ambient air circulating around your silver item. Add an anti-tarnish strip. They will not affect your item in any way. They will absorb the culprits ( sulfer compounds) before they affect you silver.

                If you want to add a wet cloth inside the zip lock, it would probably be fine to do so. Humidity is less likely to cause problems than circulating air.

                Sunshine cloths are great for cleaning silver. Use them as soon as silver begins to not shine. Grayish coloring means tarnish is beginning.

                Lloyd Patterson
                Gemologist GIA certified.
                Last edited by LLoydsJewelry; 09-13-2015, 07:27 PM.


                • Well, that makes sense LloydsJewelry-- I know I smell a lot of sulphur when using hot water + washing soda (with silver items submerged and laid on an aluminum foil sheet) to clean my silver.

                  I only use that method for items that can take the heat and that don't have a patina I wish to preserve.


                  • You should really try to do this yourself. Just make sure that you lay out the pearls exactly like they are currently strung, if you like them that way. If I can string pearls, anyone can...I am a complete klutz and have no artistic talent whatsoever.

                    ETA: from an environmental perspective, the addition of water might actually cause mold spores to grow. If you rotate your jewelry often, the ambient humidity is likely sufficient for the pearls. I have never had a pearl crack due to dryness. I might worry if I had a strand that cost $50k, but not for one that costs maybe a couple-three thousand.
                    Instagram: Ocean's Cove


                    • JerseyPearl, a big plus for me in restringing is being able to rearrange the pearls!
                      But you make a very good point, for those who like the arrangement of their pearls just the way it was when they received them.


                      • PD, I absolutely agree...I always love to mix things up...but then I'm also the person who doesn't like to follow directions!
                        Instagram: Ocean's Cove


                        • Hi everyone, I found the old thread ( for this question I'm about to ask, but I just had to ask it again -

                          Is sunscreen bad for pearls? I always read that they need to be the last thing you put on and that they shouldn't be sprayed with perfume, alcohol etc. so I try to remember these guidelines, but then I worry because the combo of sweat and sunscreen on my neck (sorry TMI!!) in constant contact with them could be just as bad.

                          Thank you so much for your thoughts


                          • Sunscreen (as well as all other cosmetics) is not good for pearls.

                            But then cancer is not good for skin.

                            When you get home, run a damp hand over them lightly and wipe them gently with a microfiber cloth to get the oils and sweat off.


                            • Thank you, Pearl Dreams! That is true, sun protection is first priority.


                              • A soft cloth will clean light dirt of pearl jewelry without scratching the beautiful and fragile surface. You can use warm, soapy water and a soft brush if your jewelry seems dirty.