The Add-A-Pearl tradition in my family started about 50 years ago, thanks to my mom, Janet. I can't recall what exactly made her start but it must have been for my ninth or 10th birthday that she brought me home my pearls. We didn't have much and I remember thinking that they were the most beautiful thing I'd ever owned. Funny, but a half century later, I still feel that way.
My mother started the add-a-pearl natural necklace for Amanda when she was baptized in August, 1997. She bought pearls for birthdays and Christmas until she passed in February, 2002.
Seeing as pearl is the birthstone of June, the timing is right to highlight a precious gem whose lore, beauty, and mystique has been prized as far back as 2206 BC. During Ancient Roman times, Julius Caesar was fascinated with natural pearls. Being that they were associated with the goddess of love, Venue, Caesar would gift pearls to his favorite mistresses. At the height of the Roman Empire, when the pearl obsession reached its peak, the noted Roman historian writer Suetonius expressed that the Roman general Vitellius financed an entire military campaign by selling just one of his mother’s pearl earrings.
With proper care, your Add-A-Pearl necklace will last a lifetime. Pearls are delicate gems and need special attention to maintain their beauty and luster.
Always remove your pearls before swimming or showering. Pearls are strung on silk thread which can weaken when submerged in water. If the silk weakens, the strand can break causing loss of pearls or damage to your valuable necklace. It’s advisable to remove your necklace before going to bed or participating in sports.
Separate from diamonds and gold
Pearls are soft gems and should be stored separately away from other gemstones and jewelry. Harder gems and metals can scratch the pearls’ surface causing damage to their sensitive skins. We suggest you store your necklace in its original box or in a chamois cloth to protect it from contact with other jewelry items. To maintain their beauty and luster, pearls need to breathe. Never keep them in an airtight container or sealed in a bank safety box for extended periods of time. The dryness will cause pearls to become dry and possibly cracked. Pearls love to be worn and the human body provides just the right amount of moisture to keep your pearls in perfect condition.
Last on first off
Pearl experts coined the phrase “last on, first off’ meaning you should put your pearls on last, after getting dressed, after using perfume, lotion or hair products and remove your pearls first before changing your clothes or going to bed. That way, you can avoid the chance of tugging on your necklace and accidentally breaking it.
You should always keep pearls away from household products, chemicals or perfumes and lotions which can erode the sensitive skins on your pearls. Cleaning products containing ammonia and chlorine can be especially harmful to pearls causing them to be permanently damaged. Avoid wearing pearls while cleaning, cooking or gardening.
Use good judgement
One final bit of advice, is to simply use good judgement while wearing your pearls. You be the best judge of the right age of your little girl’s readiness and maturity to care for her necklace. If your little girl has an Add-A-Pearl necklace she loves to wear, we know she’ll want to show it off at school, but the playground and gym class can wreak havoc on her necklace and increase the possibility of loss. We strongly suggest having her wear it only on special occasions until she’s old enough to understand the inherent value in fine jewelry so she can cherish it for a lifetime!
Add-A-Pearl is a way to create a complete strand of pearls over a period of time. The original gift is usually a single pearl necklace presented to a baby or young girl with one or more pearls on a 14-kt gold chain. Through the years, pearls can be added whenever friends and family wish to make an addition until the necklace becomes either a full strand of pearls or until the preferred number of pearls or look is achieved, perhaps at 16 or 22 pearls symbolizing a sweet 16 or college graduation. Most often, pearls are given for birthdays and at holiday time. Valentine’s Day, Easter, confirmation, graduation and other special milestones offer ideal opportunities to add pearls.
My daughter was very ill with anemia in 2006 at 10 years old and no one seemed to know what was going on. In January of 2007, right after she had turned 11 she was so weak at school that the nurse called for me to pick her up. I called her doctor and he sent us to Brenner’a Childen’s Hospital near our home. After several days of testing, about a week in hospital and a couple pints of blood the doctors told us that she had a form of cancer called GIST or gastrointestinal stromal tumors, very rare in children. On February 15, 2007 she had 1/2 of her stomach and her duodenum removed. We knew we wanted to celebrate this day much like we would a birthday so I tried a few small gifts but wanted something she could have forever. To celebrate her being cancer free we decided to add a pearl to her necklace each year on Feb. 15. This year marked 12 years cancer free!
I order a new pearl for my daughter's necklace each year as a cancer free anniversary gift. Hopefully this will go on for a very very long time.
written by Angela Hines, Statesville, NC