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Acetone and pearls

I had a customer blow a gasket when she found out I take pearls out
by soaking the ring in acetone. She said she read somewhere, maybe
Readers Digest, that this was a terrible thing to do.

I’ve been doing it since before the beginning and never had a

What do y’all think?

Paf Dvorak

Customer is ignorant, patiently explaining that acetone does no
damage to pearls is all you can do.

The pearl nacre is a mix of organic and calcite layers so for the
purpose that you soak pearls in acetone for I see no problems being
created in the short term but I would be aware that the long term
immersion may causeproblems if the organic structure is compromised.
I cant say I have done any testing in this direction but have looked
at the structure of nacreous materials for the possibility of its use
in body armour. The results are interesting. Nick Royall

Ooooo! I get ALL of my jewelry technical from Reader’s
Digest:-) Tell you customer to take her ring to them for repair.

Tim just pointed out that we have a very very nice 12mm south sea
pearl soaking in acetone as I write.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

Works for me. Or you can use heat. Only two choices I know of.

Bad idea- pearls accrue a layer of body oils over the years that
help the nacre become more beautiful. Any solvent removes that.
Pearls are a calcium carbonate so acids will dissolve the actual
pearl (rapidly!!! I might acetone or other solvent will dissolve an
undrilled pearl but with a drill or half-drill it would seem too
risky particularly on a big pendeloque Tahitian pearl or similar.

Most literature on the subject of pearl care does not recommend
steam nor ultrasonic cleaning of pearl material nor does letting it
come into contact with alcohol based parfums, hair sprays, and other
chemical cosmetic preparations, acidic or alkaline fluids or even
perspiration. It does quote the old adage “Pearls are meant to be
worn” by the Mikimoto Co.

founder and creator of Akoya cultured pearls who recommend daily
wear to add to the lustre of the material. Since acetone and similar
alcohols are used as diluents it would follow that they too are
"warranty breakers"!I use a soft cloth never an impregnated cloth
though they may say 'safe for pearls"…rer

use a soft cloth 

I tried that but the pearl wouldn’t come out of the ring so I soaked
it in acetone instead.

Paf Dvorak

What process do you use to remove a pearl from a peg onto which it
has been glued using epoxy? In the old days, when we used pearl
cement heat would soften the cement, which is really just an opaque
white shellac. But today pretty much everyone uses epoxy. So, other
than acetone, which is a fairly benign solvent as these things go,
what do you use to remove a pearl from a post? Another functional
technique would be very interesting to learn and probably very useful
to know.

Elliot Nesterman

I use pure acetone to remove pearls, as you probally do too, -explain
to customer there is a big difference between pure acetone and nail
polish remover - which has many ingrediants besides pure acetone.

Best regards
Cecelia Gettemy GG

PS I wonder if she argues with her DR if he/she does something
readers digest does not recommend?

An alternative to acetone is a product called “ATTACK” which is
specifically formulated to soften and dissolve epoxy and polyester
resins. I’ve been told it is essentially dry cleaning fluid, but I
don’t know. The label lists methylene chloride as an ingredient,
which is known to be somewhat hazardous, depending on exposure. It is
made by Hughes Associates, Wayzata, MN and is available from Roseco
in Dallas, TX. Works great, a lot faster than acetone, and doesn’t do
a thing to pearls, at least none that I’ve ever worked with.

Dave Phelps

Hello Elliot,

Heat should soften the epoxy and allow the pearl to be pulled off.
My epoxy info states that it will not hold if exposed to sustained
temperatures at 200 degrees F.

Judy in Kansas, where temps in the mid 90s are much more consistent
with summer. darnit. Sure enjoyed the mild weather while it lasted.

There’s a product called Attack that’s made for removing solvents,
sold at I haven’t tried it
myself, but was told it’s OK for pearls

Do you attack or regular Acetone?

Andy The Tool Guy Kroungold
Stuller Inc

I my old trade shop days when we didn’t have time to soak a pearl
off we’d just heat the peg with a tiny torch flame or a pair of
sacrificial pliers that we’d heat up to red hot and then grab the
base of the post with it to heat the epoxy or pearl cement.

About 20 years ago I heated the peg to remove a large and expensive
pearl. It was put on with super glue. When the glue got hot it
turned to a gas that expanded and cleaved the pearl exactly in half.
I had to call my wholesale customer to apologize and then called the
pearl broker. It was going to cost me about $150.00 to replace.

The next day my customer the lovely and talented, and sadly late
Lisa Chuman called laughing. Later that previous evening she had a
meeting with a client who said “Is there any way you could just cut a
large pearl in half and use it on the ends of my bracelet?” Lisa
replied, “Oh you know I have this lady jeweler and she’s an expert at
just this sort of thing.” Whew!!! I didn’t have to buy that other

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

I do it all the time myself, with no problems. Better is MEK, but
that’s no no longer available in my area. “Attack” pearl remover is
ridiculously expensive and not worthwhile as far as I’m concerned.


What process do you use to remove a pearl from a peg onto which it
has been glued using epoxy? 

Tried and true, heat. Epoxy will soften up quite easily if heated to
very slightly over too-hot-to-hold. I usually heat the tips of some
heavy tweezers to cherry and grip the base of the post with them. The
heat will transfer up the post. Gently twist the pearl with your
fingers back and forth and you’ll feel it loosen up. Works especially
well with silver, OK with gold, not worth a darn with platinum.

When the piece is too heavy around the area of the post for the hot
tweezer trick, I will directly heat the piece right under the area of
the post with the side of a reducing flame. Never aim the flame at
the pearl or even the piece itself, use the side of the flame, with
the flame aimed upward with the piece on it’s side. It only has to
get a little hot. Grip the pearl with tweezers (fingers are better if
possible) and gently twist back and forth as you heat. It will start
to move and then come right off.

Don’t twist too hard too quickly or you can twist the post off with
the pearl when the glue around the pearl starts to soften but the
post is still solidly glued. That’ll make you want to say bad words.

Dave Phelps

Do you use attack or regular Acetone? 

Reagent grade acetone.

Paf Dvorak

Since Jo told us her super glue cleavage story, I thought I’d share
this one. (You know, out of context “super glue cleavage” sounds like
something quite different.) This was told me by one of the jewelers
involved in the incident. All parties will remain nameless.

At one of the finest ateliers here in NY an important natural pearl
was being remounted. When I say “an important pearl,” this was a
pearl with a history. It even had a name, just like other important
precious stones.

The mounting was finished and the pearl had to be placed on its
post. My friend and the jeweler at the next bench had built the new
piece and were having a disagreement on how best to glue on the
pearl. One was in favor of using epoxy, the other said they should
use pearl cement. The discussion, I won’t call it an argument, went
on for a few minutes and my friend decided to get the boss to settle
the question.

As he was coming back to his bench with the owner they saw that in
his absence the other jeweler had taken the pearl, heated it and the
mount and was sliding it onto the post coated with pearl cement. As
he pushed the pearl home they heard a crack or pop.

The pearl, from the heat and internal pressure of the post and
cement, had cracked internally, causing a large cold spot to form
where the nacre had separated in a circle. The pearl was still in one
piece, but no longer had a uniform luster.

It was a disaster. The owner called it “a death.”

Be careful out there.

Elliot Nesterman

OK, I’ll jump in on this topic. A long time ago when I was just a
kid I was taught this solution-not using any chemicals.

Mr. Baum of Baumell Pearls taught me a trick that uses a microwave,
cup that is heat resistant and water. You fill the cup with water,
put the jewelry down inside, below the water level and turn the oven
on for a minute or so. On some pieces I have done this up to 5
minutes total. The hot water heats the piece–including the post and
epoxy. You may have to do this several times but you can check it in
intervals. As was mentioned, don’t twisttoo hard–the pearl should
dislodge easily without breaking off the post. Sometimes the pearl
is placed very tightly on the post and anything like Attack or
acetone won’t get up inside-even after a day or two. Thistrick was a
quicker way for Mr. B to get pearls off ASAP for his trade customers
who didn’t have time to wait for an hour or more. I have also done
this on other beads (although not opal or coral). I was squeamish at
the first attempt but it works out fine, as long as the piece is
covered with water…

I don’t like heating the piece by torch myself after glazing a pearl
once–looked like toasted marshmallow on the edge. That pearl cost
me about $100.00 back in the day.

My understanding is that, as long as the item is covered with water,
it’s temp when heated is unable to rise too far above 212 degrees
Fahrenheit, maybe a degree or two. Perhaps that’s why this technique
seems to be a safe one.