Inspecting Pearls

January 1999

For Your Staff:Selling Quality

Inspecting Pearls

Knowing how to check the maintenance of strung pearls and beads demonstrates another aspect of quality in your shop

by Tom Weishaar
Underwood Jewelers
Fayetteville, Ar

It was a crisp winter Tuesday when Ann walked into Yourtown Jewelers. Her annual club dance was just three days away, and she wanted her ring cleaned so it would look nice for the event. Ann had never been in the store before, but she heard this jeweler had a good reputation for customer service.

Yourtown Jewelers wasn't busy this morning, and Cindy was watching the sales floor when Ann entered the store. The two women exchanged greetings, then Ann asked to have her ring cleaned. Cindy accepted the diamond ring, inspected it and put it into a sonic cleaner. While they waited for it to clean, Cindy noticed Ann was wearing a strand of graduated pearls – and that they looked dull and worn. When Cindy asked if she could inspect them, Ann agreed and said they'd been her mother's. Ann didn't think the pearls were valuable, but said they had great sentimental value to her.

This scenario is repeated daily in jewelry stores across the country. Sales associates are accustomed to inspecting and cleaning customers' rings, but what about strands of pearls and beads? They need the same attention and annual maintenance as other jewelry. Here are some tips for the proper inspection and care of strung pearls.

Inspecting Strung Pearls

Following these tips for proper inspection of pearls promotes good customer relations and helps build your customer base.

  1. Handle with care. Strung jewelry is delicate, especially strands of pearls, so treat them gently. Place the strand on a jewelry pad – never directly on a counter. And remind your customer how delicate they are: pearls should be the last item she puts on and the first she takes off.

  2. Look over the whole strand. The strand should lie nicely and not bunch or twist. Tell the customer what you're looking for as you do your inspection. Gently straighten a section of the unclasped strand between your fingers and rotate it as you inspect. The pearls should be spaced evenly and held tightly by the knots between them. If the silk cord is stretched, you'll see gaps between the pearls. Inform the customer if you find any blemishes, scratches or marks from wear. Repeat this process with each section until you have checked all the pearls.

  3. Check the knots for fraying. Use a jeweler's loupe to inspect the knots themselves. If they are frayed, recommend restringing. Warn the customer if you note particularly sharp or rough areas around drill holes – these edges quickly cut through silk.

  4. Check the knots for size. Be sure the knots are the correct size for the drill holes in the pearls. Knots that are too small will slide into the pearl, allowing it to rub against the next pearl. Knots that are too large will look unsightly and overpower the beauty of the strand.


  5. Check the cord for cleanliness. If the silk cord is in good shape, see that it is clean. Oils and cosmetics can darken the knots, diminishing the appearance of the pearls, causing wear on the pearls or prematurely weakening the cord. If the cord is only slightly dirty, show your customer how to clean the pearls at home (wipe them gently with a soft cloth to remove surface dirt; use warm, soapy water to clean the cord; air-dry on a flat surface so the wet cord doesn't stretch). Cleaning pearls is important because it helps remove abrasives such as cosmetics and hair spray that can wear away the surface nacre of the pearl. But also tell your customer not to clean pearls too often, because frequent cleaning can weaken the cord.

  6. Inspect the clasp. The clasp area is often a particular point of wear on longer strands or strands of larger pearls. If the cord is damaged at the clasp, recommend restringing. The clasp itself should work correctly and show no signs of wear. Broken, damaged or worn clasps should be replaced. Unfortunately, the clasp can't be reattached securely (for long) by conventional splicing, gluing or knotting, so the entire necklace must be restrung.





JA Quality Assurance Guide
Inspecting Strung Pearls and Beads

This issue of the Jewelers of America Quality Assurance Guide illustrates a properly strung strand of pearls as well as worn areas and results of poor-quality stringing.

Properly Strung Pearls



  1. The pearls should lie nicely and not bunch together or twist.
  2. Knots should be pushed snugly against both sides of every pearl.
  3. Knots should be sized and shaped uniformly and sized properly for the drill holes.
  4. The silk cord should match the pearls' body color as closely as possible.
  5. The strand should be attached correctly and evenly to the ends of the clasp.
  6. The clasp should open and close properly for ease of operation and security.

Potential Problems

When pearls are strung too tightly, they will bunch together and not lie straight.

These pearls are knotted with gaps, and the knots are not uniform in size or shape, which tends to draw attention away from the pearls.

Pearls of a body color other than white should be strung with silk that matches their color as closely as possible.

Clasp ends (jump rings) are not of equal size and are distorted. The French wire is frayed. Also the finished attachments on each end of the clasp should match in size and shape.








The clasp should open and close properly while retaining the springiness needed for security. There should be a second locking device, especially if the necklace is longer, heavier or of great value. In this illustration, the second lock is defaced and in need of repair.


© 1998 Jewelers of America
This information is required for the written test for the second and third levels of the JA® Certified Bench Jeweler program.


Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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