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Daily Wire Tip Aug. 9: Proper Care of Pearls and Opals
Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip
August 9, 2010
What does “dehydrated” mean when it comes to certain types of semi-precious stones and pearls?
-Lorraine in Alamosa, Colorado
The pearl is one of my favorite gemstones, and is also one of my birthstones, so I pride myself on knowing a bit about this gem!
Pearls are a natural material that are formed when an irritant finds its way into a living oyster. The oyster protects itself by coating this intruder with a secretion called nacre. This is, in fact, the same material the oyster uses to grow its shell. The irritant becomes trapped within the coating, and over time, becomes what we call a pearl. When pearls are stored in very hot, very dry conditions, the moisture evaporates out of the nacre, causing the pearl to lose its luster/shine, change and dull its color, and the outer covering of the nacre will crack. Sadly, there really is no easy way to restore a damaged pearl. The best storage for pearls is in silk where air can circulate and pearls can “breathe.” You can read more about this organic gemstone in the article, For the Love of Pearls.
On the other hand, opals are filled with water. Solid opals prefer to be stored in a plastic bag with a damp cotton ball for extended periods of time. Opal doublets or triplets do not need to be stored damp; rather, direct exposure to liquids for long periods of time can cause the layers to separate and a foggy appearance will occur. Solid opals stored in very dry, very hot conditions, will dry out (dehydrate), causing them to crack and craze. All opals should be kept in padded pouches when not worn to protect them from being scratched by other jewelry.
Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong
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