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Does Vinegar Melt Pearls?


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Many of us know the tale of Cleopatra and the Pearl Earring..."There have been two pearls that were the largest in the whole of history; both were owned by Cleopatra, the last of the Queens of Egypt—they had come down to her through the hands of the Kings of the East....In accordance with previous instructions the servants placed in front of her only a single vessel containing vinegar, the strong rough quality of which can melt pearls. She was at the moment wearing in her ears that remarkable and truly unique work of nature. Antony was full of curiosity to see what in the world she was going to do. She took one earring off and dropped the pearl in the vinegar, and when it was melted swallowed it....(Source)"


But, you may be wondering if this is really possible. The answer: kind of.


According to pearlwise, "Theoretically speaking, pearls can dissolve in vinegar. Pearls consist of calcium carbonate while vinegar is acetic acid. When the two are combined, there’s a reaction. However, while the vinegar can cause damage to the pearl, it doesn’t necessarily dissolve it like aspirin. It could take from several minutes to hours to even days, and even then the pearl may still not be completely dissolved."


While a pearl can technically dissolve in vinegar, it is more likely that the vinegar will severely damage your pearl by dissolving the outer layers, leaving you with a dingy and dull looking pearl with greatly diminished value. Next time you're making a salad dressing or using vinegar to clean, leave your pearls in the jewelry box just in case!




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