15 Things You Should Know Before You Have Your Pearls Restrung!
By Ingrid Webster, www.addbeads.com
Reprinted with permission
Iron Rule for Bead or Pearl 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:
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 amount of pearls on the repair envelope and on your receipt.
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 loose pearls.
Remember: pearls are round little critters and can roll away by default. Only if your jeweler knows the correct amount of your pearls, can he or she ensure that the little stray orb gets reunited with its friends.
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.
3.) If your necklace was unknotted and you want it knotted, it will come back longer
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 amount of pearls on your strand.
Typically, a 16″ strand of pearls or average size beads will increase by about 1 to 1½ inches. If you like to keep your necklace within a certain size, make sure that you let your jeweler know ahead of time.
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 better performance.
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 too.
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 best?
*note: this is the only part of the article with which we mildly disagree. Bead World still uses classic silk and finds that it performs admirably.
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.
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.
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 hole anyway.
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 phenomenon.
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.
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 pearls.
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 sizable investment.
(Author’s note: “Yes, I know, high Karat gold next to pearls is an irresistible combination, even for me…”)
9.) Wire is not stronger than thread
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 pearls.
Be prepared to have your pearl and bead jewelry restrung occasionally in order to maintain its value.
10.) There is no such thing as double-knotting
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…
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 the knots.
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 7½ mm includes pearls of 7 mm in size to pearls of 7½ 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 entire strand.
And insist on placing worn pearls on the back upon restringing, if at all possible.
13.) Not all pearl stringers are equal
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)
While 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 intakes.
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 findings.
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 quality standards.
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:
● Very small pearls with unproportionally large holes may not produce the supple flow of your necklace that you can usually expect.
● Beads that have tapered holes are subpar and can’t yield a perfectly knotted strand.
● 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.
● Some 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.
● If 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.
14.) There are no shortcuts
That said, a necklace that has only one loose pearl needs to be cut open and restrung in its entirety.
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 end.
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.
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 the cord.
But above all: enjoy your pearls any opportunity you can!