Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pearls the Care and Feeding of

Part I
Often people assume that since gemstones are called stones that they’re indestructible, but even granite is not impervious to damage by acids and abrasive substances.
Pearls, for example, appear to be hard, however they are not and can be easily damaged by the simple act of adjacent stones and other pearls rubbing against them. The outer layers of the pearl is a shiny, pearlescent material called nacre, this is the same substance that the mollusk uses to coat the inside of it’s shell, the thicker this layer of nacre, the richer and more lustrous the pearl and also the more valuable. Nacre can be easily abraded and that is the reason that higher quality pearls are strung on silk thread and carefully hand knotted between each precious pearl.

I can vividly recall talking with a young lady who was just getting into the jewelry making business. She informed me that she was remaking older pieces of jewelry, items that she had bought cheaply at places such as Goodwill and local thrift shops. She also confided that she had inherited a number of pieces from her grandmother and one of those pieces had been a pearl necklace. Unfortunately this young lady found the look of the hand knotted strand "old fashioned" and "out-dated", so she took it apart and strung the pearls close together along with other beads for interest. Upon hearing this my heart literally sank. Her grandmother’s necklace was probably fairly old and the quality of the pearls many years ago is far superior to those available today, her grandmother’s pearls could easily have been worth $300 or more.
As gently as possible I explained that truly good, expensive pearls should always be strung on silk or other smooth nonabrasive threads and hand knotted between each pearl to protect them from abrasion. I knew my advice was proving fruitless as this young, budding jewelry designer looked at me as though I was from outer space. Ah well, what do I know, in her eyes hand knotted necklaces were unattractive and only desired by little old fuddy duddies such as me.
Pictured above, some of my pearl supply.

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