My Grandmother’s Pearls

September 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

Last year my Grandmother brought some of her pearls for me. She wanted them cleaned and restrung; because of her arthritis, my grandmother wanted me to make them easier for her to put on and take off.

First I looked at the pearls. I brought them to my old jewelry instructor, as well. The pearls weren’t real. I called and let her know right away. She didn’t mind that they weren’t real. They didn’t have to be; the pearls were special to her.

The pearls didn’t need cleaning, but I carefully wiped the pearls with a soft, damp cloth as I unstrung them. Restringing them required thought though. Because my Grandmother’s arthritis in her hands is bad, she needs something large and easy to clasp and unclasp. I couldn’t find anything that would work for her. Magnets weren’t suitable, either too weak to hold up to regular wear, or too strong for my grandmother to pull apart. The only idea I had was stretchy stringing material. It stretched enough that I could string her pearls on it and she could slip it over her head. She loved them! With the stretch she doesn’t have to manage a clasp, but I attached one anyway. The clasp wasn’t necessary, but it really completed the piece.

Working with stretch material can be problematic. Learning to secure the piece requires a surgeon’s knot and the tiniest dab of glue. A small dab of adhesive inside the center of the surgeons knot. I’ve used the adhesive cement sometimes used to secure pearls to post. I’ve also used 2 part epoxy. Both work well, but have a pin (or needle) to apply the glue inside the knot.

Just a few reminders about pearls:

Do not do anything to our with pearls unless you know what you’re doing and what you’re working on. Know what you have. There are a lot of fake pearls out there, and a lot of methods and materials used to make the pearls seem real. I don’t recommend cleaning pearls on your own. With real pearls, careful cleaning and handling is required. They are likely knotted and on silk thread (which stretches when wet).

Fake pearls need careful care as well.They can be made of a variety of materials. Some can be very well made. Some of my grandmother’s, for example, were made very well, to look and feel much like real pearls. Others, not as much. People may or may not know the pearls they have are fake. Cleaning them, even carefully, might ruin them–and your customer will want their pearls back, in the same condition they gave them to you.

When in doubt (and even when not in doubt), leave the cleaning to a professional with experience and a working knowledge of pearls.


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