The allure of pearls
Oh, those pearls! They've captivated us for eons, in hues that span the rainbow, with textures and shapes from dewdrops to crusty grain. Lustrous. Shimmering. Exotic. Birthstone of June babies and traditional gift for thirtieth wedding anniversaries, and what's lovelier than pearls worn with a velvet party dress? Pearls are so valued that we use their name to describe anything that's exceptional, as in, "She is a pearl." So what makes a "pearl of a pearl"?
Most people know real pearls form when a foreign object gets inside a mollusk and the mollusk protects its soft body by secreting nacre to surround the object. If that object is inserted on purpose, it makes a cultured pearl. All pearls are judged by how much nacre surrounds the foreign object. There are so many sizes and shapes of real pearls, they come from so many places—the world really is our oyster!
Perfect for beginners, Anne Timmons's Freshwater Pearl Bridal Set uses the method of knotting between pearls.
Barbara Zucker’s Pink Pearl Swirl twists many strands of affordable freshwater pearls into a collar with a magnetic clasp.
Marie Antoinette necklace by Stringing Editor Danielle Fox is regal with pearl drops and freshwater pearls.
Waves of pearls by Miwako Nara uses crystal pearls to full advantage in a stunning seed-bead project.
You are a wealth of experience when it comes to pearls! I took your most useful tips and answers to questions from other members about supplies, tools, and creating with pearls. A special thanks appears at the end of this blog to a few members whose chats I found the most helpful. But I think you’re all pearls!
1: Needles for pearls
- Twisted, flexible wire needles are the most popular. Shorter is better, as the long ones bend too easily into uselessness. They come in several gauges, .020 to finest .00945. Their collapsible eye, which can be further flattened with pliers after threading, allows them to pass through tiny pearl holes. One-use only, as you cannot rethread them once the eye has been collapsed.
2: Thread for pearls
- Silk is the traditional thread for pearls and is usually knotted between pearls. Silk thread often comes on cards, with a "built-in" needle end. Silk will stretch and discolor over time; pearls may need restringing on average in ten to twenty years.
- Synthetic threads are nonorganic threads, so they won't deteriorate, are UV resistant, and have less stretch than silk, or no stretch at all. Such bead threads are also usually knotted between beads.
- Knotting: tie an overhand knot between pearls. See our How-to on pearl knotting here.
3: Beading wire for pearls
- Use 49-strand wire, from .010mm to .015mm, to suit the holes.
- Crimp between pearls and cover crimps with stylish crimp covers.
- Use tiny silicone "bumpers" between each pearl; they slide/roll onto your wire like little rubber beads.
4: Using other wire with pearls
- Pearls have notoriously small holes. To accommodate head pins or wire, enlarge the holes by twisting thin needle-like files called reamers inside the holes. Wet the reamer first and do not breathe in the dust. Any bead can be reamed. . . but some may crack.
5: How to care and store pearls
- Silver polish damages pearls. If you string pearls with sterling silver and the silver tarnishes, you'll discolor the pearls if you try to clean the silver. Store the jewelry in a tarnish-resistant pouch.
- Pearls need air to maintain their luster. Take them from their pouches from time to time. Do not store pearls in plastic baggies; they allow no air inside.
- Do not expose pearls to deodorant, perfume, or scented hand or body lotions. Put on makeup and spray scents before putting on your pearls.
- After wearing pearls, wipe them gently with a lint-free cloth before storing.
Make the Vine of Pearls bracelet by Kate McKinnon, lush with wire-wrapped pearl dangles on beading wire.
Use an anti-tarnish pouch to store this Silver and Coin Pearl Bracelet by Monica Sargeant.
Special thanks to the following Beading Daily members whose chats were a great resource:
Lita C., Long Island, New York
Deb, Arizona Bead Depot
Lois B, Utah
Sheri S., Colorado
Christina H, Pacific Northwest, U.S.
Kokopelli Design, Germany
Pearls are so celebrated, we're even featuring special novels about them in our online store. These tales are sure to inspire you to make your own fabulous jewelry! Remember that every project in our store tells you which are the best materials to use for the most beautiful results. Personally, I like using white pearls with oxidized silver for special jewelry, how about you? Please share your favorite, festive materials here on Beading Daily!