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Yellowed Pearls: Causes, Cleaning Tips & Prevention

  • 4 min read

Yellowed Pearls: Causes, Cleaning Tips & Prevention

Pearl jewellery may be timeless, but as delicate gemstones, pearls themselves can become yellowed over time.

That’s why it’s important to know how to clean pearls that have yellowed, but also to take proper care of your pearls in order to reduce the likelihood of them yellowing.

This article will tell you how.

Why do pearls go yellow?

Pearls go yellow when they dehydrate. After all, pearls are formed in oysters or mussels and originate in either fresh or saltwater depending on the type of pearl.

As such, yellowed pearls occur more frequently if you allow your pearls to dehydrate.

Thankfully, that also means that there are some easy steps that you can take to keep your pearls moist and reduce the likelihood of yellowing.

How to prevent yellowed pearls

It’s vital that you properly take care of your pearls in order to prevent them from yellowing, or experiencing any other kind of damage.

Properly store pearls

Invest in high-quality pearl jewellery storage in order to prevent your pearls from dehydrating.

If you store your pearls in airtight containers or in plastic bags, they won’t be able to breathe and are more likely to dehydrate and go yellow.

Store your pearls in unbleached cotton, silk, velvet, or Chamois leather. These materials retain moisture from the air, reducing the likelihood of dehydration.

Remember to avoid storing your pearls alongside harder gemstones in order to prevent scratching and other damage. Other than coral, opal and amber, any other gem is harder than pearls.

Our pearl jewellery storage bags are specially designed for safe and elegant storage solutions. Choose our original-size jewellery travel bag to keep your pearl earrings and a delicate pearl pendant like our black Tahitian pearl and silver pendant safe.

Alternatively, our large jewellery storage bag is roomy enough to store chunkier designs like our white freshwater pearl ‘morse code’ bracelet alongside a pearl lariat necklace or two. And keep your pearl rings safe in any of the eight separate in-built pockets.

Remember to store your pearl necklaces lying flat, too. The silk string will stretch if left hanging.

Wear your pearls

One of the best ways to prevent yellowed pearls is by wearing them.

Your natural oils help to keep pearls moisturised, and their lustre will also be improved when worn next to your skin.

Although it might sound rather decadent, it’s a great idea to wear your pearls at night, as your skin’s oils are richer when at rest.

Use our pearl perfume essence

Avoid yellowed pearls by wearing our pearl essence perfumes.

Many perfumes are made with alcohol, which wreaks havoc on your pearls – creating cracks and turning them yellow.

Created with a Florentine master-parfumier, our two pearl essence perfumes are based on ingredients like salt and water and made with essential oils. They’re designed to mimic your body’s natural oils, increasing your pearls natural lustre and reducing the risk of dehydration. No alcohol is used in our perfumes – they are kinder to your skin and your pearls.

Dawn is a lighter scent evoking the fresh morning sea breeze of French Polynesia, whilst Dusk is sultrier and more suitable for evening wear.

How to clean pearls that have yellowed

If your pearls have yellowed, it’s best to get them professionally cleaned.

Book into a personal consultation or contact us to find out how Coleman Douglas Pearls can assist with your yellowed pearls.

Remember that regular maintenance and care of your pearls will reduce risk of damage or yellowing.

Additional care tips for pearls

Beyond the prevention of yellowed pearls, there are other key ways that you can keep your pearl jewellery looking its best for years to come.

No contact with acids, alcohol, or beauty products

Pearls are alkaline. As such, everything from alcohol-based perfume to hairspray contain chemicals that can damage them and reduce their lustre.

Don’t ever place your pearls on skin that has had self-tan recently applied. The ingredients in self-tan eat the pearl’s nacre faster than even alcohol-based perfume and will significantly damage the gems.

Put your pearls on after your skin cream has been fully absorbed. Pearls are very porous and can become clogged through absorption of our skin cream.

Wipe your pearls clean with a damp, non-scratch cloth after each wear, removing traces of chemicals or perspiration.

Be careful with exposure to water

Do not bath or shower in your pearls, as the chemicals in tap water will attack the pearl nacre. Never swim in a chlorinated swimming pool, as chlorine is dehydrating, leading to yellowed pearls. Don’t wear your pearls whilst doing strenuous exercise, either, as your sweat is acidic.

Saltwater pearls like South Sea pearls, Tahitian pearls and baroque pearls will all benefit from exposure to saltwater. Take advantage of an ocean swim whilst wearing our salt water designs like our silver-black Tahitian pearl necklace.

Just remember that the salt will degrade the silk thread and attack gold or silver. Examine the thread and look for fraying, stretching, or discolouration, which will indicate damage. Take care to regularly restring any saltwater pearl jewellery that you swim in to avoid losing the gems.

Regular restringing and maintenance

Care for your pearl jewellery with regular maintenance. Restring a design like our white South Sea pearl and pink opal necklace every two years to prevent the silk from stretching or becoming dirty.

Inspect the gimp – the metal coil around the silk – after each wear. If it’s green in colour, the silk thread is decaying and will soon snap. Other signs to look out for include loose or ‘gappy’ silk thread.

Let Coleman Douglas Pearls assess your yellowed pearls

If you have a pearl jewellery design that’s yellowing or needs restringing, find out how Coleman Douglas Pearls can help. Book a consultation with us today.


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