How Much Are Real Pearls Worth?

Real pearls are a precious gemstone made by oysters, mussels and various other bivalve mollusk species. Most real pearls today are cultured or farmed, by inserting material into a mollusk, after which the mollusk lays down concentric layers of nacre until a pearl is formed. The iridescent nacre is the hallmark of a real pearl.

Fake pearls are made up of glass, ceramic, shell or plastic to give them the appearance of real pearls. This fake pearl is often painted and covered in a material that simulates a pearl-like luster and false iridescence. They are manufactured by humans to fool the human eye. 99% of fake pearls are low quality, only suitable for costume jewelry. While Mallorca or Majorica pearls are marketed as a high-end alternative to real cultured pearls.


How Much Are Real Pearls Worth?

If you’re trying to determine the value of a real pearl necklace you own, or figure out the cost to buy real pearls, you need to understand how pearls are valued. (Read: Pearl Grading)

A traditional strand of white pearls can range from $100 (Freshwater pearl necklace) to $10,000 (Akoya pearl necklace). A strand of large, flawless South Sea pearls could even be valued as high as $100,000+ . The truth is there is no simple answer to the question “how much are pearls worth” is… It depends on the quality and type of pearl.


What Are The Types of Real Pearls?

  1. Akoya Pearls
  2. Freshwater Pearls
  3. Tahitian Pearls
  4. South Sea Pearls
  5. Fiji Pearls
  6. Sea of Cortez Pearls
  7. Wild or Natural Pearls (special collector's market)


Read More: Pearl Types


What Are The Most Expensive Pearls?

Due to their rarity and size, South Sea pearls will carry the highest retail value. A perfectly round strand of South Sea pearls, with high luster and clean surface could retail for $100,000+ in a traditional luxury setting.

How Much Do Pearls Cost?

  1. Golden South Sea Pearls ($5000 - $100,000)
  2. White South Sea Pearls ($4000 - $100,000)
  3. Black Tahitian Pearls ($3000 - $35,000)
  4. Japanese Akoya Pearls ($1000 - $10,000)
  5. Chinese Freshwater Pearls ($100 - $1500)

*Natural/Wild pearls can command very high prices, but are not commonly sold in retail settings.

Read More: Types of Cultured Pearls


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Are Cultured Pearls Real Pearls?

Yes… Cultured pearls are real pearls grown inside real oysters at pearl farms in Japan, Australia, Indonesia, China and many more locations. Natural or wild pearls are typically found by shellfish harvesters purely by accident. You might have to open 10,000 oysters to find a single decent quality natural pearl.

Read More: Cultured Pearls vs. Real Pearls


How Can You Tell if Pearls Are Real?

There’s several clues experts in the pearl world will look for when determining real pearls vs. fake pearls.

  1. Real pearls are formed by nature and will always have some sort of imperfection if you look close enough.
  2. Not every pearl will be the same size. Real pearls are made by nature, so there should be some variation in size.
  3. Examine the drill hole with a magnifying glass. Real pearls will often show evidence of a nucleus.
  4. A real pearl necklace will have depth and variation to the color. It will include a body color and an overtone color. Often displaying different colors in different lighting conditions. Fake pearls will often look flat or even “painted”.
  5. High quality pearls will have a deep luster, almost glowing from within. This is the difference between a shiny marble and a pearl’s luster that shows depth.
  6. Examine the drill hole. Fake pearls often show signs of melted plastic around the edges of the pearl.
  7. Real pearls have more weight than fakes. Often feeling heavier than they look.
  8. Feel the pearls… Are they cool to the touch? Real pearls don’t warm to the touch as quickly as imitation pearls.
  9. Perform the tooth test. (see Below)

The Pearl "Tooth Test"

Rub the pearls gently across the front of your teeth. Do they feel gritty or have resistance? They may be real. This final test is usually all that is needed to spot even the best fakes vs. real pearls. If you don't want to rub the pearls against your teeth, you can rub two pearls together. If they're real you should still feel a subtle grittiness to them.

Fake Vs. Real Pearls (Easy 5 sec. Test)

How to Tell a Real Pearl Necklace?

  • What type of clasp is used? Real pearls will more often than not be finished with sterling silver or solid gold.
  • Real pearls are often knotted between each pearl
  • Inspect the surface closely. Real pearls will always show some variation or imperfections. Do the pearls look TOO good? They might be imitations
  • Look around the drill holes. Fake pearls will often show unusual wear or peeling here. Often revealing a plastic bead.
  • Real pearls are heavy compared to most fakes. They should feel like they have some weight to them, compared to a hollow plastic bead.
  • The surface will feel gritty. Gently rub two pearls in a strand together. If it feels slightly gritty, that’s an indication they are real pearls.

Shop: Pearl Necklaces - Direct to Consumer Prices

How to Tell Real Pearl Earrings?

  • Real pearl earrings should feel cool to the touch. Fake pearls tend to warm up in your hand much quicker than real pearls.
  • A pair of real pearl earrings should feel heavier than hollow plastic fakes.
  • The surface may show slight imperfections or variations. This is the sign the pearl was made by nature – not a factory.
  • Rub the pearl earrings gently together. If they feel slightly gritty, they’re likely real pearl earrings.

Shop: Pearl Earrings - Direct to Consumer Prices

Pictures of Real Pearls

Below is a small collection of pictures featuring cultured pearls. As you can see the sizes, shapes and colors possible is almost endless.

Loose Tahitian Pearls
Akoya pearls
naturally blue South Sea baroque pearl
loose tahitian pearls
Cultured Freshwater Souffle Pearl
loose freshwater pearls
multicolor freshwater pearl necklaces

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