How to Clean Mother of Pearl & Other Shell Necklaces

by Jaimie Zinski
Mother of pearl is thin and fragile, so it chips and breaks easily.

Mother of pearl is thin and fragile, so it chips and breaks easily.

Mother of pearl -- the iridescent inner lining found in many shells, including oysters, abalone and paua -- is prized for its delicate beauty and natural color variations. Because it's very fragile and brittle, mother of pearl jewelry must be cleaned, cared for and stored properly to avoid scratches or even worse, breakage. Whether your shell necklace is created from mother of pearl or a sturdier puka or abalone shell, you should clean and store it with the same level of care.

Create a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon mild dish detergent and 3 cups cool water in a small plastic bowl. Stir the water to incorporate the soap. Because shells and mother of pearl are fragile, make sure you use a mild product and cool water. A mild soap contains no dyes or perfumes.

Dampen the corner of a soft, lint-free cloth with the soapy mixture. Wipe down the mother of pearl or shell necklace, using a light hand. Clean any hard-to-reach areas by wiping them with a cotton swab dampened with the soapy mixture. Never submerge or soak mother of pearl jewelry in water, because it can cause damage.

Dampen a separate lint-free cloth with plain, cool water and wipe off the soapy residue from your mother of pearl or shell necklace. Dab the excess water away with a dry, lint-free cloth and lay the pieces on a cotton washcloth. Allow the jewelry to air dry overnight.

Items you will need

  • 1/2 teaspoon mild dish soap
  • 3 cups cool water
  • Small plastic bowl
  • Lint-free cloths
  • Cotton swab
  • Cotton washcloth
  • Small plastic baggie


  • Store your mother of pearl or shell necklace separately from any other jewelry in a jewelry box, jewelry armoire or small plastic baggie. Because mother of pearl is so delicate, it's important to display or store your jewelry in a cool, dry spot.


  • Never clean mother of pearl jewelry with steam or an ultrasonic cleaner. Both methods will seriously damage the piece.

About the Author

Residing in Chippewa Falls, Wis., Jaimie Zinski has been writing since 2009. Specializing in pop culture, film and television, her work appears on Star Reviews and various other websites. Zinski is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in history at the University of Wisconsin.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images