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Fake Pearls or Real Pearls, How to Tell The Difference

Do You Have Real or Imitation Pearls?

If you've ever merely pondered or really needed to know the difference between a man-made string of seemingly flawless yet clearly faux pearls and the set of valuable cultured or natural pearls you have on hand, the distinctions are clear.

Define or The Not So Fine

Some of the names of fake or faux pearls you might hear or read about are costume, imitation, man-made, simulated, artificial, Mallorca,or Majorica. These last names are especially interesting, since these lines of pretend pearls have been marketed as if they have value, with certificates and special boxes. You may end up paying more for them than trinkets found at a yard sale, but in the end, they have just as much value.

What Are Imitation Pearls?

picture of fake pearls Fake pearls can be made to look like more expensive pearls, but they are made up of glass, ceramic, shell or plastic. This bead or fragment is then coated with a varnish or some other material that simulates a pearl-like luster and false iridescence. They are manufactured by humans to fool the human eye.

Real pearls, on the other hand, are a valuable commodity made by mollusks, either oysters, mussels or various other bi-valve species. Rare ones are formed spontaneously in the wild and found by happenstance. These natural pearls are the most valuable, and probably not in the typical price range of those shopping for pearls. Occasionally vintage jewelry might be found in this category. Most real pearls today are cultured or farmed, by inserting material into each mollusk, after which nacre is layered in concentric layers over time, producing the iridescent nacre which is the hallmark of a real pearl.

Important Distinctions

  • Fake pearls will be too perfect. They will appear to have a fantastic luster on every part of their surface. Real pearls are formed by nature and will always have some sort of imperfection if you look close enough.

  • Fake pearls have no deviations in their size or the rhythm of their size increases in a graduated strand. Once again, in a real pearl necklace, it won't appear flawless and there will be some variation in size.

  • Fake pearls, when examined under a magnifying glass, show no hints of a ring or ridges around the drill hole, while a real pearl often does.

  • Fake pearls appear to have no difference in color from one pearl to another,seeming almost flat in tone, whereas a real pearl strand will have depth and include a body color and an overtone color.

  • Fake pearls lack the luminosity of real pearls and don't reflect light as well. Imitation pearls may look shiny but won't show depth and true luster.

  • Fake pearls, under magnification, will sometimes give themselves away with a sliver of glass or plastic bead showing visibly at the hole's edge, where it is strung. A slight separation from the bead may show and chips of the pearl can even be missing.

  • Fake pearls feel light, and real pearls are more hefty.

A final test - The "Tooth Test"

Feel the pearls: are they cold? They may be real. If you rub them together gently, or if you rub them on the front of your tooth, do they feel gritty or have resistance? They may be real. This final test is usually all that is needed to spot the best fakes.

Shop For Real Pearls

Akoya Pearls
Akoya Pearls
Freshwater Pearls
Freshwater Pearls
South Sea Pearls
South Sea Pearls
Tahitian Pearls
Tahitian Pearls
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