Pearls are perhaps the most versatile jewelry pieces and they go with nearly all outfits that you may own.
Despite their versatility, the most wonderful and beautiful thing about white pearl is their unique creamy color, their elegant finish and their elegance.
However, just like everything else in life, pearls age, and when they do they begin to turn yellow.
The yellowing effect often affects how your pearls may look and sometimes tampers with their aesthetically pleasing nature.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t know why our pearls change their color, or how to clean them when this happens. Read on to learn more about this.
Why your pearls turn yellow?
Generally, there are natural pearls that have a yellow color. The yellow effect in their structure is not necessarily because of their age but because of the cultivation process that they undergo.
If you look closely at these types of pearls, you will notice that they have a bright yellow color that is often appealing to the eye.
Other pearls, on the other hand, tend to yellow as they age. If you look closely at these pearls, you will notice that they have a dull yellow color that somehow disturbs the eye.
So, why exactly does this happen? Well, the yellowing effect mostly happens because the pearls tend to dry out as time goes by.
If there is not air circulation and moisture where you choose to keep the pearls, they go through a natural process that slowly changes the organic composition of the substances that make up the pearls.
When this happens, their color changes and the pearls begin to yellow. Normally, when pearls become yellow, they are stored in sealed plastic bags then placed in places where the air seems hot and dry.
The good thing about the yellowing process is that you get to know that you are dealing with natural and real pearls, because artificial pearls don’t always change their color.
Based on this background, you may ask, what else happens when your pearls yellow? Unfortunately, when your pears yellow, they lose their durability.
Along with that, your pearls eventually become brittle and begin to slowly crack. This is mostly because they may be completely dry. Also, you may start to notice scratch marks and fractures on the surface nacre of the pearls.
How to clean pearls that have yellowed
If you own any pearls that have yellowed, the chances are that you always want to whiten them. While it is possible and quite easy to do, you should know that the ability to reverse the yellowing process entirely depends on the duration which the yellowing has been going on for.
If the process has been going on for a very long time, then you may not be able to undo the damage. However, if the yellowing has happened over a very short period of them, then you can use the methods below to clean them and reverse the process;
1. The Sunlight Treatment
This is where you have to first clean and carefully rinse your pearls, and then lay them in direct sunlight for an hour or even a whole day.
The whole idea is to keep them in the sun for as long as possible, until you start to see a change in color. Luckily, with this method you can get back the cream white, pearly color that you find on most aesthetically pleasing pearls.
Note that you should not do this frequently because constant exposure of natural pearls to very bright lights over very long periods of time can make them fade out.
2. Using Lukewarm Soapy Water
Doing this significantly removes dust and dirt in order to protect your pearls’ nacre (the outer coating) and their natural luster. When cleaning pearls using lukewarm soapy water, you should avoid using dishwasher soap and detergents as they can be hazardous for these precious gems. Instead, you should use pure soap or soap flakes, if you want the best results. The cleaning procedure is as follows:
Step One: Check whether your jewelry is in good condition
Start by ensuring that your pearls are intact and well strung on the silk thread with knots between each jewel. Here, you should also ensure that the silk hasn’t stretched too much between the pearls and that the clasp works as intended.
Also, try and look through the pearls for any scratches or cracks to avoid damaging the delicate ones during the cleaning process.
Step Two: Use a cotton cloth and lukewarm soapy water to clean the pearls
Dampen small pieces of white cotton balls/ or a cotton cloth in soapy lukewarm water then clean the pearls as gently as possible. While at it, do not soak the pearls in water for too long and do not try to pop your necklace or bracelet while in the water to avoid stretching and weakening the silk thread. Ensure that all the dirt comes off during this process then change the water until your pearls are completely clean.
Once all the pearls are cleaned up, use a damp cotton cloth to wipe them thoroughly until all the soap comes off. Doing this protects their outer coating and maintains their luster.
Step Three: Dry the Pearls and Store them correctly
In this step, place the pearls on a dry and soft white cotton cloth. As you do this, you will notice that you have been able to remove the yellowing layer over your pearls. Let the pearls sit on the cotton cloth for about 10-15 minutes until they are completely dry. Doing this, allows the pearls to dry naturally, maintain their aesthetically pleasing polish, and it ensures that the silk thread is able to maintain its elasticity.
3. Using Nail Polish Remover
Besides the sunlight treatment and using lukewarm soapy water to clean pearls, you can consider using nail polish remover to clean pearls that have yellowed.
Generally, the acetone found in nail polish remover is strong enough to clean away any stubborn stains and it can easily whiten old pearls.
However, you should only use this method on natural/real pearls and not the common plastic pearl beads that we find in the market today. This help you avoid stripping off the pearly paint on them. That said, the cleaning process is as follows;
Step One: Clean the Pearls using soapy lukewarm water
Using the steps in the second method, clean up your pearls to remove dirt and dust from your pearls. As you do this remember to be as gentle as possible but as thorough as you can get.
Step Two: Use Nail Polish Remover to clean the pearls
In this step, you should dampen a third cloth in nail polish remover then slowly wipe over your pearls to revive their white ‘pearly’ color. Keep doing this until you notice a glimmer in their structure.
Step Three: Let them dry in the sun
Once done, let your pearls dry in direct sunlight for about 1-2 hours then store them in your jewelry box.
Best way to store your pearls
Proper care is the only way that you can maintain the beautiful looks and lustrous feel that pearls ofte exude. That said, here are some of the best ways to store and care for your pearls;
- Store them Separately from other jewelry pieces
Generally, you need to prevent pearls from rubbing up against each other or against other jewelry pieces in your collection.
Remember we mentioned that pearls are delicate and can get scratched or damaged easily.
For this reason, you should consider rolling them up in linen or a soft cloth and keep them flat if possible.
Give them as much space as possible to breathe and do not store them in an airtight container.
Besides that, you should keep them away from metals such as Titanium, Gold, Silver, and Platinum, as these can all scratch the soft surface of the nacre.
- Wear your pearls as often as possible
If you own sentimental pieces and would like to pass them down to generations to come, then you would need to wear your pearls often.
Not necessarily every single day, but as often as you can.
Doing this allows them to breathe and moisturize so that they can always look as shiny and as good as new.
- Wipe your pearls before putting them away
Using a soft cloth to wipe your pearls removes perfume, sweat, and excess oils from their structure.
Also, by doing this you are able to remove any debris that causes yellowing as well as any harmful chemicals that affect the organic composition of your pearls.
When doing this, check whether the string is overstretched or if the pearls have any cracks.
If they do, ensure to re-string them.
- Ensure that you are storing them in the right temperatures
When it is too cold or extremely hot, your pearls can dry up and begin to crack. For this reason, you need to ensure that you have stored them in the right temperatures.
Along with that, you should be cautious about swimming in water that has chlorine and cleaning pearls using detergents.
These often stain, tarnish, and discolor your pearls.、
Remember that residue from perfume, makeup and hairspray often have a negative effect on your pearls and will leave your pearls looking dull.
Also, dirt and debris from the environment around you can cause a yellowing effect on your pearls and look them looking terrible.
To avoid this, you need to clean your pearls regularly and store them correctly.
We hope that the tips above seamlessly guide you through the cleaning and storage process.
Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.