A natural pearl is created when a tiny irritant - a piece of sand, perhaps - lodges in the oyster's body and cannot be expelled. To ease its discomfort the oyster secretes a smooth, hard substance around the irritant. This substance is called nacre. After a few years the irritant will be encased by layers and layers of silky coatings of nacre. A cultured pearl undergoes the exact same process except that the foreign object is injected by man.
The beauty of pearls lies in the unique properties of nacre. It is composed of microscopic crystals that are connected in such a way that light passing along the axis of one is reflected and refracted by the other to produce a wonderfully pleasing interplay of light and color. With care, pearls will maintain their rich, subtle beauty literally forever.
Pearl experts recommend the following:
- Cosmetics, perfumes and hair care products can dull a pearl's luster. Apply these products before putting on pearls and do not apply them on parts of the body where they will touch your pearls.
- Wipe pearls with a soft, damp cloth after each use. From time to time they can be washed with a mild soap. Do not use an ultrasonic cleaner on pearls.
- Store pearl jewelry separately from other jewelry to prevent it from being scratched. Pearl jewelry is best stored in a soft cloth pouch or a lined jewelry box.
- Pearl necklaces should be restrung periodically to prevent strand breakage. Silk thread is best and the string should be knotted between each pearl.