Sunday, October 28, 2007

Pearl Care

I love pearls. If you look at my jewelry, you will see I design with them a lot. White pearls look classic and can be worn casually or for an elegant affair. They are complimented nicely with shiny silver and combine well with an assortment of other gemstones. In nature, pearls also come in shades of pink, brown or even black. And now there are many dyed colors of pearls, many in metallic finishes that are lustrous and iridescent.

Pearls are formed within saltwater oysters and freshwater mussels. These oysters are not related to the edible oysters we have here in America and Europe. The flesh of these oysters is almost unfit for food.

A pearl is produced as a mollusk secretes layers of mother-of-pearl (calcium carbonate) and a horn-like substance (conchiolin) around an irritant. The irritant can be a natural grit, or small rounded beads of mother-of-pearl placed inside an oyster for cultured pearls. The layers gradually build up over 3-7 years and form a spherical, oblong, or irregular shaped pearl. Light reflecting from the overlapping layers near the surface of the pearl give off the subtle natural shades of color.

Pearls are delicate and brittle, but with proper care, can last between 100-150 years. The best way to clean pearls is to dust them off and wipe them with a damp cloth. Never clean them with harsh chemicals, including jewelry cleaners, or a sonic cleaner. The surface of a pearl is also sensitive to perspiration, cosmetics and vinegar.

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