Restoring MOP buttons
It sometimes happens that you damage the beautiful lustre of Mother of Pearl buttons. This is especially likely if you wash them in modern washing detergents for clothes.
These strong detergents contain powerful enzymes (thanks for the reminder of this from Peterle). Designed to facilitate the removal of stains by dissolving proteins, unfortunately they don’t differentiate between the proteins in strains and the protein in mother of pearl, or silk and wool for that matter. Mother of pearl is protein made by the oyster. So eventually these beautiful buttons can be badly dissolved by washing in standard clothes washing soaps.
So what to do if you damage your rather expensive MOP Buttons?
If it’s not too far gone you can reasonably easily restore the surface of the buttons which will bring back their lustrous gleam, to a large extent. Here is what I did.
A small packet of Cerium oxide – from an ebay vendor most likely. It shouldn’t cost more than $10.00 for much more than enough.
An electric drill
A small stick of ¼ inch / 5 mm wooden dowel or plastic rod.
A small wad of cotton cloth.
A wad of bostich/blutack or similar sticky stuff.
The MOP button sits on top of the bostick on the dowel in the drill.
You dampen the wad of cloth and dip it into a small amount of the Cerium oxide
The button is stuck to the end of the short rod and balanced carefully.
The spinning button (not too fast) is gently brought against the wad with its cerium.
About 2 minutes makes a difference. 4 minutes a button is good.
The orange cloth is polished and shiny – the grey cloth is milky and dull, despite both still showing the lustre of the MOP underneath
It is time consuming, 4 minutes times 10 odd buttons plus a gap between each, comes to around an hour a set. So you would only do it if you really loved the buttons or couldn’t get the buttons easily or cheaply. BUT you can do it.