Bleached Pearls

Mar 21, 2010
I bleached two strands of Tahitian pearls to get the smell out of them. It worked once before, but it looks like I have now damaged the surface of the pearls. They look like they have a white powdering coating on them... but that coating won’t come off.

Is there a solution to this problem?

Bleach and water.


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This is quite unfortunate. Who told you to bleach them?
Oh my goodness... I feel sorry for the pearls... :frown:

Many pearls seem to have the underneath layer of nacre exposed where the powdered nacre went away and left holes. If I were you, I might try using the smoothest side of a nail buffer to buff off the white powdering coating and hopefully that could help expose the underneath layer. I have never done this before so I don't know how well that would work in practice. But it can't get worse than this, right?
I agree with @StarryPearl and after doing the pearls inside a bowl with mineral oil for at least 8 hours. This will -of course- ruin the thread but this is the least of the concerns now I guess (you may also remove them from the thread). I have "rescued" pearls with this method...but never with bleach. Worth a try!
Since your pearls have been damaged, I think the idea of polishing off the outer layer of nacre might be a good experiment to try. I would definitely not use any thing akin to sand paper as that would be too rough and might cause more damage. Instead, you could try using a polishing cloth like the kind used to polish silver. Or you could try polishing papers (3M makes them in different grits; they are sold by Rio Grande). Personally, I would experiment with different polishing options, using a single pearl, but I agree with Jeremy and Douglas that they are likely not salvageable.
Gosh, this is very sad, pearls and girls! Usually the smell will disappear with time. Often Tahitian keshi may smell and can be flushed with a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water, half and half, in a syringe. Then rinse with clear water and let dry completely. One of our other members told me about this method and I have used it more than once! Usually only a few pearls are stinky.
They are destroyed, unfortunately.
Agreed. Once the proteinaceous component of any surface are removed, it's value and qualities are significantly reduced, if not detroyed entirely.

As a general rule of thumb, pearls cannot be polished, nor restored. Treatments with mineral oil or polyethylene glycol may help for a short time, but these usually dry out or become discolored in the long term.
Oh dear and nice circle ones too ! I must admit that I've never had this issue with any pearls but as Patty mentioned the Peroxide rinse is what I'd heard of.... must have been a stronger solution than you used before. I'm so sorry to hear that your pearls are ruined. Good luck - perhaps you can revive enough to make a bracelet...