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Pearls 101

The Martha Stewart Show

Pearls are organic and porous, so they can absorb from their surroundings. Today, Armand Asher joins Martha to talk about types of pearls, give helpful tips on how to care for these gems, and some ways to change the look of your pearl jewelry so it will last for generations.

Main Types of Pearls
- Freshwater pearls are grown in rivers and lakes, chiefly in China. Until two years ago, they were off-shaped. Recently, China improved the quality and variety of pearls to make them extremely desirable.

- South Sea pearls are larger pearls grown in the South Pacific, such as in Australia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. They are usually between 10 and 16 millimeters, and are typically white, golden, or rose-colored. Tahitian pearls (a subcategory of South Sea pearls) are produced in the Polynesian Islands and their natural colors can be from silver-gray to dark green to black and range in size from 8 to 16 millimeters.

- "Akoya" is a term used to describe the Japanese cultured pearls that usually measure 3 to 10 millimeters and are produced mainly in Japan's saltwater.

Care Tips
- Sometimes old pearls just need a good cleaning and to be restrung. Skin oils, makeup, perfume, and dust affect the luster and color of pearls. Just get a bowl of lukewarm water with a drop of mild dish liquid and loosen dirt by gently rubbing pearls with your fingers. Give it a cold-water rinse three times and then wipe with a soft cloth. Let your necklace air dry on a flat surface. Do not clean pearls with abrasive products or in an ultrasonic cleaner.

- Pearls need to be restrung annually; this is a technique that needs to be done by a professional. Before you get your pearls restrung, take out your favorite necklace, measure the length, and tell your jeweler. (The cost for an average pearl necklace is $20.)

- Always apply makeup, hair spray, or perfume before putting on your pearls.

- Wipe pearls with a soft, lint-free cloth after each wearing. Perspiration can dim them.

- Don't wear pearls for a long time when the string is wet -- it can stretch and break.

- Skin moisture is good for pearls, so wear them often.

- Do not wear pearls when working with harsh chemicals, such as bleach and ammonia.

- Do not store them in an airtight container, such as a safe deposit box, in direct sunlight, or in a dry, heated area over time, as they can dry out or crack. Instead, store pearls in a separate soft jewelry bag made of silk, felt, or chamois. They can scratch easily when rubbing against other jewelry.

Change the Look of a Traditional Pearl Necklace
- Restring with silk thread.

- Change the old clasp with a new, mystery clasp.

- Add new elements, such as rondelles, colored pearls, and different shapes and sizes of pearls.

- Repurpose a pearl necklace by turning it into a bracelet, a pair of earrings, or a pendant.

Special Thanks
Armand Asher of asherpearl
Phone: 212-921-0202

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