Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Preventing dyed fresh water pearls from fading

I use a lot of dyed fresh water pearls in my jewelry. A customer who
bought a bracelet last August contacted me to complain that the
pearls had faded and become dull-looking so she came over to show me
the bracelet. The good news: she loves the bracelet, hardly ever
takes it off, wears it in the shower, etc. The bad news: the bright
green, purple, gold, and reddish pearls are noticeably duller than
before and don’t look nearly as good as when it was purchased. While
I’m glad that she loves it so much, I was thinking that pearls were
never meant to take such a beating (constant wear and showers). So I
replaced the pearls and said if it continues to happen, I will be
glad to do so once/year (she says she gets lots of compliments on it
so I sent her away with a stack of my cards too :slight_smile: Last August, I
also made a necklace using the same variety of pearls. I’ve been
wearing it occasionally (probably about once every two weeks) and
realize now that they have faded too, although not as severely (I use
no hair sprays or perfumes and do not wear it that much and certainly
not in the shower but I did wear it to some outdoor shows where I was
wearing sunscreen). So here’s my question: is there any kind of
sealant or coating I could apply to the pearls to prevent this
fading? I’m thinking it might be hard to spray something on pearls
without marring their beautiful “pearly” finish – has anyone else
done this with satisfactory results? Does anyone know if exposure to
light could speed this process? If so, I could customers to store
them in a dark place (that sounds silly but if it was effective, they
would probably do it).

For those interested in seeing the bracelet in question:

(this is the “before” picture – I didn’t take one of the faded
version before I took it apart to replace the dull pearls).

Any ideas would be appreciated. While I don’t sell high-volumes of
anything, I’m concerned that my pieces are possibly going to look
dull after a year of wear (definitely a BAD thing).

Thanks, Elizabeth

The problem with most dyes - or the advantage if you wear denim
jeans - is that they are fugitive. They fade.

Light and time will oxidize them.

Dyed pearls, just like your sweater or t-shirt, are almost bound to
fade - with the exception of the grey/black ones. These are sometimes
dyed with silver nitrate - and it’s light that actually develops the
color in them, as in a photo.

Tony Konrath
Key West Florida 33040

Hi Elizabeth, That is a beautiful bracelet!

I doubt that any type of sealant will work to hold the brilliant
color. Pigments (the chemical colorants in dyes, paints, plastics,
etc.) are fugitive to different degrees. This means that over time
and especially with exposure to light and/or heat, the colors fade
and/or shift. Purples are usually the most fugitive.

If you look on a site like Windsor & Newton (good quality artist’s
paints), they will have permanence tables for each of their types of
paint according to the colorant. Earth-based natural pigments (like
iron oxide, chromium oxide, etc.) are more permanent than dye-based
pigments (phthalocyanine, quinacridone, etc.). Companies like
Windsor & Newton work hard to make their paints as permanent as

An example of very fugitive, cheap dye would be found in children’s
construction paper. Put it in the sun for a week, and there is a
noticeable fading.

Cloth fades, carpet fades, artwork fades, photos fade.

You might be able to research on the internet what kind of dyes are
usually used on commercial pearls, then check their permanence.
It’s sad but true that dye colors don’t last forever.

Still, it is a very beautiful bracelet that you created, and many of
the things in life that are valued most are not permanent.

Wouldn’t Irradiated cultured pearls hold color longer?

Hi, Elizabeth, and other flower folk,

I don’t know anything about preventing this problem in a piece
that’s already made, but I’m curious about something I saw in my
local bead store–freshwater pearls that the owner claims are coated
with glass. I kind of doubt it, and I don’t like the way they look
particularly, but the sales clerks (designers all) were raving about
them (of course, they raved about the strawberry quartz, too, and
were insulted when I pointed out that you didn’t need a loupe to see
the bubbles).

So, does anyone know about, or have experience with this stuff? I
was told that they hold up very well and don’t fade.

Personally, being addicted to Swarovski (the De Beers of the bead
world–the same bead store says they’ve been informed that certain
styles and colors are back-ordered for 2 years!), I am tempted to
switch to their “pearls.” Much more expensive, but the usual
advantages of uniformity and quality control…So, has anyone used
these to replace freshwaters and, if so, what kind of customer
reaction have you received?

Still waiting for my home in the sky,
Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments
Benicia, CA

Personally, being addicted to Swarovski (the De Beers of the bead
world--the same bead store says they've been informed that certain
styles and colors are back-ordered for 2 years!), I am tempted to
switch to their "pearls." 

When you want the look of a stunning, perfect pearl, but can’t
afford the real thing (who can) nor can your customers, go with
Swarovski. The quality and look is definitely there.

-Dee Dee

    Personally, being addicted to Swarovski I am tempted to switch
to their "pearls." 

Lisa, the Swarovski “pearls” are beautiful and higher quality than
other imitation pearls I’ve used. I love them and use them all the
time in my work. As far as being back-ordered for two years…not
that I know of…I’ve never had any trouble getting the colors and
sizes I needed.

– Leah