Through the pandemic, much cleaning was done. Many boxes discovered, and their treasures revealed. Treasures like old rings (too small), brooches (too outdated), and necklaces (too broken). You may, like me, have wondered why treasure chests in the old movies always seemed to have loose gems in them. I think many people these days have similar stashes because they simply do not know what to do with broken jewellery.
Over the last few decades, there have been literally tons of silverware and ornate jewellery deemed gaudy by heirs, and melted down for money. Diamonds get reset into new engagement rings. But what about pearls? How do you know if they are real, if they are worth anything? Do they need to be treated in a special way, and what can you do with them?
1. Real pearls have a subtle, grainy texture. Experts will look for clues like seams to give away mold lines in plastic beads, or chipped paint, or impossible likeness and symmetry, but they will admit there is one simple test that is almost fail-safe. Your teeth. If you gently rub a pearl against your natural front tooth (my dad has dentures so this doesn’t work), you will feel, sort of a sandy, or grainy texture that you will not feel with glass or plastic.
2. The value of pearls can be obtained by an appraiser. They may fetch a shockingly low price, or a shockingly high price. There are many, many factors. These days, climate change has meant that many sizes or locations of pearls cannot be found the way they were long ago, so large natural pearls are very precious. Technology has given us higher quality pearls from locations unheard of long ago, so cultured pearls do not demand the same respect they once did. My best measure of worth is sentimental value minus monetary value. Some pieces that everything to you, might mean nothing to someone else. Or the opposite.
3. I’ve written about how to care for pearls in another post. When it comes to how pearls should be used in jewellery, it’s about knots, and glue. The knots you see in your old necklaces are used to protect the pearls from rubbing against each other, and to stop the pearls from running free if the strand breaks. There are a few ways to attach a clasp, but higher quality pieces are usually threaded in a special way that can only be changed by restringing the entire strand.
4. A professional jewellery/goldsmith can come up with 100 ways to repair and reuse your pearl jewellery. My favourite way is to replace a plain clasp with something more interesting/modern, and restring a piece you will actually enjoy.
At Jewel Envy, we can walk you through all of your options, including answering your “what if’s” and “what about’s”. We specialize in mixing old with new, and creating new pieces out of your chest of treasures.