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How Can You Save Your Pearl Jewelry?

The world’s oldest gemstone, the first pearl can be traced back to 420 BC when a fragment was found in the sarcophagus of a Persian princess1.  Since then and throughout history – from the glory days of ancient Greece to the Byzantine Empire, 16th Century England, and today – pearl jewelry remains in vogue and is among the favorite gifts a woman receives. Pearls stand out from other stones as they originate from the depths of the sea (or in freshwater), not the earth. Yet they require special care so that you can save your pearl jewelry to wear time and again and pass down to future generations.

Pearl Jewelry and Its Iconic Status

Pearls, known as the “Queen of the Gems,” have always represented wealth and power in society, not surprisingly as throughout different periods of history, pearl jewelry was worn by royalty, the ruling class, and later the upper class. The gemstone became more accessible and widely available in the late 1800’s when in Asia cultured pearls were created. By carefully placing a small nucleus into a living oyster, a pearl forms around the nucleus, allowing pearls to be created in oyster farms. Even with greater accessibility to this treasured gemstone and the knowledge of how to create it, the pearl’s iconic status continued.

French fashion designer Coco Chanel in 1936 made pearl jewelry a must-have accessory when she draped multiple strands of pearls over her shoulder in a widely famous photo promoting her luxury brand. Actress Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961 played an eccentric society girl who donned a Givenchy evening gown, opera gloves, and four strands of pearls connected by a pendant. The late former First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, inspired an entire generation of women with her Chanel jackets, Dior skirts and her most famous signature piece – the triple strand pearl necklace. “Pearls are always appropriate,” she used to say.

And if pearls weren’t cool enough, they became très chic for everyone when fashion designers began mixing up how they were worn in unconventional ways.

Today’s Pearl Jewelry

Pearl jewelry today has a fresh look. You can opt for a minimalist and sleek take, wearing a simple necklace strand, stud earrings, or a ring that can add some polish to your work look or date-night outfit. You can rock some freshwater pearls with a sweater and leggings to elevate your casual wear. Young girls are even accenting their soccer kit with a simple strand of pearls.

Get edgy and fun with your pearls, too. Beyond the traditional round shape, pearls also come in teardrops, oval, button, and baroque, or other, irregular shapes. They also come in different colors.

Or, get fancy and totally glam! Try layering multiple strands over a black turtleneck and neutral slacks for an elegant mid-century vibe.

At the 2019 Grammys, singer/rapper Cardi B showed up in a dress that emulated an oyster shell within which she was the pearl, a design by Thierry Mugler.

Pearl Jewelry Is Affordable

You don’t have to break the bank to wear pearls. There are two types of pearls: natural pearls and cultured pearls. With natural pearls, the mollusk comes from an organism in the water, and can form in saltwater or freshwater. Natural pearls are incredibly rare and very costly. With cultured pearls, the mollusk is inserted manually, and there are two main categories: freshwater and saltwater. Freshwater pearls are grown in mussels in lakes, rivers, ponds, and reservoirs, and are budget-friendly. Saltwater pearls are grown in bays and inlets across Asia and Australia, and typically are more expensive.

Cleaning, Maintaining Your Pearl Jewelry

Keep your pearl jewelry gorgeous so you can continue to wear your favorite pieces for years. Here are some tips to help you protect your pearl jewelry:

  • When getting ready for the day or evening, put your pearls on last. Avoid applying makeup, hairspray, lotion or perfume once your pearls are on.
  • Use a soft cloth to wipe your pearls after you’ve worn them. This helps prevent any build-up of oils or other substances that may have come in contact with your jewelry throughout the day.
  • To clean your pearls, be sure the jewelry is in good condition. For example, check that the silk thread on a necklace hasn’t stretched. Once you’ve checked everything is good to go:
    • Mix a solution of lukewarm water and a few drops of mild detergent or dish soap.
    • Dip a soft, clean cloth into the water and gently wipe down the pearls.
    • Dampen another soft, clean cloth with fresh water, and wipe off the pearls to remove any soap residue.
    • Place the pearls on a soft towel and let them air-dry thoroughly before returning the jewelry to storage.
    • Note: Gentle and conservative cleaning are the keys to successful pearl maintenance.
  • Keep your pearls away from extreme heat (for example, don’t use a hair dryer when wearing pearl jewelry or leave your jewelry in the sun). 
  • Store your pearl necklaces flat in order to prevent them from stretching.
  • Dedicate a space just for your pearls. Soft pearls can easily scratch, so store them separately in fabric-lined compartments.
  • Take the pearls to a jeweler once a year to give them a proper, thorough cleaning.
  • Wear your pearls often to keep them from drying out. Pearls do well in a moist environment.

Pearl jewelry is a beautiful investment you can gift to your loved ones, and require special care and cleaning to maintain their luster and beauty.

1 https://www.crfashionbook.com/fashion/a21098608/pearl-jewelry-fashion-history/

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