I read on the internet that pearls dissolve in vinegar, so I tried it and it worked. Then I was talking to Dr Elizabeth Goring (researcher, writer, curator, collector and lecturer) and she told me that according to legend, Cleopatra dissolved a massive pearl in red wine whilst showing off to Marc Anthony. According to Pliny, once the pearl was dissolved she drank the vinegar and pearl concoction (the vinegar being neutralised by the calcium carbonate and referred to as a 'magistery') thus making it the most expensive meal in the world ever. If true it turns out that this was more likely to be wine vinegar because wine itself isn’t acidic enough.

I found that if you use the right pearls the surface dissolves in a pleasantly uneven way. I’m seduced by the fact that pearls are supposed to be handled with extreme care to protect their shiny lustre from erosion. And, I like the fact that this is an aggressive chemistry experiment more than a craft process.

CaCO3 + 2CH3COOH = Ca(CH3COO2) + H2O + CO2