IRON RULE for Pearl
and Bead Necklaces:
No matter which medium they are
strung on, and no matter how well it has been done: your pearl or
bead necklaces/bracelets/anklets WILL eventually break.
Why? They're only held together by
a thread, monofilament, wire or sometimes chain, limited to match
the hole size of the smallest beads in your item.
Even the strongest thread is aging
and getting weaker. By wearing your piece (which is what you should
do), the string is exposed to abrasion from bead holes, body oils,
cosmetics and simple wear-and-tear.
That said, it is important to have
your jewelry restrung from time to time, just to avoid the strands
breaking in an inconvenient setting or time.
Have them restrung and you'll
never have to worry about losing any pearls or beads again.
Here are 15 facts that help you
understand how repairs work in your favor:
Your pearl necklace is your
REAL best friend, and will be your trusted companion through thick
1.) Count your pearls
You should count your pearls in
front of your jeweler when bringing them in for repair. Your jeweler
should record the number of pearls on the repair envelope and on
This is an easy measure for your
own security and peace of mind.
It is exceedingly rare that
pearls get lost, and fortunately the jewelers we work with are
honest and trustworthy. (Outside of that, those few who aren't, usually don't stay in business
very long) However, in a few very rare cases, a pearl could
wind up outside of your repair envelope, especially if you bring in
Remember: pearls are round little
critters and can roll away by default. Only if your jeweler knows the correct
your pearls, can he or she ensure that the little stray orb gets reunited
with its friends.
The reasons for knotting are
2.) If your necklace is
knotted, it will come back shorter after restringing
Each and every string will stretch
over time. That is especially true with knotted threads - whether
they are silk, nylon or any other material. The knots make that
problem worse: they loosen and stretch and
elongate your necklace even more.
If it's done correctly, your
necklace will be knotted very tight, to where no pearl (or bead) has
room to move. Your necklace could even have a "wrinkled" look: that
is a positive indication of tight knotting, but it will vanish with
wearing and straighten itself out.
This tight re-knotting can reduce
the size of your necklace easily by a couple of inches or more -
depending on the length and previous condition of your necklace.
When in doubt: wear pearls! You
3.) If your necklace was
unknotted before and you want it knotted, it will come back longer
than it was before
That's only natural: the knots
themselves add length to your strand.
How much longer will it be? That
depends on the size thread that will be used, as well as the number
of pearls on your strand.
Typically, a 16" strand of pearls
or average size beads will increase by about 1 to 1˝
inches. If you like to keep your necklace within a certain size,
make sure that you let your jeweler know ahead of time.
The competition between silk
and Nylon® is not a fair one
4.) New is better than old:
Nylon® is better than silk
Silk has been the first choice for
stringing pearls over the past centuries. But that is only because
nothing better was available at the time.
Today, we are very fortunate to
have synthetic materials that will stand up to their task with much
Nylon, or sometimes Polyester,
displays the very same knot as silk - if not even more beautifully.
That modern string holds up better to body chemicals and cosmetics,
and it won't mind getting a gentle bath, either.
Silk on the other hand, stretches
more than the bead cord we use now, and it tends to soil more easily
Please note that the nylon used
for pearl stringing is NOT monofilament, or fishing line, as
often erroneously assumed. The nylon used for pearls has the same
appearance as your silk thread, and it is a soft, supple, spun cord.
Of course you can always have your
pearls strung on silk on request, but why settle for the second
5.) If you have a multi strand
necklace, all strands should be restrung
No, that's not to get more
business out of you.
Especially when "nested", (the
classical, tiered look) it is crucial to have all strands redone at
the same time. Why?
Simply because when string ages,
stretches and gets brittle, it does that on the entire necklace, not
just the one strand that broke. Fixing just the one broken strand
will mismatch the other strands in length and appearance: remember
that they stretch over time, and a freshly knotted strand is shorter
than before its repair.
Besides, it's less money if you
have them done at the same time. You don't need to return to the
store because another strand failed, perhaps just a couple of weeks
after you got your necklace back from its first repair.
Delicious colors for an
unexpected change. Be bold!
6.) Graduated pearls don't
always give the best results
Very often, graduated pearls (or
beads) differ not only in size, but also in the diameter of their
holes. When that's the case, it is almost impossible to achieve a
perfectly restrung necklace, and the knots between the beads will
appear to be uneven.
Explanation: When knotting pearls,
the thickness of the string being used is determined by the diameter
of the pearl hole. What may fit through a small hole may not yield a
knot that's large enough for the next bead. This smaller knot may
slip into the inside of the hole, leaving an undesirable result.
That situation calls for a major
reassessment: whether the necklace is better off left unknotted, or
whether it is better to accept a less than perfect knotting job.
Either way, the outcome frequently
will be a compromise and you should be aware of it.
Jewelry is meant to be enhanced
by you, not the other way around.
Make it shine!
7.) Don't expect precious metal
beads to be knotted
Or knots next to any metal
bead, for that matter.
Metal beads usually have larger
holes than any other beads, and to make a knot next to a metal bead
would be moot, since the knot would fall through that metal bead
Even if the metal bead hole is
small enough, a knot next to it is not aesthetically attractive.
There is no logical explanation to it - it simply is a minor
However, sometimes you'll find
that precious metal beads have been knotted previously by some
inexperienced designer or manufacturer. Consider it a transgression.
(Very few "legitimate" exceptions apply to those solid gold beads
that only a few lucky souls can afford...)
Precious metal beads are hollow
and have very thin walls. Over time and due to more or less
frequent wearing, the knot next to the precious metal bead will
inevitably (and perhaps mysteriously to the unassuming wearer)
work itself into the inside of the metal bead, tearing the bead wall
on the way in and therefore successfully destroying it.
And if the wall has not collapsed
on the way in, it invariably will do so at the time when the next
repair person has to remove the thread from your necklace in order
to restring it.
A costly mistake for the necklace
owner, courtesy of an indiscriminate jewelry designer.
Thinking outside of the box can
get you places...
8.) Never add gold/silver beads
where they can touch your pearls
Not much needs to be explained
here. Metal beads, especially precious metals (yes, that includes
all Karat Gold) tend to leave black marks that encircle the hole
of the pearls.
The surface of a pearl is much
rougher than you would expect, even though it is on a microscopic
level. Over time and with the movement while the necklace is worn,
the pearls abrade the metal beads and the metal "stains" your
These stains are difficult if not
impossible to remove, because the tiny metal abrasions penetrate the
surface of the pearl. It's ok when that happens to freshwater
pearls, since they are easily replaced. But with cultured pearls or
the South Sea and Tahitian variety, this factor can ruin a sizeable
(Author's note: "Yes, I know, high
Karat gold next to pearls is an irresistible combination, even for
Sometimes, less is more
9.) Wire is not stronger than
Repeat: wire is NOT
stronger than thread. At least when it comes to pearl or bead
stringing. All wires, thread, string, cord, monofilament, even
chain, do eventually break. Count on it. There simply is no
stringing medium out there that will last indefinitely.
The smart bead and pearl repair
person will have many specialty wires or threads, one of which has
the right properties for your specific jewelry item and its needs.
But all of them will eventually break, especially if your piece
contains beads with sharp edged holes or rough insides.
Keeping that assurance in mind,
even recently engineered cords such as Tigertail and Beadalon®
have their limits. What they make up for in tenacity, they lack in
conformability. Meaning that: they may be stronger than thread, but
they are too rigid to withstand the constant movement of wearing,
twisting and bending that is inherent to every string of beads or
Be prepared to have
your pearl and bead jewelry restrung occasionally in order to
maintain its value.
Knowing how to match a clasp to
a necklace is an art
10.) There is no such thing as
Anybody who advertises that their
pearls get "double knotted" ought to get the famous lashes with a
wet noodle. Lots of them.
It is because of dilettantes and
their unqualified little marketing ploy, that relatively large parts
of the pearl wearing public still insist to have their pearls
"double" knotted. It's like the crop circles myth: it never
completely goes away.
Even if you could make double
knots (as in: two knots) to look perfectly pretty and pleasing, they
would have absolutely no purpose. Think about it. Two knots do
not make the necklace stronger. Double knots won't influence the
size of thread that's used for a particular repair, and it's not
that the necklace breaks because of weak knots, but because the
string is worn and aged and brittle and maybe frayed.
So try to eliminate that thought
from your way of thinking altogether. Besides: if the repair person
would have to make two knots, it would be double the work. Double
the work equals double the cost, but if you insist...
Good design convinces. Always.
11.) Why should you have your
pearls knotted, anyway?
For two simple reasons.
One of them is protection, the
other is beauty.
First the pragmatic side. If your
knotted necklace breaks, you may lose one pearl, at the most.
Imagine you would own and cherish
a valuable strand of pearls. One day, you're all dressed up in an
evening gown and you go to this lovely but highly coveted gala
affair. You're in the middle of a conversation with the most
important person of the evening, and your necklace decides to ruin
your life by allowing its thread to snap right then and there.
If knotted, it's a piece of cake
to retrieve the costly little balls and you may even catch them on
their way down, before they reach the floor.
You can't do that maneuver with an
unknotted strand. These puppies will go their separate ways, one by
one. To crawl around and locate all pearls would be the subject of a
nightmare, even if you had good Samaritans to help you.
As for the intrinsic value of
knotting - there simply is no comparison to unknotted pearls.
A knot will separate the pearls
from one another and allow you to see more of their surface area.
And a knotted pearl necklace has that soft, delicate look that we
all so desire in a good strand of well-fitting pearls.
Just think about the poetic image
of a spider web, covered with morning dew. Not by accident is it
often called the "string of pearls". But only possible because of
the little gaps between the droplets, which are the calling card of
Size matters. Even in pearls...
12.) Ask your jeweler to have
your pearls size graded
Usually, strands of pearls are
sold two ways: a particular size or graduated. Graduated pearls have
obvious variations in their size, and they are strung to achieve the
look that they were destined to display.
Any particular size strand will
always contain pearls with sizes differing within half a
millimeter, and the strand should be clearly marked that way. For
example: a strand of pearls marked 7 to 7˝ mm
includes pearls of 7 mm in size to pearls of 7˝ mm in size, as well
as any size in between.
Granted, half a
millimeter is barely noticeable, as it equals only 0.019685 inch.
But if you were to lay two pearls
with a half millimeter size difference next to each other, you would
be surprised at the result!
A well trained eye of a
professional pearl stringer will ensure that your pearls are strung
according to their size: the largest in the center, followed by the
in-between sizes and the smallest ones on the back - next to the
clasp. That is called "size graded".
The result is a stunningly
improved necklace, and it separates your pearl professional from a
dabbler. Details matter, accept nothing less than the best possible
repair for your pearls.
Please note: Anything longer than
20 inches as well as endless strands are usually strung to alternate
between one "small" and one "large" pearl all the way through the
And insist on placing worn pearls
on the back upon restringing, if at all possible.
How well and cleanly the
clasp is attached, tells a humongous story about your pearl stringer
13.) Not all pearl stringers
As you may have understood by
reading these informational hints, a good pearl stringer will
protect and preserve your investment.
Here's a little secret that
you probably won't know: price does not guarantee performance and
neither should price be the single criteria to select a jeweler. Go
with who you trust. (See list below)
it certainly pays to shop around, cost for pearl repairs are upon
the discretion of your jeweler and are determined by his/her
operating cost. Nothing more, nothing less.
Most jewelers have highly skilled
bench jewelers on staff, but they lack the experience of pearl
stringing. Not for any other reason than by default: pearl repairs
are a specialty and constitute a small portion of their repair
The best pearl stringers are those
who specialize in just that and those who have worked with many
different scenarios and a varied clientele. They are also off site,
because they require more space than is necessary for conventional
jewelry repair. It's ok to do that: there are security measures in
place that protect your pearls and their clasps, enhancers and other
Don't be afraid to ask your
jeweler the right questions and be happy when you learn that your
pearls are sent out to a high volume specialist. Only then will you
receive the iron clad guarantee and the peace of mind that are
offered by the invaluable benefit of experience as well as stringent
Don't forget: even the best pearl
stringer can't perform miracles, can't make gold out of straw. If
the pearls or beads were flawed in any way to begin with, sometimes
there is very little to remedy that situation:
small pearls with disproportionally large holes may not produce the
supple flow of your necklace that you can usually expect.
Beads that have tapered holes are sub par and can't yield a nicely
Beads with flat ends, such as cubes, will not lay right by
themselves - they need round beads in between.
Pearls that have been stained by makeup, perfume or any other
chemical often can't be cleaned.
pearls or beads need to be discarded or replaced if a previous
assembler used superglue in order to secure the bead cord. Not
always is it possible to remove that glue.
you have lost or missing beads, they may not be able to be replaced
to match the others. There are billions of beads, many of them which
are no longer produced. Matching pearls or beads can be a daunting
task or not possible at all. In that case, you should trust your
stringing professional's judgment and accept the alternatives that
are being suggested.
The clasp is EVERYTHING!
14.) There are no shortcuts
That said, a necklace that has
only one loose pearl needs to be cut open and restrung in its
Do not ask your jeweler to try and
rig your necklace with some sort of temporary contraption in order
to save money on the repair. You will wind up paying double in the
To give you an analogy: if you
have an appliance with a broken electrical cord, and you try to
patch the cord with some tape, it may eventually short circuit,
causing even bigger problems and you may lose your appliance in one
of the better scenarios.
A broken string is a sure sign
that the entire bead cord needs to be replaced. Bite the bullet,
have it done, and you can be sure that you'll enjoy your piece of
jewelry for many years to come.
There are no more excuses for NOT
15.) Get your pearls restrung
BEFORE they break.
That's the part that YOU can do to
prevent loss of pearls and hence costly repairs. Keep an eye on your
necklace, with special attention to the string.
If it's soiled, loose or frayed,
bring it in for repair.
Keep your pearls clean and free of
body oils. Just wipe with a baby wipe or a cloth moistened with
sudsy water. Do NOT attempt immersing your pearls into your
ultrasonic cleaner - they will get ruined beyond repair.
Store pearl and bead jewelry
laying down rather than hanging; it reduces stretching and stress of
But above all: enjoy your pearls
any opportunity you can!
- Ingrid Webster
First published on 9/27/2014 © by Ingrid Webster. All Rights