Though it would seem that pearls would be plentiful because they are created by mollusks, they are found in only one in every 10,000 or so of these crustaceans. [“What Are Pearls?”, amnh.org]
How the Pearl Is Formed
Similar to the actions of the human immune system that sends out white blood cells to attack foreign bodies, the mollusk secretes aragonite and conchiolin, a calcium carbonate, to coat a foreign object that enters its shell. The material formed is called nacre, better known as mother-of-pearl, producing the nacreous pearl, which is the one most widely sold commercially.
How to Clean Pearls
Calcium carbonate is especially reactive to chemicals, so you should never use chemical cleaners to clean your pearls. So delicate in fact, they can be damaged simply through contact with your perfume and hairspray.
You will need:
- Natural, soft-bristle brush
- Soft cloth
- Ivory soap flakes
- Warm distilled water
- Cool distilled water
Make a solution of warm water and soap flakes. Gently lay your pearls on a soft cloth. Very gently scrub each pearl with the solution. Pour cool distilled water in a bowl and submerge the pearls to remove the soap solution. Remove and place on a soft cloth. Allow to dry fully before storing.
Don’t use your soft, bristle brush on any other item or with any other cleaner. It should be dedicated to your pearl cleaning to avoid contaminating the pearls.
“What Are Pearls? | American Museum of Natural History.” American Museum of Natural History. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/pearls/what/ index.html>
“Care of Pearls.” College of Natural Resources – UC Berkeley. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <http://nature.berkeley.edu/classes/eps2// wisc/pcare.html>