Eve's Insight, Pearl Society

Are my Pearls authentic? How do I tell?

Dear Eve,

I was recently given a four strand gold pearl necklace purchased in the Philippine Islands in the 60’s.  I am questioning their authenticity.

How do I tell?

Thanks, Catherine
Promise of Spring pearl necklace by jewelry designer Eve J Alfille
Promise of Spring necklace

You have asked a great question, are they in fact pearls from an oyster, or man-made

This comes up quite often as people inherit jewelry from family members.  And, in fact it is fairly easy to know.

The Pearl Test:  The simple test is to rub them one pearl against another (you can rub fairly hard).

Pearls cultured from oysters are gritty in feel even thought they may look smooth.  Natural or cultured pearls will have that gritty feel when you rub them together, while faux pearls feel smooth.

You can also rub a pearl against your teeth, if you like, and your real pearls will give the same impression of grittiness.

This is due to the fact that the organic substance deposited by oysters consists of microscopic crystalline plates, whereas man-made pearls are beads of glass (or plastic) coated in one or more layers of varnish.  Some are even dipped in a mixture which includes ground-up fish scales to add some luminescence.

Promise of Spring necklace,” by artist Eve J Alfille, features a collection of natural color pearls, cultured around the world; which Eve has combined to make up this beautiful necklace with her 18k white gold “Acanthus” series clasp.
If you would like to learn more about pearls in general, you might like to become a member of The Pearl Society and receive the quarterly newsletter.  Dues are $25 a year, and include bi-monthly meetings held in my Evanston, IL Gallery The Eve J. Alfillé Gallery & Studio (in the Chicago area).
In fact, the very next meeting of The Pearl Society is Sunday, July 22, from 3 – 5 pm at Eve’s Gallery where the speakers will be discussing Natural Wisconsin pearls.
Eve's Insight

10 Tips – How to care for your jewelry

It may seem like your Jewelry takes care of itself.  After all, its made from strong metals, and stones as old as time.  Truth be told, your jewelry is as fragile as it is pretty, and a little bit of care, will go a long way.

Here are a few crucial tips for cleaning and maintaining your jewelry which help ensure that your precious pieces will last a lifetime.

mangled gemstone setting
A mangled gemstone setting.

1. Treat your jewelry with care!  All jewelry should be removed before doing housework, gardening, workouts and sports.

Most people go to great lengths to avoid scratching their car, but expect their precious jewelry to survive all their activities unscathed.  Cars are made out of steel which has a hardness of 6 on the Moh’s scale. Precious metals have a hardness of 2.5 or 3, which is much softer than steel!  Even gripping the handlebars of your bike or elliptical machine will cause your precious metal rings (and sometimes bracelets too,) to bang against a much harder object repeatedly.  (Would you ever bang your car against a steel object repeatedly?!)

If you cannot take off your rings to work out or garden, at least wear the proper gloves to offer some level of cushioning and protection of the metal and gemstones!

2. Do not store your jewelry together.

Keep each piece in a soft pouch, separate compartment or cotton lined box. Diamonds, rubies and sapphires will scratch or abrade every other thing they touch.  Likewise, metal will scratch other metals.  Pearls are also extremely soft and should not be stored with other gems.  Store your things carefully, don’t cram all the pouches into a drawer or box, delicate settings can become damaged or bent (even broken by too much pressure) if improperly stored.

3. Clean your jewelry regularly – but be sure the method used is safe for your piece.

For most of your jewelry we actually recommend cleaning it with a common household item you might not expect. . . rubbing alcohol!  Yes, really, rubbing alcohol – a simple solution that is readily available at any drugstore or supermarket will remove grease and dirt with a little gentle brushing.

Misaligned pearls on a strand
Pearl Necklace in need of restringing.

We suggest putting the jewelry in a small dish covered with the rubbing alcohol for a few minutes, then use a soft brush (like an old soft bristle toothbrush) to remove the film left by lotion, soap, dirt and oils (yes, we have seen dried food inside settings too – ugh!)  Be sure to use the brush to go in & around and behind all the settings and gems, then rinse again with alcohol (or water) and let air dry on a clean soft towel.

DO NOT use rubbing alcohol on porous gems; like emeralds which contain oil and must only be cleaned with lukewarm water; opals, which have a high water content; or porous gems like turquoise, bone, etc.  Porous gems should only be cleaned with lukewarm water and a soft brush, then dried as above.  If you own a laser-drilled diamond, fracture-filled ruby or other gem with an unconventional treatment, skip the alcohol and use only warm water & the soft bristle brush, and keep them away from acids like lemon juice!

If in doubt, have it professionally cleaned.

Scratching and other damage can occur from improper cleaning.  Do not over clean.   Never use bleach or household cleaners.  When in doubt, do not use chemicals, but use a soft brush and luke warm water.

Surprisingly, rubbing alcohol will not damage pearls, however, pearls set into jewelry are usually also cemented to a precious metal post with glue or epoxy, so do not leave a piece with a pearl set in it soaking in any liquid for more than a few minutes as it may begin to loosen the cement that is holding it in place.

4. Periodically check for loose gems by gently shaking the piece, or by tapping it with your finger near your ear.
Prongs may be checked by trying to insert a thin piece of paper between the gem and the metal prongs. When in doubt, have it professionally checked. Have all loose gemstones tightened before wearing your jewelry

5.  Restring your gemstone and/or pearl bracelets and necklaces regularly.

Pearls are usually strung securely with silk, and are knotted between each pearl to avoid abrasion and prevent loss if the string should break. If your pearls seem to “travel” loosely on the thread or if the thread has discolored, it is time to restring. Have the pearls restrung once a year, if worn frequently. Heavier pearls may need to be restrung more often.

If the pearls seem to become dingy, it is time for a cleaning. Pearls can be cleaned professionally or you can wash them gently with Woolite in warm water, being careful not to stretch the thread. Rinse thoroughly and let air dry on a towel until the thread is completely dry (usually at least 24 hours).

Separated metal clasp
A separated metal clasp

6. Check clasps and fasteners often.   If they are not properly adjusted you risk losing your piece, so bring it in and have it professionally checked, adjusted or repaired if needed.

7. Do not store opals & pearls in the vault or a plastic bag, unless you keep a small open container of water in with it, and do not store them in direct sunlight either, or let acids and chemicals come into contact with them.

Pearls and opals will dry out and become discolored or loose their luster, even crack if stored in too dry an environment. Never expose pearls or opals to hair sprays, cosmetics, perfumes, sun lotions or insect repellents – the acids in them will attack the pearls. Often “Grandma’s pearls” are no longer beautiful and lose their value because they were stored in a safety deposit box or vault where the temperature and moisture are adjusted to keep paper documents, stocks, money, etc. in the best condition.

Pearl and opal dealers will keep an open container of water INSIDE their safes (and make sure to keep them filled) to avoid this sort of damage. You should also do this.  It is OK to keep your pearls & opals in a sealed plastic bag for a short period of time, but they will dry out and potentially sustain damage if left for too long.  This also applies to leaving these jewels in a hot, closed car – we do not recommend this!  Pearls should be the last article to go on and first to come off when dressing.

8. Take your jewelry off at night or when doing rigorous activities.

Platinum & palladium jewelry is very durable and strong, and they do not lose metal through wear and contact like other precious metals do, however they can still be scratched.  Other precious metals, like gold and silver, will scratch and gradually become worn as they come in contact with other objects and frequent wear.  Even your sheets will contribute to this, so we strongly recommend you take off your jewelry at night and store it gently until you put it back on.

9. Avoid wearing any gold or silver, opals, pearls & porous gems) jewelry in chlorinated water, such as swimming pools and hot tubs, because chlorine attacks the alloys in these metals.

Jewelry made of 14 karat gold is 58.5% gold and the other 41.5% is a mix of different metal alloys — depending on the color of the gold and the manufacturer’s formula.   18 karat gold is 75% pure gold and the balance are different metal alloys.  Chlorine attacks the molecular structure of the piece, and suspends the alloys in solution, actually carrying away some of the alloys with each exposure, greatly weakening your piece of jewelry.  You risk gems falling from their settings or the piece cracking as a result of the effects of chlorine and other damaging chemicals, so do not wear them in swimming pools, hot tubs, or while working with bleach and other harsh chemicals & acids.  Platinum and palladium are nearly chemically inert, so they are not affected.

10. Dirt & grime build-up will dull the beauty and sparkle of your gemstone set rings & cause stones to be pushed out of their settings!

This is true for all your jewelry, but rings are the most vulnerable because we wash our hands frequently through out the day. Soap residue, lotion, sunscreen, dirt and grime build-up inside your rings over time and can actually gradually cause your gemstones and diamonds to be pushed out of their settings and be lost. As these substances accumulate inside your ring settings through normal wear, they will dry and harden almost acting like cement behind the gems. Then, as you wash your hands during the day, or while washing dishes or preparing food, this buildup gets moist and expands, creating a pressure that works to loosen your gems. Over time, with repeated wetting, expanding and then drying and contracting, the gems are slowly pushed out of their moorings. So, please remember to clean them regularly to avoid these problems and keep them looking pretty, sparkly and well cared for.

If you’re ever in doubt about the care of your precious pieces, or you have a piece in dire need of care, please drop by or call for a special appointment.

Eve J Alfillé
(847) 869-7920

Design Series

Jazz Age in France

From the Jazz Age Series by Eve J Alfille
From the Jazz Age Series by Eve J Alfille

A fascinating and optimistic time in history when music, art, architecture and society took on a transformation of unconventional ideas while maintaining a sense of elegance. We’re drawn to the breathtaking time of excitement and hopefulness wanting to explore for ourselves these wonderful delicacies.
Music was electric and captivated our senses. Everyone knew of Gershwin, Cole Porter and Maurice Ravel. But it was French entertainers like Ada “Bricktop” Smith and the great Josephine Baker who performed nightly to Paris audiences.  When Jazz arrived, it was overwhelmingly accepted by the Parisians. It allowed people like Josephine Baker to become a star.
Inspirational developments included Art Deco design and architecture. The Art Deco aesthetic was wonderfully sleek and streamlined with symmetrical and geometric designs. It’s character was seen in everything from furniture, fashion to jewelry.
As a society, the sense of excitement came from freedoms of individuality such as hand holding, free flowing dresses and beautiful jewelry. It gave permission to define who you want to be.

Watch a wonderful video of France in the 1920’s.

Design Series

“Jazz Age” Eve J Alfille’s New Jewelry Series

"Jazz Age" New Jewelry Series
“Jazz Age” New Jewelry Series

Welcome to Eve J Alfille Gallery & Studio’s new jewelry series, “Jazz Age”. Take a moment to explore the thoughts, inspirations and creations of the Artist’s Statement.

In French schools, the recent past is not taught: too fresh to be history, it may revive controversy. So my high school classes learned all about Versailles and the Baroque style, but nothing about Art Deco, or jazz. Though ‘The Jazz Age’ usually denotes a period in the late 1920’s, its great innovations in style extended long past the 1929 crash. The elegance of Art Deco, coupled with its practicality and relative simplicity, “suggesting better times”, still speaks to us today.

As a child, what had impressed me was the wild romanticism of Art Nouveau, the Paris Metro entrances, the soaring street lights with their sweeping curves. On the other hand, I had nothing but contempt for my parents’ 1940’s furniture, with their restrained, stylized curves, the symmetry and repetition of the little corner motifs, chevrons carved and inlaid in contrasting wood. A frisson ran down my spine recently when, in a 2012 auction catalog I spied those exact armchairs, an Art Deco exemplar, quoted for an extremely handsome sum! How I wish I

"Jazz Age" Featured Earrings and Necklace
“Jazz Age” Featured Earrings and Necklace

had them now!

We revere the elegance of this style: ever modern, it can be treated sumptuously with rare materials, like the inlaid Jean Dunand screen I almost bought in Switzerland in 1981, when we spent a couple of years in Geneva, and my mother-in-law’s diamond brooch. But it had also formed a background of our growing years in its more humble interpretations, the facades of the movie theaters in our small towns, the old Philco radios with the pleated wood cases, the streamline toasters of our early years.

I love the functionality, the stylishness: Art Deco is above all a way of seeing, it looks at the pure geometry of everyday objects, the sun, fountains, ocean liners, the pyramids, and translates them into flat decorative motifs that are at once restrained and joyous! For me, what inspired my current Jazz Age series is the particular duality of the style: how it makes room for both movement and repose, exuberance and severity, inspiration from current times and times past. What other decorative style can throw together speedy trains and ancient pyramids, maybe both in the same piece?

"Jazz Age" pendant
“Jazz Age” pendant

In this series, I have to remind myself to proceed past restraint: it’s permitted to be joyous, even with nothing but the black, white and gray diamonds and pearls! And no problem letting rubies in, just remember to color within the lines! So we will work from both ends, the pastels of moonstones, Ceylon sapphires and opals, and the glorious reds, oranges and yellows of jades, citrines, topaz and rubies. I design, hearing the jazz of Coltrane and Davis, the coolness and the splendor alternating. White gold and palladium for coolness, blush gold for delicacy, all are playing a role in my new Jazz Age series.

Gallery Events

You Are Invited to Springtime Fun at Eve’s Jewelry!

Saturday, April 14th
12:00 – 5:00 p.m.
for springtime fun!

Stop on into the Eve J Alfille Gallery and Studio wearing your favorite, most beautiful or most unusual (yes, even the ugliest) piece of jewelry featuring birds, bees or other nature inspired jewelry… and have fun seeing everyone else’s!

We’ll be Imageraffling a beautiful pair of sterling silver ’Firefly’ earwires create by Eve!
Refreshments will be served.

Raffle Fun!

Stop in and show us your Eve  (or other) birds, bees, bugs, or nature jewelry and drop your name in our flower pot raffle to win these beautiful sterling silver ‘Firefly’ earwires.