Pearls are a beautiful, classic piece of jewelry that can be worn at any age. However, many women worry that real pearls may turn yellow over time. While this is true for some types of pearls, it’s not always an indication that your pearl is less valuable or high-quality than before.
In fact, there are several ways to care for your pearls so they don’t go from white to yellow! Below we’ll cover why it happens, what causes them to turn yellow in the first place and then give you some tips on how to clean them and maintain their color if you’re worried about them turning dark in the future.
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Real pearls can turn yellow
Real pearls are made from oysters. Oysters produce nacre, a type of material found in the shells of marine creatures which can be used to create an iridescent coating that mimics the luster of a pearl. Real pearls form when an irritant or parasite lodges itself within the flesh of a mollusk and causes it to secrete nacre around it, forming layers that eventually grow into what we know as real pearls.
Real pearls can turn yellow! But this isn’t necessarily bad news for their owners or collectors; discoloration is often caused by exposure to chemicals in water or air (such as chlorine), contact with other substances like makeup or perfume oils, accumulation of dirt or grime on the surface over time—and sometimes even exposure to sunlight will cause discoloration!
Now you know why your grandmother’s jewelry box was full of those little bags labeled “Not Real Pearls”; whether they were real or fake didn’t matter much back then because everyone wore them anyway!
Pearls darken with age
Natural pearls are formed over time, and will change color as they age. Natural pearls are organic and made of calcium carbonate, which is commonly found in oysters’ shells.
Natural pearls come in a wide range of colors, including white, cream and black—and can be dyed any color. The more a pearl is exposed to light (including sunlight), the more likely it is to turn yellow or brown from natural fading processes that occur with exposure to ultraviolet light rays. When polished by hand or machine polishing methods (like tumbling), these surface layers can be removed exposing the inner layers where the most intense coloration occurs—a process known as bleaching that makes them appear brighter than before.
Pearls can become yellow due to environmental factors
Why do pearls turn yellow? The traditional white luster of a pearl is made possible by the presence of nacre, a substance that lies beneath the surface of a pearl. This layer protects the pearl from becoming discolored or dulled. However, overexposure to certain elements can cause this protective layer to become damaged and expose the oyster shell’s original coloring under it.
While most people are familiar with how bleach and chlorine can damage natural hair on humans, they may not realize that these chemicals have similar effects on pearls as well: they break down the nacre coating and cause discoloration.
Exposure to smoke is another common culprit for tarnishing; even if you do not smoke yourself but live in an area where others do, smoke will eventually cause your pearls’ luster to fade over time.
Perfume or lotion residue left behind after wearing your necklace could also lead to yellowing if left on long enough; again, this is due to chemical reactions between various substances causing oxidation within your pearl’s protective layer (oxidation causes metals like brass or copper—which often form part of jewelry—to turn green).
How to clean real pearls, if they’re looking yellow
If your pearls are looking a bit yellow, here is how to clean them.
- Use a soft brush and soapy water. Make sure the water is warm (not hot) and use a mild soap that won’t damage the pearl surface.
- Don’t use bleach or harsh chemicals. Bleach can cause discolouration or weakening of the pearl surface (it’s fine for cleaning other things though!). Avoid using household cleaners like Windex or oven cleaner on your pearls too!
- Don’t use ultrasonic cleaners. This type of cleaning will dry out real pearls, causing them to crack and become unstable over time if used regularly as well as making them more vulnerable to becoming damaged by heat sources such as hair dryers etcetera in future years when stored away from direct sunlight exposure each day after wearing during summer months 🙂
Pearls are beautiful and unique, but they’re not always perfect. Sometimes pearls can turn yellow or even lose their luster over time due to wear and tear. This doesn’t mean that your pearl is no longer worth your time though! If you’re looking for any more information about real pearls turning yellow or if you have any questions about our collection of pearls please contact us today!