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Remove drilling residue from pearl surfaces?

yssie

Super_Ideal_Rock
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Long story short:

Bought some freshly-drilled hanks of pearls.
Cut the pearls loose and put them into bowl of plain water (tap water - from our well. No soap.)
Forgot about them... Left them soaking overnight.

Now the pearls are all coated with some white chalky residue. I assume this is from their interiors - a byproduct of having just been drilled - because I’ve left older strands of pearls soaking overnight in this same water from this same well without any issue.

This coating comes off when I gently scrape my nail across the surface, but a quick rub with a washcloth does nothing - the coating is bonded too the surface just a bit too well.

Is there an easier or “safer” way to remove this coating than vigorously rubbing each pearl? There are... several strands’ worth here... Maybe a mineral oil soak?
 

AV_

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I would try a quick dip in alcohol, rub & rinse. Up to two minutes in pure alcohol do nothing much to nacre. One minute of alcohol or EDTA was mild enough to prepare pearls for microscopy, looking for details of nacre.

tuppence
 

yssie

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Thank you for the suggestion! Some folks on p-g recommend acetone, or a pearl-safe solvent called “Attack” - I’ll try alcohol and acetone with a couple of pearls I’m not invested in, and I’m going to try and find some of this Attack stuff...
 

Pearlescence

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I would never remove pearls from temp strands because you lose the arrangement. Why are you washing pearls anyway? They may need a quick buff after drilling but five minutes tumbling in walnut shell bits will sort all that. I've never felt the need to wash pearls.
I have no idea what the coating is. Attack dissolves glue.Acetone dissolves stuff like nail polish.
Either stop drinking your well water or change your pearl supplier
 

yssie

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I would never remove pearls from temp strands because you lose the arrangement. Why are you washing pearls anyway? They may need a quick buff after drilling but five minutes tumbling in walnut shell bits will sort all that. I've never felt the need to wash pearls.
I have no idea what the coating is. Attack dissolves glue.Acetone dissolves stuff like nail polish.
Either stop drinking your well water or change your pearl supplier
The pearls are from Cees, a very reputable vendor. I’m a consumer, not a trademember; as such I don’t have “suppliers” - just trusted retailers.

I removed them because they were on a temp wire. Had they been knotted, I still would have removed them as I specifically wished to change the arrangement - I would think this is rather an obvious rationale.

I soak pearls, opals, and all other untreated/unoiled gemstones prior to photography. Occasionally I forget about them. Never had a problem. Confident I don’t have a problem now either, but would welcome suggestions for less tiresome remediation.

And my well is just fine. I’d thank you for your response, but as it was both functionally useless and needlessly judgemental I’ll spare us both the insincerity.
 
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Pearlescence

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Suggest then you talk to Cees, who is impeccable as well as a friend. I have no idea what is going on.
It's still not a good idea to remove all of any temporary stringing, usually you can cut the strand into sections to move pearls around.
I repeat that I have never soaked or washed pearls prior to photographing.
You admit that you don't know what the problem is but simply dismiss my suggestions as to cause with snideness.
 

yssie

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I plan to chat with Cees, yes.

Again, the pearls are undamaged. No need for concern on their behalf.

Does fully unstringing pearls actually damage them in some way?
 

pearlsngems

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I often cut strands apart for the purpose of arranging them according to my own preference-- and not just temporariy strung strands.

Is your well water hard? Ours is. I'm just wondering if it's a coating of mineral deposits on the pearls. However I'm not sure what to recommend, if that's what it is. I use vinegar to get the mineral deposits off hard surfaces that wouldn't be damaged by it, but I certainly would not recommend that for pearls, vinegar being acidic.

One of my friends from the other forum had a kind of coating form on Tahitian pearls she soaked (because they were stinky.) I'm going to email her and ask if she ever resolved that problem, and if so, how.

In the meantime, maybe just let them rest exposed to air so any water they absorbed fully evaporates.
 
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Pearlescence

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I'm told it was a pair of pearls with a bit of glue. Now sorted. For glue I recommend superglue gel glue remover. Makes quick work of most glues. Amazon has it here and that's usually where we get ours (by the dozen!) and often hardware shops too

If you know what you are doing then breaking a temp or final strand and having them all loose is fine, but generally it's not a good idea. Putting a strand back together for a necklace can be tricky, graduation, colour balancing, size balancing. (Of course sometimes the professionals get it wrong too and a strand will be out of balance. But getting 40 odd pearls back into place when they already were in place is making hard work of life.
btw to me supplier means any person who supplies anyone (with pearls)
 

pearlsngems

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The person I am referring to did not post about her problem-- she emailed me privately-- and it wasn't earrings, or glue. Just a temporary strand with a few stinky pearls. I have emailed her to ask if she ever resolved the coating issue. Will post when she replies.

It doesn't take a professional to arrange pearls. Really, all you need is patience, good natural light and confidence in your own taste. A grooved tray and beading holding tweezers (to move the pearls around) help.

In fact, many of the professionally strung necklaces I bought were displeasing in their arrangement. One strand had all the smaller pearls on one side of center and all the larger pearls on the other side of center. Another, a multicolored strand, had all the darker pearls on one side and all the lighter pearls on the other. Yet another strand had less-lustrous pearls immediately adjacent to more-lustrous pearls when they could have been placed where it would be less noticeable, without throwing off the slight graduation. Then there was the strand that had a small pearl as the center pearl.

If I didn't know how to string, these would have remained unworn in my drawer, or been returned. Instead they are strands I enjoy wearing.

Granted many people would not want to bother. Such people should not cut their strands apart.
 
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Pearlescence

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The person I am referring to did not post about her problem-- she emailed me privately-- and it wasn't earrings, or glue. Just a temporary strand with a few stinky pearls. I have emailed her to ask if she ever resolved the coating issue. Will post when she replies.

It doesn't take a professional to arrange pearls. Really, all you need is patience, good natural light and confidence in your own taste. A grooved tray and beading holding tweezers (to move the pearls around) help.

In fact, many of the professionally strung necklaces I bought were displeasing in their arrangement. One strand had all the smaller pearls on one side of center and all the larger pearls on the other side of center. Another, a multicolored strand, had all the darker pearls on one side and all the lighter pearls on the other. Yet another strand had less-lustrous pearls immediately adjacent to more-lustrous pearls when they could have been placed where it would be less noticeable, without throwing off the slight graduation. Then there was the strand that had a small pearl as the center pearl.

If I didn't know how to string, these would have remained unworn in my drawer, or been returned. Instead they are strands I enjoy wearing.

Granted many people would not want to bother. Such people should not cut their strands apart.
I agree. It takes a good pearl eye to spot these unbalances and then to correct them. I never said it could only be done by a professional. I said the opposite.
Was referring to the OP with glue on the pearls
People seem to be very prickly for Boxing Day...
 

pearlsngems

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I heard back from my friend. She said she air-dried them for a week or so, then buffed them with a dry washcloth, which caused the white residue to come off slowly, but she said this reduced their luster a bit.
Sigh.

Not sure what to recommend. :roll:
 

yssie

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Thank you both for the continued discussion @pearlsngems, @Pearlescence - and thank you @pearlsngems for reaching out to your friend! I’m sorry to hear that her pearls’ lustre was reduced :(sad that’s a worst-case outcome. I’ve never heard of smelly pearls!

Our water is a bit hard, but we’ve got a treatment system and we verify that it’s working as expected monthly. The reason I believe the coating is pearl dust from drilling is that I’ve on occasion left other pearls of the same type (untreated Tahitians) in this same water for days and never seen this before... And some of these pearls are very freshly drilled.

I should add that none of these pearls are particularly valuable. If these were my preciouses I’d have been on the phone with Hisano ASAP! But of course I still don’t want to damage them if I can help it.

I’ve had three of them under running water for about an hour - repurposed an old pet drinking fountain that spewed so vigorously it scared the critters. I already see some improvement, so I plan to leave them overnight. I’ll post an update and some photos tomorrow. I’m letting the rest of them air dry for now.
 
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yssie

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D5620C47-F18E-48B4-A02B-410EFC4BB2FE.jpeg

Quickie phone pic - from left to right:
1. Residue
2. After two hours under running water
3. Goal surface (an older pearl that was not soaked alongside my new pearls). This is a much nicer pearl so overly optimistic, but it’s the best comp I’ve got on hand at the moment.
 
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amoline

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This is odd - and that's quite a bit of residue. Are the spots on the middle pearl blemishes/small pits, or is that the residue on the surface that you're trying to get rid of?

Sorry if I missed this somewhere, but what type of pearls are these? Tahitians?

We'll figure it out. :D
 

yssie

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@amoline - Yes, you’re seeing surface pitting! The two pearls on the left have some blemishes.

The residue is a very fine chalky coating - I need my camera. This is a terrible photo, but... if you look really really closely at this pic you can see horizontal stripes right above the red - this is where I scraped a nail across the surface. And the white clumps below the yellow arrow point are the residue that’s coming off.

E98D6D7F-F3AC-4CA9-82D3-2C04BBFF8CAE.jpeg
 

amoline

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I just asked someone I know who is a true pearl expert, and was told that the harshest way to clean a pearl without damaging it is with alcohol. Cleaning it too roughly with alcohol or too much time will still damage a pearl, but plain rubbing alcohol is the only non chemical way to do it.

Did you get the chance to chat with Cees? He'd be the first source of info before I'd do much with them. Curious what he would say about it.

If that doesn't work, there's not really another easy way that doesn't involve a place like a real pearl processing place. And if it went to that extent it may be easier just to return/exchange the pearls.

I must say though I have seen many pearls and never encountered something like this that required such harsh methods.
 

Daisys and Diamonds

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@amoline - Yes, you’re seeing surface pitting! The two pearls on the left have some blemishes.

The residue is a very fine chalky coating - I need my camera. This is a terrible photo, but... if you look really really closely at this pic you can see horizontal stripes right above the red - this is where I scraped a nail across the surface. And the white clumps below the yellow arrow point are the residue that’s coming off.

E98D6D7F-F3AC-4CA9-82D3-2C04BBFF8CAE.jpeg
we have really hard tape water here
everything gets covered in lime scale
to be honest i never thought about jewlery before
i drink the tape water (it tastes fine) but i might use the other half's bottled water for jewlery cleaning in the future
its been a very interesting thread and i hope you can get then cleaned up and a happily ever after ending
 

yssie

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@amoline I haven’t reached out yet! I hate to interrupt his holiday - I figure this can wait until the new year begins. Running water seems to be doing the trick, slowly but surely, so I’m *hopeful* nothing more will be needed...

Thank you also for asking your resource! Alcohol seems harsh... I get the feeling “too much time” might be just a couple of minutes? I’ll dunk a pearl or two to find out what that might do. Hey, why not, right?

I forgot to answer your earlier question - Tahitians (I don’t know what oyster species(es) though), untreated.
 
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amoline

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Alcohol is fine for short durations. If you try it, I wouldn't do any soaking. I would do a small dip, wipe with a soft cloth, try it again, repeat, and see if you get anywhere.

You could also dilute the rubbing alcohol too if you're worried about going w/full strength.
 

Daisys and Diamonds

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the Queen's jewlery is cleaned with gin, not sure about her pearls and some of them go back way before Queen Victoria
but im scared to do anything with my pearls except a soft cloth
so ill be watching the before and after pictures with an eagle eye
 

katbran

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I've used Acetone to clean off glue.. we don't have Attack here in Australia. ( well not that I've found) I dip a cotton bud (Q tip) into it and rub it on the pearl then rinse in cool water. Doesn't hurt the surface but it's only on for 30 sec .

I buy acetone at the hardware. It's pure acetone which might not be the same as nail polish remover as it can have other chemicals.
 

Pearlescence

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I'm wondering if this is the fine mist depositing that can happen if something glued with superglue gets sealed away too quickly before the glue had had a chance to set. Superglue needs an hour in open air.If it is that then water is probably the worst thing you could use. A superglue mist will buff off with a soft cloth, but water will just set it.
Try the superglue gel remover
 

yssie

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Hello all! Wanted to update this thread:

These pearls have been under running water (well water, softened, and filtered through charcoal, room temperature) for six days and they are good as new! The chalky coating is no longer bonded to the surfaces of the pearls - it now just sloughs off with a light wipe with a soft microfibre cloth. I see no alteration in lustre or surface texture. I should say that these are Tahitians, though - I would be more worried about akoyas.

I owe this thread photos - I still haven't had time, but will do so as soon as possible.
 

pearlsngems

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What a relief! And very good to know what the solution is, should it happen to anyone else.
 

amoline

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Glad to hear you were able to get them all cleaned up, @yssie !
 

katbran

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I wondered if it was something that was in the polishing compound when they were cleaned up. I must say I've never had any pearls like that, very unusual. Would be interesting to know what it was.

Certainly glad they cleaned up eventually.
 
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