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Topics: Shell Beads, Mother-of-Pearl

Q.
Can I dye white mother of pearl beads with Rit dye? What do I cover them with to keep the color from transferring? Thanks!
- Rebecca
A.
Fabric dyes such as Rit brand will dye the lustrous nacre surface on pearls and bleached mother-of-pearl beads as they are porous. It is advisable that before you dye an entire batch, you do a test on one or two beads.

A water based dyeing process works best as an acid based dye could etch the surface nacre of your pearls. Do not use aluminum pans or utensils.

Once you find the color you like and dye the pearls, let the dye dry completely and then gently wash the pearls in a very mild soapy water and air dry for at least two hours. If the color fades, you can dye again for more color. After each dyeing session, be sure to wash the pearls to avoid any color transfer when handled or worn. Sealing the pearls with a fixative is not recommended as it can result in a reduced luster or worst case, potentially cracking the nacre. Keep a journal of your dye ingredient ratios and processes to help recreate colors. Step-by-step instructions for dyeing pearls along with helpful tips can be found in ''Dye Your Own Pearls'' illustrated instructions.

- Michelle Wood, Jewelry-Making Expert

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