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How to Tell Real Pearls from Imitation

Published date: June 1, 2017


When you enter a jewelry store looking for a beautiful piece made from pearls, you’re searching for jewelry that stands the test of time. These elegant and breathtaking pieces are simple by nature, yet bestow a level of grace upon anyone who wears the pearls. While shopping with name brand stores, you’ll receive documentation regarding the pearls, indicating the authenticity of what you’re buying. However, there are times where you may come across a truly stunning piece, but without the documentation. Whether at an antique store or shopping in a market while traveling, pearl jewelry may catch your eye, so you need the ability to identify real pearls from the imitation jewelry. Here are a few tips and tricks to use whenever faced with an undocumented purchase.

Real Pearls Are Unique Like a Snowflake

You know that old saying of no two snowflakes are the same? Well the same is true with pearls. As pearls are organically created, each pearl is slightly different. This means the shape, color and luster of authentic pearls is slightly different from one to the next. When looking at a fake pearl necklace, everything will likely look the same, which is because the imitation pearls are mass produced by a machine.

Real Pearls Have Imperfections

The vast majority of pearls are not perfect. There is almost always an imperfection such as an issue with the shape, a slight indentation or slightly off color to it (even if ever so slight). There is a reason why “perfect” pearl necklaces can set you back tens of thousands of dollars, if not more. It is because finding individual, perfect pearls to make a single necklace is exceptionally difficult. In all likelihood, if the necklace you’re looking at is too perfect, it either is fake or worth tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. The chances of you finding a rare, “perfect” pearl necklace at a street vender is extremely slim (especially if they are selling multiple perfect necklaces).

Real Pearls Are Cool to the Touch

If you’re shopping for pearls at street vendors, you’re likely in a warm weather climate. Whether in the Caribbean or Thailand, the temperature is warm. When you touch the pearls though, it should have a cool touch to it. Fake pearls are made typically out of a wax or glass, which takes on the temperature of the environment. A warm pearl is fake, while a cool pearl is likely real.

Real Pearls React to Being Rubbed Together

Take two pearls from the necklace and rub the two together. If the pearls are real you’ll see a slight powder form. Don’t worry, this doesn’t harm the pearls at all. It’s kind of like rubbing dry skin off your body. As pearls are organic material, this slight powder indicates it is authentic. If you rub the pearls together and nothing happens, it likely is fake. Looking at a pearl earring or only a single pearl is present? Use your fingernail to rub against the pearl. Again, you want to see a slight powder.

Real Pearls Appear a Bit Rought

Chances are you won’t have a magnifying glass on hand. But if you do (or you come prepared knowing you might buy something valuable), look over the pearls. It is best if the magnifying glass is 5x or 10x (at least) for this. When looking closely at the pearl, it should appear to be a bit rough. Almost like a sand dune. If it looks like an eggshell though, it’s likely fake.

Real Pearls Will Not Burn In Fire

If you have a lighter on hand, hold the pearl in the flame. If the seller protests than it’s probably a fake and you don’t even need to continue the test. A pearl will not burn or scorch. It also won’t give off much of a smell. However, if the imitation pearl is made from glass, wax or plastic, you’ll see a scorch mark and it will smell like burning plastic.

Use Your Detective Skills

Pearl jewelry is one of the most unique and elegant designs you can buy today. The true simplicity of pearl jewelry is what makes it so desirable and memorable. However, you don’t want to spend money on imitation pearls, so understanding how to spot fake jewelry from the authentic is important. By taking advantage of these tips and tricks, you’ll always have the ability to find real pearls, whether you’re shopping at a jewelry store, a second-hand shop, or a unique jewelry stand while on vacation!

For more information on pearls, Visit Janvier Jewelers today or call 302-366-7448.