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What happens to pearls?

I have written an article earlier explaining how to look after pearls and beads necklaces (click here to read it). In this article I am going to show you what happens to pearls after a while if they are not looked after properly. I am going to show a pair of pearl earrings after some 20 odd years of wear and tear.

Wether you have South Sea, Cultured or Fresh Water pearls the end result is the same, only the price to replace the damaged pearls varies wildly.

Damaged pearl earrings
Damaged pearl earrings

They don’t look too bad do they? While they are OK from the front you can see the part closer to the earlobe has lost it’s “shiny layer”. One side is a bit worst off than the other but in the end it’s better to just replace both.

Damaged pearls
Damaged pearls off their earring posts

On this photo you can see the front of one pearl still looking fine while the other side is completely “eaten” away! All the fine layers of the pearl have disappeared and even the centre shell has been damaged.

Damaged pearls side view
Damaged pearls off their earring posts side view

On this photo you can see how much of the pearl has been lost. They used to be round…

This didn’t happen overnight but over many many years! So breath in and relax, you can take a few simple steps to avoid this problem.

  1. Your pearls are the LAST thing you put on before going out! Cosmetics of any kind and perfume will damage the very fine and fragile surface of your pearls
  2. Take your pearls off before taking your makeup off for the same reasons they were the last to be put on 🙂
  3. Don’t sleep with your pearls still on. Natural oils from your skin can oxydise / damage your pearls over time and  you can also lightly scratch the surface of the pearls
  4. When cleaning your jewellery do not rub or soak your pearls in anything! If you have some dirt on the pearl very gently wipe it off with a clean tissue. If you want to clean the post or setting use only a Silver Polish cloth or Gold Polish cloth avoiding getting too close to the pearls.

I hope you can enjoy wearing your pearls for a very long time! If you have any questions don’t hesitate to comment here or contact me or your nearest jeweller 🙂

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Amber pendent

This large amber pendent is what I call a “well loved” pendent and is worn most days. As you can see in this image it has become crackled on the surface and rather opaque. It is time to give it a rejuvenation treatment !


To start off I need to grind it down to get rid of the damaged layer. As it is a large piece and still in its setting the best way is to do it by hand. The bail (the bit where the chain goes through) needs to be secured so it doesn’t risk getting marked on the cutting wheel.


Here you can see the damaged layer has been taken off and it is starting to look much better already ! Next step is polishing by hand.


Now the big reveal….


Looks a bit different doesn’t it? The only down side of re-polishing something while still in the setting is that I cannot go too close to the setting edge as it could mark or damage it. As you can see in this image the amber is still opaque and crackled but from the top it doesn’t show so still worth it !


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How to look after pearls or gemstone beads necklaces

Pearls are pretty little things but they need to be looked after.

The most important advice I can give you is to put on your pearls last, just before you go. Perfume and cosmetics can cause irreversible damage to pearls wether they are South Sea of Fresh water pearls the result is the same. The top layer is attacked and eaten away. Usually it shows first towards the back of a strand, close to the clasp as it rubs against the skin constantly. You will notice a change in colour as well as texture of the pearl compared to any undamaged ones from the same strand. Pearls on stud earrings will normally show any damage at the back around the little protective cap between the earlobe and the pearl.

Worn amethyst  necklace
Signs of wear & tear, this necklace needs to be restrung very soon!

A good maintenance of your pearl necklace is also very important. I advise all my clients to have a little check for signs of wear & tear before putting on their necklace. The most obvious sign is when the knots are getting dirty or discoloured and becoming “fluffy”. This indicates that the silk is deteriorating and starting to break down, time to get it restrung before it breaks!

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Tourmaline repair video

Large pink tourmaline cushion

This video was shot in my workshop in Sydney. It shows all the steps I took to repair a badly chipped pink tourmaline. Not quite as big as the previous pink tourmaline I cleaned up but you get all the action!