How to tell if pearls are real? Whether you’re a seasoned pearl buyer or just looking into buying pearls for the first time, it’s important to know the difference between real and fake pearls.
Pearls are one of the rarest and most valuable jewellery materials in the world. Real pearls are created naturally by oysters, mussels and some molluscs. They can be cultured or natural. When a pearl is naturally created, it means that it was produced with no human-assistance involved. While cultured pearls are pearls created with the help of humans. These are normally created by dedicated mussel or oyster farmers on what some call, “cultured pearl farms”. Commercially, the pearl jewellery you buy is most likely to be created using cultured pearls, as these are much more easily available compared to natural pearls.
In this post, when we talk about ‘Real’ pearls, we’re talking about either cultured or natural pearls. On the other hand, fake pearls are pearls which don’t come from oysters or mussels. They are normally created by man-made materials, such as glass or plastic. Some fake pearls can also be made from polished shells made to look like real pearls, but of course, might not have the same shine or colours as real pearls have.
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Tips: How To Tell If Pearls Are Real or Fake:
- Examine the shape of each pearl:
Real pearls are imperfect. Their shape is slightly jagged or wobbly-looking. While fakes are smooth and perfectly round. When viewing the shape of your pearls, pay attention to the symmetry of each pearl. If a pearl has a perfectly round sphere shape, then it’s most likely to be a fake, imitation pearl.
- Look for a clean, sharp lustre:
Pick your pearls up towards the light and look at the shine or lustre of them. A real pearl will have a bright, clear shine on the surface, allowing you to see your own reflection on the pearl. Fake pearls have almost no or very little shine on the surface. Although some real pearls with a chalky surface may also have a dull lustre. In which case please use the other methods in this post to check the authenticity of your pearls.
- Check for overtones on the pearls:
Overtones are the natural colour on the pearl’s surface. This colour is very subtle but gives real pearls a beautiful, timeless look. The most common overtones in pearls are rose, ivory and hints of green. These overtones are very difficult to replicate on fake pearls. To see your pearls overtone, pick the pearl up towards the light and look carefully at the surface. Depending on your pearl, you’ll see a very light hint of colour – This is the overtone. Please note, not all real pearls have an overtone, but most in your pearl jewellery will. If you can’t see an overtone on your pearls, try another method in this post to check the realness of your pearls.
- Rub two pearls against each other:
The surface of your pearls is a big giveaway to whether they are fake or real. A smooth, clean surface is a clear indication of a fake pearl. While roughness or friction is a sign of real pearls. For this method gently rub two pearls together slowly. If you feel a slight roughness or friction while doing this, then your pearls are likely to be real, Alternatively, if the pearls just slide off each other, smoothly then they are likely to be fake. Sometimes while rubbing two pearls together you might notice some powder come off them. This powder is the outer layer or nacre of the peals coming off. If you see this powder on your hands, this again suggests that your pearls are real.
- Check the drill holes:
To create pearl necklaces and other pearl jewellery, holes must be drilled into the pearls. These drill holes are another big giveaway on whether your pearls are real or fake. Under close inspection look at these holes. If the holes are quite big looking and you can see chipped paint or coating on the edges, then the pearls are likely to be fake. Real pearls should have small, sharp drill holes which are well-defined.
- Feel the weight of the pearls:
The weight of a pearl is also a sign of its authenticity. Real pearls feel quite heavy in your hand. While fake pearls are extremely light with a plastic-like feel to them. Place your pearl jewellery in your hand or a single pearl and lightly bounce it up and down. If the pearls feel quite heavy, then they are likely to be real pearls.
- Feel the temperature of the pearls:
Fake pearls are always around room temperature and warm up quickly in your hands. While real pearls feel colder generally, and take slightly longer to warm-up. You should leave your pearl jewellery out on a table for a bit and then test the temperature of them. Hold the pearls in your hand and feel their temperature. If they feel slightly cool for a few seconds, then they are likely to be real pearls. Sometimes fake pearls made from glass can also give a cool feeling. For this reason, you should use the methods above along with this one to test your pearls.
- Go to a Certified Expert:
Finally, if you’re in doubt on whether your pearls are real or fake, we suggest you get a certified pearl expert to examine your jewellery. This is probably the most accurate way of knowing for sure if your pearls are real or fake. However this option is not cheap, so you might want to use the above methods to test if your pearls are real before going to an expert.
When buying pearls always use your common sense. If a price is too good to be true, then in most cases the pearls are likely to be fake. Another mistake most buyers make is that they buy pearls based on fancy names and terminology and forget about the pearls themselves. Don’t get drawn in by sellers selling Majorca pearls or pearls by any other fancy names. These tend to be man-made and entirely fake. For more tips on buying jewellery, download our free jewellery buying guide.
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