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Cultured pearls are precious gems and should be treated as such. With attention to their care, they can last for generations.

Pearls should be kept in a soft, separate pouch or jewelry case to protect them from scratching. They only rate 2 to 2.5 on Mohs' hardness scale, so if exposed to other metals and stone contact, they can scratch.

One adage to remember is: "Pearls are the last thing you put on and the first thing you take off." Hairsprays, cosmetics and perfumes can be very damaging to pearls. Acids are created which eats away at the nacre and luster.

To clean pearls, you should wipe them down after each use with a damp cloth moistened with water. Wipe dry with a soft cloth. Do not soak pearls in water or wear pearls in the shower, whether it is a strand or a ring. The silk thread can deteriorate in the strand or the epoxy holding the pearl can lose its ability to adhere.

Unfortunately, the layers of nacre of which a pearl is made are very soft by jewelry standards and easily damaged. Since it is an organic compound, pearls also are easily dulled or even eaten away by chemicals and alcohol. It's a good idea to bring your cultured pearls in for restringing every couple of years, especially if you wear them often.

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