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Pearl stringing


Hi Judy,

Just a quick question - I understand the stretching of the cord bit,
but why do you wet the cord with rubbing alcohol rather than water
or any other substance?



Greetings, All -

I’ve been following this discussion for a while. I have taught
stringing seminars nationally & have been stringing for the trade
for over 23 years.

Much of the discussion recently seems focused on French wire vs.
bead tips/clamshells. I use what my customers want. Personally, I
prefer French wire and I put all my pearls on the silk and then knot
the necklace up. Will French wire shred? Not under ordinary use. Will
it tarnish? Yes, but not right away; pearls should be restrung at
least once every 18 months anyway, and more if worn frequently. And
I never pre-stretch my silk: my knots are tight enough not to

There are no objectively “right” answers: the purpose of knotting
pearls is to protect one pearl from rubbing against another.
Secondly, necklaces are knotted in case the silk breaks. At worst,
only one pearl may be lost; knotting will keep the pearls in order,
as they are matched for size & color. The proper order must be
maintained when re-stringing. If the necklace is secure, the
stringing is “right.”

Mary Stachura
Joseph P. Stachura Co., Inc.


Hi Judy,

I have always strung and hung my pearls for a few days before
knotting and I find that I don’t have much stretching of the silk. I
never heard of the rubbing alcohol thing tho. Wouldn’t that damage
the pearls if some got on them? Could water do?

Esta Jo Schifter
Phila PA
Shifting Metal


When I do it with the alcohol, there are no pearls on the silk. I
also don’t use water because silk is weak when water wet. The alcohol
gives it just enough moisture to straighten when the weight is

Judy Shaw


Hello Esta Jo,

You asked if rubbing alcohol would damage pearls. Only the string is
dampened, the pearls don’t soak in it. Decades ago, when my hubby
bought me a string of Mikimoto pearls, the care instructions were to
gently clean the strand by dampening a cotton ball with a mixture of
half warm water and half rubbing alcohol. The dampened cotton was to
be lightly wiped over the strand a few times.

I felt if the most famous cultured pearl maker advocates this method,
it should not harm pearls in general. I’ve seen nothing to indicate
damage, and I’ve been doing this since… well, it seems like
forever! :wink:

Judy in Kansas


Hi Nicole,

why do you wet the cord with rubbing alcohol rather than water or
any other substance? 

Rubbing alcohol volatilizes more quickly than water. That’s the only

Judy in Kansas, where temps are single digits at night. Makes the
sunrise sooooo welcome.


Wanted to put my 2c in here on the pearl stringing. I haven’t read
anything about not using anything at all on the ends of the pearls
except the clasp itself. I learned from a young Japanese girl and the
technique she used was to string all the pearls on the silk, then
loop the needle end through the clasp and bring the pearls through
the loop end (cutting the needle off, of course). She then knotted
tightly from that end (didn’t need to stretch the silk). When nearing
the other end she would leave the last 2 or 3 pearls unknotted,
double wrap the silk through the catch end of the clasp, then bring
the silk back through the unknotted pearls, knotting each. Those last
2 or 3 pearls did have to be reamed out a bit to allow for the extra
thickness of the thread, but the look is lovely; no metal ends at
all, just beautiful pearls attached to a pearl clasp. She also ran a
piece of wax along the thread before stringing to keep the thread
from fraying.

Bev Ludlow
Renaissance Jewelry


Dear Bev and All -

Yes, I have seen the “Japanese” method as well as the European

The purpose of French wire is to protect the silk from rubbing us
against the metal jumpring of the clasp. Over time, the silk will
wear, independent of how many times it is wrapped around the
jumpring; metal is just stronger.

Mary Stachura
Joseph P. Stachura Co., Inc.