How to Dye Pearls

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Things You'll Need

  • White cultured pearls

  • Rit dye powder

  • Glass pan (new or unused)

  • Paper towel

  • Fine-mesh strainer or coffee filter

  • Water

  • Ivory soap

  • Safety glasses

  • Mask

  • Gloves

  • Apron

If you've learned how to dye your hair or shoes to match different outfits, would you believe you can also dye those pretty white cultured pearls in your jewelry collection? You can, and the process is not too hard to master. Here is a simple ('dye-bath') method to dye pearls using commercially available dye either formulated for craft use or fabric.

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Step 1

Prepare the pearls by gently washing them with Ivory soap (or any other mild soap) in water at room temperature. This helps eliminate any oils present on the pearls' surface. Do not scrub the pearls because it may affect their natural (nacre) layer. After washing, air dry them for approximately two hours.

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Step 2

Prepare a pack of commercial Rit dye powder according to the manufacturer's directions. You may choose whichever color you want your pearls to be.

Step 3

Pour the prepared dye solution through a fine-mesh strainer or a clean coffee filter. This helps remove any residual (undissolved) dye powder that could cause granular spots on the surface of your dyed pearls.

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Step 4

Line the base of the glass pan with a paper towel, to keep the pearls above the glass surface and help them to be dyed completely and uniformly.

Step 5

Set the pearls on the paper towel. You may use either a strand or loose pearls. Either way, make sure there is enough spacing for the dye to be applied around each pearl.

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Step 6

Gently pour the dye solution into the glass pan without disturbing the position of the pearls. Make sure the surface of the paper towel and the pearls are fully covered by the dye. The length of time the pearls need to be kept immersed in the solution depends on the intensity of the color tone you desire (light or dark).

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Step 7

If you desire a lighter shade for your pearls, check them at regular (1-minute) intervals. If you want a more intense color, you may keep the pearls in the dye solution longer. What's important is to check the pearls periodically and remove them as soon as the desired shade is reached.

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Step 8

Remove the pearls from the dye solution and rinse them thoroughly in running water until the water flow is clear. Then allow 24 hours for your pearls to dry completely before handling them.

Tip

To coat your dyed pearls, use a fine paintbrush to apply artists' fixative. This seals the color of the dyed pearls and prevents fading.

Your pearls can be bleached later using a color remover, then re-dyed in any other color of your choice.

Warning

Be sure to use gloves, mask, safety glasses and apron. Dye powder contains chemicals that can be harmful to the eyes and skin, or if inhaled, apart from staining your clothing.

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