How to Tell if a Pearl Is Real

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Are you considering purchasing pearl jewelry? Do you have a pearl family heirloom? In a matter of minutes, a few easy tests will help you establish whether your pearl item is a fake or the “genuine thing.” Learn how to check for and feel for the characteristics of a genuine pearl now, and you’ll never have to worry about being duped again.

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Using Visual Tests

1. Examine for small flaws. As previously said, genuine pearls are seldom “perfect.” They usually feature minor imperfections or inconsistencies in their form. Their outer nacre layer may also reflect light differently depending on where the pearl is located. Imitation pearls are nearly always “too perfect” – they seem perfectly spherical, have the same amount of brilliance on every surface, and have no indents or defects.
While perfectly round genuine pearls are unusual, they are feasible; nonetheless, a necklace will nearly never be fashioned entirely of these sorts of pearls. A pearl necklace with pearls that all seem to be the same smooth, round form is almost definitely a forgery.

2. Examine the luster for sharpness and health. Jewelers use the term luster to describe the kind of light reflected by a precious stone. The brilliance of a pearl contributes to its beauty. A high-quality pearl should have a brilliant, clear sheen that shines when light reaches it. You should be able to see your own reflection on the surface of the pearl if you look attentively.
One issue with this test is that low-quality genuine pearls (which have a dull, “chalky” sheen) might resemble imitation pearls. Compare your findings to those of the other tests in this article.

3. Examine for an overtone. Good-quality pearls are often valued for their overtones, which are the faint colors seen on their outer surface when light strikes them. Fake pearls seldom have this overtone look, which is difficult to replicate. As a result, if your pearl seems somewhat tinged with color when light touches it, it’s probably genuine. Rose and ivory are two of the most popular overtones for white pearls, although a broad range of hues, particularly for dark pearls, are available.
Because some genuine pearls lack a discernible overtone, the absence of an overtone on your pearl isn’t always a dead giveaway that it’s a fake.

4. Look for hints around the drill hole. Pearls on a strand or necklace are normally pierced with holes for the thread to pass through. Examining this hole attentively might help you determine whether or not your pearl is genuine. You should look for the following things:

  • The hole has well-defined edges. Drill holes with sharp edges are common in real pearls (like a hollow cylinder). Fake items often have rough or rounded edges. However, the holes in ancient and well-worn genuine pearls may have rounded edges. Fake pearls may sometimes bend outward at the surface instead of being precisely cylindrical.
  • Around the hole, there is chipped paint or coating. As imitation pearls brush against one another, their artificial covering might wear away around the holes. Slivers of glass or plastic may be seen underneath. This is a dead giveaway of a forgery.
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5. Look for a line between the nacre and the nucleus in the hole. A genuine pearl nearly usually has a transparent outer nacre layer, while imitation pearls contain thin coatings of artificial nacre or none at all. Whether your pearl has a drill hole, you may examine it with a magnifying lens to see if it contains nacre. Real pearls will typically (but not always) have a distinct line separating the nacre from the nucleus (the inside part of the pearl).

Using Touch Tests

1. Apply the pearls to your front teeth. Press one or two pearls between your thumb and fingers onto the biting edge of your front teeth. Use a side-to-side motion to rub them across your teeth. A genuine pearl has a little rough or gritty feel due to microscopic scale-like flaws in the outer layers of nacre. Fake pearls made of glass or plastic are nearly always completely polished.
You should wash your teeth before taking this exam to ensure they are clean. Food residue from a recent meal might provide inaccurate findings.

2. The pearls should be rubbed together. Hold a couple pearls between your fingers and rub them together softly. Look for a faint rubbing feeling. Because their outer layers of nacre are not totally smooth, real pearls frequently produce some friction when they touch against one other. Fake pearls, on the other hand, often have smooth coats and will slide past one other when brushed together.
After this test, examine your hands carefully. When two pearls brush against one other, their outer layers often degrade somewhat. If you discover a fine, powdery, white residue after rubbing your pearls, this is most likely powdered nacre – an indication that the pearls are genuine.

3. Examine the pearls to ensure that they are precisely spherical. Because they are natural items, each genuine pearl is unique, much like snowflakes or fingerprints. Most pearls will not be perfect spheres; instead, they will be somewhat oblong or have small flaws. If your pearls seem to be exactly round to you, they are most likely synthetic.

  • Real pearls may have a flawless round shape. However, instances like them are very uncommon and command a considerable price.
  • Are you unsure if a pearl is precisely round? Roll it gently on a level surface. Imperfect pearls will not always roll in a straight path.

4. Examine the touch for coldness. You’ll need a few pearls that have been laying out — not ones you’ve been wearing — for this test. Keep the pearls in your palm and focus on how they feel on your skin. Before real pearls warm up, they should feel visibly chilly for a few seconds. The sensation is comparable to strolling barefoot onto a marble floor.

  • Plastic pearls, on the other hand, will be close to room temperature and will warm up faster.
  • It should be noted that high-quality imitation glass pearls may nevertheless produce the “cool” effect. If this is your first test, double-check your findings with others.

5. Feel the pearl’s weight in your palm. Bounce one or two pearls in your palm to obtain an impression of their weight. The majority of genuine pearls are relatively weighty for their size. Fakes, on the other hand, will have a light, insubstantial feel (particularly plastic pearls).
This test isn’t ideal for obvious reasons – estimating the weight of a few little pearls may be difficult. Compare your pearls to a pair you know is genuine or fake for the best results. No matter how certain you are of a pearl’s weight, always confirm it with another test.

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Performing Advanced Tests

1. Using a microscope, look for “scaly” surface patterning. A 30x jeweler’s loupe may be used, however microscopes with 64-power magnification or more are preferable. Real pearls feature a maze-like, scaled pattern on their surfaces. This patterning resembles a topographical map. This tiny scaling is responsible for the “gritty” feel of genuine pearls.
Fake pearls, on the other hand, often have a surface covered with gritty, somewhat regular imperfections (a little like the cratered surface of the moon).

2. Compare your pearls to those that have been confirmed as genuine. All of the aforementioned tests are made simpler if you have some genuine pearls on hand for comparison. Contact a jeweler about the possibilities of comparing your pearls to a set of certified genuine pearls. Alternatively, borrow a friend’s or relative’s genuine pearls to compare.
Use your common judgment while conducting tests on certified genuine pearls. You wouldn’t want to attempt the tooth test or the friction test on someone else’s expensive stones, for example.

3. Get your pearls evaluated by a professional. If you are unsure about the genuineness of your pearl, you may always take it to a respected jeweler or gemologist. These experts have the skills, expertise, and skilled eyes to determine if your pearl is genuine (and, if it is real, how high its quality is). However, these solutions are not always inexpensive – a simple evaluation might easily cost more than $100.

4. Consider ordering an X-ray exam. An X-ray machine is used in this examination, which an expert may do to establish whether your pearls are genuine or not. On the X-ray, real pearls will appear as a semitransparent grey tone. Fakes will have a solid white negative and a solid black positive print.

5. Consider getting a refractometer test. To confirm the genuineness of a pearl, this innovative test examines how much light goes through it. Pearls often have a refractometer reading (also known as a “refractive index”) of 1.530 to 1.685. The difference between these two numbers (0.155) is known as the pearl’s birefringence, and it influences how the pearl appears in the light. These characteristics indicate to an expert that the pearl is most likely genuine.

Learning What to Avoid

1. Use of a single test to validate pearls should be avoided. It bears repeating: any of the following tests may sometimes yield erroneous findings. Perform a variety of tests to ensure the accuracy of your findings.
One source discovered that actual pearls that have been professionally polished may feel quite smooth in tooth and friction testing, as just one example of how isolated experiments can be deceptive.

2. The “burn” test should be avoided. Some sites suggest holding pearls in front of an open flame to detect whether they are real or phony. Fake pearls, according to this myth, will burn or melt whereas genuine pearls will not. The reality is a little more complex. While most imitation pearls will be harmed by fire, some genuine pearls will as well. Real pearls with an artificial outer covering are highly prone to flame and may develop flaws, distorted drill holes, and lost luster after just a few seconds in a flame.
Furthermore, pearls transfer heat effectively and may become quite hot when burned over an open flame. Take all essential measures to prevent severe burns if you try this test.

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3. Don’t be fooled by counterfeit pearls with unusual names. If a salesperson tries to sell you a pearl based on its name rather than its physical attributes, you may be duped. For example, “Mallorca” (or “Majorca”) pearls, named after the exotic Mediterranean island of Mallorca but wholly man-made, are sometimes offered to unwary customers.

4. Don’t dismiss your intuition regarding the value of a pearl. The cost of a genuine pearl varies substantially depending on its size, shape, overtone, and other characteristics. However, they will never be completely inexpensive. A necklace composed of freshwater pearls (the most affordable kind of genuine pearl) might easily cost several hundred dollars. If a vendor offers you a discount on a pair of genuine pearls that seems too good to be true, it most likely is.
In general, you should only purchase pearls from licensed, accredited jewelers and pearl sellers. Buying pearls from street sellers or pawnshops might be dangerous. Specific advice may be found in our pearl-buying guide.

How can you tell the difference between real pearls and fake pearls?

Faux pearls are smooth, but real pearls are gritty.
Test the texture of a pearl on your teeth with your finger and thumb – if it’s smooth and tidy, you’re holding a false pearl. Imitation pearls are usually slick, which is another telltale sign of their origin.

Do real pearls turn yellow?

Yellow pearls are generally used to identify genuine pearls since imitation pearls do not change color. While genuine white pearls may yellow with age, naturally yellow pearls can exist. These naturally yellow stones are yellow not because they are old, but because of how they were grown.

How much is a real pearl worth?

The value of a pearl varies greatly based on several criteria, including its kind, size, color, surface quality, and so on. A wild pearl is more valuable than a produced pearl. A pearl’s worth, on average, varies from $300 to $1500.

Do real pearls peel?

Real pearls may and do peel under specific conditions. They’re constructed of nacre layers, a composite substance often known as’mother-of-pearl.’ If these layers are thin or damaged, they may effectively peel away from the surface of the pearl.

How much is an old pearl necklace worth?

A conventional strand of white pearls may cost anywhere from $100 to $10,000 (freshwater pearl necklace) (Akoya pearl necklace). A string of huge, immaculate South Sea pearls might be worth $100,000 or more.

How much is a real pearl necklace worth?

A genuine pearl necklace may range in price from $150 to $10,000 or more for outstanding specimens. Freshwater necklaces may be purchased for as little as $150, whilst a typical Akoya necklace can range from $250 to $5,000 or more.A real pearl necklace can cost anywhere from $150 to $10,000+ or even more for exceptional examples. Affordable Freshwater necklaces can go as low as $150, while a classic Akoya necklace will cost anywhere from $250 to $5000+.

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