THE BEAUTY OF PEARLS – WHAT’S REAL AND WHAT’S FAKE?

  • Natural or cultured pearls are quite beautiful, unique and officially the world’s oldest gem. They are created from a living organism when an irritant, such as a parasite or piece of the shell, becomes accidentally lodged in an oyster.  Cultured pearls on the other hand follow the same process with one exception – the irritant is purposely implanted in the oyster.  Natural pearls are made of calcium carbonate and conchiolin – hence organic. Being made by nature, every pearl has its own “individual personality” and that’s the key in determining if a pearl is real.  Pearls created by nature are truly individualistic from size, symmetry, shape, color, and feel.  These are suggestions for determining if pearls are the real deal   

    1)  They look perfect.  A pearl necklace where all the pearls seem to be exactly the same in color, size, lustre and shape are a foregone conclusion - they’re fake.  Real pearls almost always have blemishes and imperfections.   

    2)  Lustre and Overtone.  Good-quality pearls will have beautiful lustre, however, be aware as low-quality pearls can have a nice lustre as well.  Nice quality pearls have an overtone effect that’s difficult to duplicate.  When pearls seem very slightly shaded in color with light on them, it’s very possible they’re real pearls.  Keep in mind there are some natural pearls that do not have overtones. 

    3)  Check the drill hole.   Fake pearls usually have holes that are rough or rounded, while real pearls usually have sharp edges.  Fake pearls sometimes have chipped paint around the edges especially if they have been worn much.  

    4)  Look for grit.  Try rubbing the pearls against your teeth.  If they're real, you will notice a gritty feel.  

    5)  Weight.   Real pearls do have some weight to them and fakes will feel lighter. 

    I’ll admit these methods work better for professionals, in general, but what about the amateur.  You can pretty much rely on fake pearls being identical.  That being said, rarely will you see a perfect natural pearl because they are extremely expensive.   A real, natural pearl has a surface that appears to have been grown as a grain, having the appearance that you see of wind-blown sand over the dunes.  Remember, real pearls are very individualistic just like people.  Good Luck!