How To Look After Your Genuine Pearls
Pearls are classic, timeless and elegant, soft and feminine, and come in a huge range of colours and shapes. Once a sign of affluence – only the wealthy could afford to wear genuine pearls – it was the poor pearl fishermen often paid the ultimate price in harvesting them - no wonder they were such a desirable and valuable jewellery item! Pearls are naturally formed in many species of mollusc and oyster, both freshwater and saltwater, and the colour of the pearl depends on just which type of mollusc has made it, its diet, and the water temperature. But what exactly is a pearl? A pearl starts when an irritant makes its way inside the shell of the oyster or mollusc, In an effort to protect itself, the mollusc will coat the irritant with layer upon layer of smooth milky nacre, adding to each layer until the lustrous pearl is formed. In the wild there's no way of knowing just which mollusc has a pearl inside, or how big that pearl may be, so pearl fishermen will have to make repeated dives and open lots of molluscs to find a few pearls worth selling. No wonder they were so expensive! In a bid to produce pearls more efficiently experiments began in the early 20th Century to see if pearls could be cultured. Pearl farmers discovered that by gently inserting an irritant into the mollusc and patiently waiting (for several months or years!) they could control the number of pearls, their size and colour. If you've ever wondered if cultured pearls are real, they ARE! Almost every genuine pearl sold today is a cultured pearl - wild pearls are still for the very wealthy only! So now that pearls are affordable, how do you take proper care of them? Remember that your pearls are natural and delicate, and follow these few simple steps to keep them looking their best. • Your pearls should be put on last, after make-up and perfumes, and removed first. Chemicals in these products can damage the nacre of the pearl.
• Your pearls can be cleaned by gently wiping with a soft damp cloth. Avoid using abrasive or acidic cleansers, which can damage a pearl’s natural nacre. You can use a little olive oil to enhance the pearl’s natural lustre if you wish, or wash in a mild solution of detergent that is suitable for woollens. Always dry pearl necklaces flat to avoid stretching the silk thread if they are strung. • Pearls can easily scratch if not carefully stored. Storing in a fabric pouch, or lined box, is the best option. Remember, pearls are nature’s creation and need to breathe. What better excuse do you need to wear and enjoy them often!
Next week: "Earrings - A Fashion That's Endured For Millennia'. A brief history of earrings through time, from early piercing to clip-ons.