If you are going to clutch your pearls…

While we try not to be too pearl clutchy here at Uncommon Courtesy, we do occasionally run across situations that leave us grasping at our college-graduation-gift strands [Ed note: Or our inherited ones, Victoria. – Jaya]. And if you are gonna clutch them, you might as well know something about them.

Are they real?

Grab your pearls. Now open your mouth and rub them gently across your teeth (this won’t hurt them!). Do they feel a bit gritty? Or are they smooth? Real pearls feel gritty on the teeth and fake pearls feel smooth. If you see me out and about in pearls I will let you put them in your mouth, it’s such a neat trick. BTW, a lot of fake pearls are really good, so if you can’t afford the real thing, don’t feel bad about wearing fakes.

What is a pearl?

A pearl is a bit of crud covered in oyster spit. Fortunately for us, oysters have magical spit that turns into a shiny hard material. Nowadays almost all pearls are cultured, which means a small bead is artificially inserted into the oyster and left to get covered in nacre (they even have a fancy word for oyster spit!), which is a much faster and more efficient way of getting pearls. The alternative is hauling up millions of oysters and hoping you might find a few pearls.

Are all pearls the same?

No! There are several different types of pearls:

  • Akoya: are your basic white pearls
  • Freshwater pearls: are the cheapest kind
  • Tahitian pearls: are what people usually refer to as black pearls, because they are black
  • South Sea pearls: are giant pearls
  • Baroque pearls: aren’t really a type, but a shape. They are the ones that are all lumpy.

How do you take care of them?

Fortunately for pearl clutchers, the oils from your skin are good for pearls, so it’s great to fiddle with them. They will also dehydrate if you leave them in a drawer forever, so make sure you wear them frequently! However, stuff like perfume and hairspray are very bad for them, so they should be the very last thing you put on and the first thing you take off. Store them where they won’t get tangled and scratched by your other jewelry (I keep mine in the box they came in, outside of my usual jewelry box.)


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