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Answer Angel: How to make your pearls shine like new

Ellen Warren, Tribune News Service on

Published in Fashion Daily News

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: My mom gave me her string of cultured pearls but they look kind of dirty. How do I clean them? Or, can they even be cleaned?

— Lucy C.

Dear Lucy: Your question gives me an opening to repeat some advice I’ve given my own sisters: Wear your “good” jewelry;, don’t just tuck it in a drawer for special occasions. This is especially true for jewelry classics like your mom’s pearl necklace. If you don’t wear it, what’s the point of having it in the first place?

Back to your question: Pearls are delicate, so you’ll want to treat them gently. Jewelers recommend frequent wear to keep them from drying out and retaining their luster. To keep them shiny, wipe them with a soft cloth after every wearing. For cleaning, use a slightly damp soft cloth dipped in lukewarm water mixed with a little dishwashing soap. Don’t submerge the pearls in the liquid since that will weaken the silk thread they are knotted on. Dry before storing and store them flat (not hanging) in a fabric-lined compartment/jewelry box — or a case specifically designed for pearls so they won’t get nicked or scratched. Also, keep them away from your hair spray, makeup, body lotion and perfume. Apply all that and let it dry before putting on those pearls. If you follow these easy care steps and periodically check that the silk thread is solid and the pearls don’t need to be restrung, this heirloom necklace can be passed on to the next generation.

Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I’ve not bought shoes online before, but I’m tempted. Yet, I worry that I won’t get the right size. When I buy shoes in person, depending upon the brand, I may need a 10 or a 10 1/2. If it’s tricky in person, how can I be comfortable ordering online? I know they take returns, but should I bother in the first place?

— Jerald J.

Dear Jerald: Online shopping is convenient, efficient and, if free returns are part of the deal, risk-free. Buying shoes in person from local storefront merchants, especially those struggling because of COVID-19, is a noble goal but not always possible. After determining that the online vendor pays the return postage (read the fine print) consider ordering the same shoes in a 10 and 10 1/2 and return the ones that don’t fit.


Dear Answer Angel Ellen: At an art show (outdoors), the first one I’ve attended since I got the COVID-19 vaccine, I was captivated by a signed watercolor and bought it. But there’s a problem. When I got it home and measured it, I discovered that it’s not the size of a standard frame. I intended to frame it myself in a premade frame from Michaels but now I don’t know what to do. Since I didn’t spend much on the art, I sure don’t want to spend more than I paid for my picture just to put a frame on it. Since you often offer frugal DIY advice, can you help me on this one?

— Michelle A.

Dear Michelle: Thrift stores like Goodwill are loaded with ugly art in lovely frames at bargain prices. You’re unlikely to find a frame the precise size for your watercolor, but buy a used one that suits your new artwork. Discard or donate back the art that came in it, then head for Michaels or another craft store that cuts custom mats. Get a mat cut for the exact size that fits your new artwork (about $20, depending on size) and the bargain frame and put the whole thing together at home.

A slightly more expensive but still frugal plan would be to buy a standard size frame at the craft store (they start around $12) and get a mat custom cut to fit in the frame and show off your art. Before you set out on this mission, check the internet for coupons at Michaels (or other frame shop). I just got 20% off the frame I bought there by going the coupon route. And don’t be intimidated by doing it yourself. It’s simple.

Angelic Readers

Reader Alice S. offers a solution to a common problem: a blouse that buttons up the front but gaps slightly. (This works only if you can put the blouse on by slipping it over your head.) “Sew the opening shut. It just takes a few small tack stitches along the seam line of the placket.”

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