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How Can You Tell If Pearls Are Real?

How Can You Tell the Difference Between Real and Artificial Pearls?

There’s a big difference between a fake pearl and a natural pearl – aesthetically and in price point. Natural pearls, formed within oysters in the sea, occur when a foreign substance slips into the oyster between the gaps on the rims of the shell. This irritation forces the oyster to protect itself, producing a layer of substance called ‘nacre.’ Eventually, after anywhere between six months to three years, those layers form a shining pearl. As pearls form naturally in the ocean, they are never completely perfect in shape, feel, and hue – this is the best way to tell if a pearl is real: it shouldn’t be too good to be true.

Synthetic pearls, also known as cultured pearls, are man-made from plastic, glass, or shells and are designed to look perfect. They feel incredibly soft and smooth because they lack the crystalline plates that form naturally in real pearls. As they are made with human intervention, they are grown to be whatever the size is in market demand – if you have a strand of pearls that are all completely uniform in size and shape, they’re likely fake.

How Can You Test if a Pearl is Real?

If you have a loose pearl or pearl jewelry (or are hoping to buy some!) you’ll want to ensure you’re aware whether it’s an imitation pearl or a real one. There are a few at-home tests you can perform to figure it out – but be aware that some tests may damage the pearl if it’s real or a fake ‘majorica’ pearl, so it’s always best to take it in to a jewelry professional to determine its authenticity. Here’s how you can tell if pearls are real:

Now let’s dig in on how to perform the tests – we advise using a combination of two or more tests to determine the authenticity of your pearl.

Check For Tiny Irregularities

Natural pearls have tiny irregularities and ridges on the surface when examined closely due to the natural formation of the pearl’s mother. Even when well-matched, you can always see tiny differences in top-quality cultured pearl necklace. However, if the pearls look identical, then they are probably fake.

Feel the Hardness

Real pearls are hard—they don’t feel as soft and smooth because they have a natural rigidity with a core of nacre. In a fake pearl, however, the maker uses chips that are not consistent with the softness and may feel sticky when felt with fingers.

Scrutinize the Size

Real pearls will have a size range from one to several different sizes. On the other hand, fake pearls come in size, and shape fits all. Fake pearls are likely to break when you try them on your finger for a better feel.

Check the Pigmentation

Genuine pearls have an iridescent glow, reflecting the color spectrum with different quality pearls varying invisibility. An artificially produced gem peridot is less glistening and rough.

Many cheap suppliers hide their products by mixing them with other pearl materials or placing an overcoat to make them appear more appealing.

Inspect the Natural Color and Luster

A real pearl should have natural, unaltered color with a smooth surface and luster similar to a mother pearls’ natural color and brightness. A fake pearl will most likely have a discolored surface or be covered with a clear protective coating. It will also look duller than its true reflection due to the synthetic material used to create it.

Perform the Pearl Tooth Test

The pearl tooth test tis one of the most important ways to determine whether or not you are getting a fake pearl. It’s used to determine if a pearl is soft or durable.

The pearl tooth test involves taking a pearl and rubbing it along the biting edge of your teeth. If the pearl is natural, it should feel gritty. A fake pearl will feel slippery and smooth. Some fake pearls will not even massage because they have been created using glass or synthetic materials.

Rub Two Pearls Together

Another test you can perform to determine how you tell if a pearl is real or not is by rubbing two real pearls together. There is nothing wrong with brushing a real pearl or taking a magnifying glass to examine the pearl but only use gentler pressure when rubbing two real pearls together.

When two natural pearls are rubbed together, they will produce a pearl powder. If the pearls don’t have pearl powder and look clear, you can tell it is fake. Additionally, when two real pearls are knocked against each other, they produce a soft, unique thud-like sound, whereas when two fake ones are struck against each other, they sound dully empty.

Use the Fire Check

Another method is the flame test, where you hold a pearl against a naked flame. Natural pearls remain shiny and intact while not producing any odors, and a consistent flame causes a light pop sound, whereas fake pearls held on a naked flame have a bad burning smell and quickly lose their shine.

How Can I Judge the Quality of Real Pearls?

Natural pearls often come in beautiful, organic shapes and are prized for their luster. To determine if your pearl is considered ‘of quality’ consider the below.

Importance of Buying Real Pearls from a Trusted Retailer

Once you’re confident on how to tell if pearls are real, remember to only consider buying pearls from a trusted retailer. It’s essential that you are able to trust them – so do your research in verifying that the company is legitimate. Here are the benefits of buying pearls from a trusted retailer:

In Conclusion

Of all the luxury jewels, pearls are one of the most beautiful and coveted possessions one can own. By doing your research, you can be confident that you’re purchasing authentic pearls and investing in a beautiful piece of wearable treasure from the sea.

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