Pearls are one of the most ancient and beloved gems, but they are very soft and therefore easily damaged.

Even reasonably priced pearls are gorgeous, and are worth treating well to keep them looking their best.

So that you may enjoy them for years or generations, here are a few tips on caring for and cleaning pearls, taken from The Pearl Book by Antoinette Maitlins.

  • Wear your pearls with pride. Keeping them hidden away in a jewelry box, safe deposit box, or other dry place can deprive them of the humidity they need to remain beautiful.
  • Store pearls in a fabric pouch, handkerchief, or soft tissue to protect them and keep them from getting scratched by other jewelry.
  • Acidic substances such as vinegar, ammonia, and chlorine bleach can destroy pearls.
  • Also avoid inks, hairspray, perfume, cosmetics, and any jewelry cleaner NOT specifically made for pearls.
  • Be sure to clean off any of the items listed above before putting your pearls away or they can be ruined.
  • After wearing, wipe pearls gently with a warm, damp towel to remove body oils and perspiration, then store in a soft fabric pouch.
  • Periodically wash valuable pearls with a soft cloth in warm, sudsy water using a mild soap such as Ivory (not a detergent).
  • Rinse in clear water, wrap in a thin, damp towel and lay flat to dry.
  • Do not hang to dry, and do not use before the silk dries because it will stretch.
  • Avoid storing pearls in excessively dry places such as safe deposit boxes or vaults, or in excessively moist places that may encourage mold growth.
  • Remove pearls prior to doing strenuous exercise, work, swimming, bathing, or showering.
  • Do not use ultrasonic cleaners on pearls.

If you treat pearls gently and with respect, you should be able to enjoy them for decades.