How To Tell if a Pearl is Real or Fake

Diwali is around the corner and the time is nearing for everyone to indulge in beautiful and shiny jewellery sets to suit their diwali attires. Here we bring to you the ways you can adopt to find out if your new pearl jewellery set is a real one or a fake one.

Pearls are both gorgeous and priceless. However, since the discovery of these rare jewels in antiquity, humans have been imitating them using machinery.

In a matter of minutes, a few easy tests will help you identify whether your pearl item is a fake or the “genuine deal.” So, before we get into the practical methods you can apply anywhere to identify if a pearl is real or not, it’s vital to know the difference between the two.

Real Pearls

A real pearl is generated by the pearl bearing oysters in either fresh or salt water. This organic jewel can be cultivated or natural, depending on whether or not humans are involved. Almost all pearls on the market today are cultivated. Natural pearls created without the use of artificial means are exceedingly uncommon and financially unviable. As a result, they’re generally only seen in museums. So the next time you hear the phrase “natural pearls” in a store, you’ll know what they actually mean: these are genuine, not imitations.

Fake Pearls

Man-made beads are known as fake or imitation pearls. They’re frequently fashioned from glass, plastic, alabaster, or shells with a pearly covering to resemble real pearls. Some fakes are easy to identify, while others might be mistaken for the real thing. Majorica pearl, the most well-known of them, is composed of glass and can easily mislead your eyes.

Test to find out if your Pearls are Real or Fake

In a matter of minutes, a few easy tests will help you identify whether your pearl item is a fake or the “genuine deal.” Learn how to recognise the characteristics of a genuine pearl immediately, and you’ll never have to worry about being duped again.

Visual Tests

1. Look for Tiny Imperfections

Only a small percentage of genuine pearls are “perfect.” They usually feature minor flaws or abnormalities in their form. Different sections of the pearl’s outer nacre layer may reflect light differently. Imitation pearls are nearly always “too perfect” – they appear to be perfectly spherical, have the same degree of shine over the whole surface, and have no indents or flaws.

Tip- A pearl necklace with all of the pearls seeming to be the same smooth, round form is almost definitely a fake.

2. Examine the lustre for a bright, healthy sheen.

Jewelers use the term lustre to describe the type of light reflected by a precious stone. The shine of a pearl contributes to its beauty. Pearls of good quality should have a brilliant, clear sheen that shines when light touches them. You should be able to see your own reflection on the pearl’s surface if you look attentively.

Tip-One issue with this test is that low-quality genuine pearls (which have a dull, “chalky” sheen) might resemble imitation pearls in appearance. So you have to compare the result of this test with the other tests that are mentioned below.

3. Keep an eye out for an overtone

The overtones — the faint hue seen on the outer surface of good-quality pearls when light touches them — are highly valued. This overtone appearance, which is difficult to replicate with fake pearls, is typically not present. As a result, if your pearl seems somewhat tinted with colour when light touches it, it’s probably real. Though a broad range of hues are available, especially for black pearls, rose and ivory are two of the most sought overtones for white pearls.

Tip- Because some actual pearls don’t have an overtone, the absence of one on yours isn’t always a clear indicator that it’s a fake.

4. Look around the drill hole for hints.

On a strand or necklace, holes are generally drilled in the pearls to allow the thread to flow through. Examining this hole closely might help you determine whether or not your pearl is genuine. The following are some specific items to look for:

  • The hole has well-defined edges. Drill holes with sharp edges are common in real pearls (like a hollow cylinder). The margins of fakes are frequently rough or rounded. However, the holes in ancient and well-worn genuine pearls may have rounded edges. Fake pearls can sometimes bend outward at the surface instead of being completely cylindrical.
  • There will be a chipped paint or coating around the hole. The artificial coating on imitation pearls can wear away around the holes when they brush against each other. Slivers of glass or plastic may be visible beneath the surface. This is a telltale indication of a forgery.

5. Check the line between the nacre and the nucleus

Fake pearls contain tiny layers of artificial nacre or none at all, whereas real pearls nearly usually have a transparent outer nacre layer. If your pearl has a drill hole, you can use a magnifying lens to look for nacre. A visible line separating the nacre from the nucleus in real pearls is generally (but not always) visible (the inside part of the pearl).

The Touch Test

1. The pearls should be rubbed across your front teeth.

Between your thumb and fingers, gently press one or two pearls into the biting edge of your front teeth. In a side-to-side motion, rub them across your teeth. Because of small scale-like flaws in the outer layers of nacre, a genuine pearl generally has a little rough or gritty feel.

Glass or plastic fake pearls are virtually always almost flawlessly smooth.

Tip- You should wash your teeth before taking this exam to ensure they are clean. Food residue from a recent meal might produce inaccurate findings.

2. The pearls should be rubbed together  

Hold a couple pearls between your fingers and rub them together softly. Look for a mild rubbing feeling. Because the outer layers of nacre on real pearls are not entirely smooth, they generally produce some friction when they brush against one other.

Fake pearls, on the other hand, typically have smooth coats and will slide past each other when brushed together.

Tip- After this exam, take a good look at your hands. When two pearls touch against each other, their outer layers frequently degrade somewhat. If you detect 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 see if they are completely spherical

As they are natural goods, each genuine pearl is slightly 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 appear to be exactly round to you, they are most likely synthetic.

  • It is possible to get precisely spherical genuine pearls. However, instances like them are extremely uncommon and command a premium price.
  • Are you unsure whether a pearl is exactly round? Roll it carefully on a level surface. Imperfect pearls will not always roll in a straight line.

4. Check for the feeling of coolness to the touch

 You’ll need a few pearls that have been hanging 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 significantly cold 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.

Tip- Fake glass pearls of high quality may nevertheless offer the “cool” effect. If this is your first test, double-check your findings with others.

5. Feel the pearl’s weight in your hand

Bounce one or two pearls in your hand to obtain a sense of their weight. The majority of genuine pearls are rather hefty for their size. Fakes, on the other hand, will have a light, insubstantial feel (particularly plastic pearls).

Tip – This test isn’t ideal for obvious reasons – estimating the weight of a few tiny pearls can be difficult. For the best results, compare your pearls to a pair you know is real or fake. No matter how certain you are of a pearl’s weight, always double-check it with another test.

Be Aware of the following indications while purchasing your Pearl Jewellery

1. Use of a single test to validate pearls should be avoided

It bears repeating: any of the tests listed above can occasionally give misleading findings. Perform a variety of tests to ensure the accuracy of your results.

One source discovered that genuine pearls that have been carefully polished may feel quite smooth in tooth and friction testing, as just one example of how isolated studies can be deceptive.

2. The “burn” test is null and invalid

Some sites suggest holding pearls in front of an open flame to identify whether they are real or phoney. Fake pearls, according to this rumour, will burn or melt, but real pearls will not be impacted. The truth is a little more complex. While most imitation pearls will be destroyed by fire, some genuine pearls will as well. Real pearls with an artificial outer covering are extremely sensitive to flame and can develop flaws, distorted drill holes, and destroyed lustre after only a few seconds in a flame.

Tip- Pearls transfer heat efficiently and can become very hot when cooked over an open flame. Take all essential measures to avoid severe burns if you attempt this test.

3. Don’t be fooled by fake pearls with unusual names

If a vendor tries to sell you a pearl based on its name rather than its physical features, you may be duped. For example, “Mallorca” (or “Majorca”) pearls, named after the exotic Mediterranean island of Mallorca but totally man-made, are occasionally offered to naïve customers.

4. Use your common sense to determine the value of your pearl

The cost of a genuine pearl varies significantly depending on its size, shape, overtone, and other characteristics. They will never, however, be dirt cheap. A necklace composed of freshwater pearls (the most affordable type of real pearl) might easily cost several hundred dollars. If a vendor offers you a price on a pair of genuine pearls that appears too good to be true, it most likely is.

Final Thoughts

It’s crucial to realise that none of the methods listed above can be utilised to determine whether or not a pearl is genuine. To detect fake pearls, it is usually beneficial to use many of these approaches.

For a more definitive conclusion, you may also undertake sophisticated testing by having them examined in a gemological laboratory. As a general rule, you should only buy pearl jewellery from recognised jewellers and pearl specialists. Your sellers should be able to inform you if the pearls you’re purchasing are genuine or phoney.

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