How to Clean Pearls & Pearl Jewelry

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Creamy white pearls must be treated delicately.
Creamy white pearls must be treated delicately. (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

A pearl necklace can be kept looking great for years when you treasure and keep it clean. Careful cleaning can help extend the life of your pearls, even if their not the "expensive" ones. Pearls are created when clams or oysters coat objects with a pearlescent film called "nacre." Straight from the creature, they are shiny and beauiful. The quality of a pearl can be figured by the thickness of the nacre coating -- the thicker the coating, the more costly the pearl, as it becomes more durable.

Dust your pearls down with a lint-free, microfiber cloth. With this in mind, you want to take care of your pearls to avoid scratching or ruining the nacre coating and removing the beauty of your pearls. Don't use hard pressure, but softly "buffer" your pearls with the cloth.

Apply mild soap and water to a soft cloth if your pearls are quite dirty or have harsh residue from perfume, makeup or lotion. Wring out the cloth and wipe the pearls gently. Rinse the cloth with water, wring it out again and wipe down the pearls again to remove any soap residue.

Store pearl jewelry in a soft, closeable bag, away from other jewelry that can nick and scratch these precious stones. Take great care in handling your pearls to avoid causing long-term damage to the surface.

Tips & Warnings

  • Help keep your pearls clean from the start by putting them on after applying makeup, perfume, hairspray or creams. This way, it is less likely for residues to form.
  • When going out, pearls should be the last thing you put on when you leave the house and the first thing you take off when you return home.
  • Pearl necklaces should be restrung on a regular basis if you wear them a lot. This makes sure that the string holding the beads together will not break or fail and leave you with a ton of pearls all over your floor.
  • Pearls are soft and pearl rings or pearls set in jewelry are at a higher risk of falling out of their settings. Be sure to discuss the warranty on any expensive pearl purchase you make to ensure you're covered.
  • Pearl jewelry should not be rubbed with any harsh cleaners that would rub away the beautiful nacre coating, and should never be cleaned in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner.

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