Due to their rarity and high value, pearl jewelry has been the most coveted among rulers and people of the highest material status for thousands of years. Only a few could afford such decorations.
Due to the industrial cultivation of pearls, which was started on a large scale in the 20th century, its price was reduced. This has led to the displacement of naturally produced pearls from the market in favor of cultivated pearls. But still, these products were very expensive.
Then artificial analogues appeared on the market, imitating real pearls in such a way that it is impossible for a non-specialist to distinguish them, especially from a photo.
There would be nothing wrong with that if the fakes were marked. However, some manufacturers deliberately mislead the buyer. In this article, we will talk about how to distinguish real pearls from industrially cultured and fake ones.
How to test pearls
While counterfeiting techniques are becoming more effective, there are a few basic signs to tell the difference between natural pearls. First of all, pay attention to the cost of products and the stones themselves. To evaluate it, consider the following factors.
1. Type of pearls depending on the origin:
- freshwater — grown in lakes and rivers. This makes it easier to breed them. Up to several dozen stones are obtained from one river mussel, and one pearl from the sea, so it costs more;
- nautical — divided into three types:
- Akoya has a smooth shape, white color and strong brilliance.
- Tahiti originally from French Polynesia. It comes only in dark shades — from silver to graphite, green or brown.
- pearls of the south seas — the most expensive because of the unique golden hue.
2. Form. Although pearls are associated with round shapes, their diversity in nature is much greater. There are: oval (rice) or drop-shaped pearls, semi-circular (¾ round) pearls, that is, with one round part, and on the other — flat, and baroque.
The most expensive are round pearls. The more their shape resembles a ball, the higher the price. They are used to make necklaces and bracelets, but the most beautiful single specimens are used in gold earrings, pendants or rings.
Due to the high cost of round pearls, they are rarely used in silver jewelry. This is worth paying attention to when buying silver jewelry. They rarely use inserts made of natural stones.
In second place in terms of value is oval pearls (teardrops, drops), which looks best in pendant earrings and pendants. Small pearls up to 9.0 mm in diameter are often used in women’s and men’s silverware. Sometimes drop-shaped pearls can cost even more than round ones.
semicircular Pearls, due to their lower price, are the most popular choice among the entire collection of silver jewelry.
Baroque — usually the cheapest pearls, and its various forms inspire jewelers who create real masterpieces from them. Such a bead has value only in combination with gold and precious stones. Most often it is used in pendants and brooches, less often — in earrings.
3. Dimensions pearls greatly affect the price. Freshwater diameter — 1–15 mm. In smaller sizes, the difference in price is not great — within 20–30%. However, starting at 9.0 mm, these differences are significant.
Akoya pearls range in size from 2mm to 10mm. More than 8 mm, a large jump in value, even a factor of two, must be taken into account.
Larger sizes are found in Tahiti and South Sea pearls. In Tahiti, it is about 8–18 mm, and quite reasonable prices are up to 12 mm. If beads or jewelry with pearls from 16 mm are inexpensive, this is a reason to find out if it is real or not.
The diameter of the pearls of the southern seas is within 10–20 mm. Sometimes there are larger specimens. However, it is difficult to find a string of such pearls on the market. It takes much longer to grow large pearls. This is associated with a significant risk of its distortion and the appearance of various kinds of imperfections. This affects their rarity and price.
4. Surface quality. One of the surest ways to check the authenticity of a pearl is to carefully examine its surface. Since it is a natural product of shellfish, its surface is rarely perfectly smooth. It may have some growths, pits, redrawing or discoloration. The fewer these defects, the more expensive the product will cost.
5. Radiance. The stronger the shine, the more the pearl has the ability to reflect objects around it. The difference in price between a slightly glossy, matte pearl and a very shiny pearl can be several times in favor of gloss.
6. Pearl color consists of a primary color (white, dark, gray, etc.) and a glow — an overtone (hue).
Freshwater fake pearls are very often dyed or bleached to white. The most natural colors are cream and salmon.
In sea pearls, color changes less often. The most valuable Akoya will be white with a pink sheen. Tahiti green and South Sea bright gold.
7. Shell thickness. Pearls are stronger, the thicker its coating. Freshwater pearls are superior in this regard because their shells are almost entirely mother-of-pearl. The core of a pearl, that is, the element that initiates its formation, is the size of a grain of sand.
Recently, nuclear freshwater pearls have been grown and sold, which are much cheaper than sea pearls. Akoe thickness — 0.3–0.7 mm. High-quality pure pearls of Tahiti and the South Seas must have a coating thickness of at least 2 mm.
8. Jewelry finishing depends on its pearl value. If you have in front of you perfect balls with a beautiful and shining surface, but the clasp is made of cheap metal, it is 99% fake.
How to accurately check the naturalness of pearls
The first thing you should pay attention to is the weight. Natural pearls are heavy. It weighs like glass or marble, and plastic jewelry is light.
An easy way to tell if a pearl is real or fake is by holding it in your hands or by wearing a pearl necklace around your neck. Natural pearls should feel cold to the touch. That is, you will feel chills. Only after a few seconds on the body, the beads heat up. In the case of artificial pearls, there is no such effect. Polymer fakes heat up instantly.
Consider how the shape of a pearl looks like: real pearls are almost never perfectly round. In freshwater pearls, roundness is almost impossible. The marine specimen is usually more even, but also imperfect.
Even if it looks like a ball, there will be some deviations when carefully measured.
The most expensive natural pearl with a flawlessly smooth surface. It is designed for gold items such as rings, pendants or earrings.
It is not used in necklaces and bracelets due to flaws — holes, scratches and differences in color. These defects help to recognize natural pearls as real.
Like the surface, the color of pearls is not uniform. The easiest way to see the differences is in dark pearls, which are characterized by a large range of secondary colors. When viewing a pearl, its color will change slightly depending on the angle of inclination. Delicate pink, yellow or blue flashes are usually visible on white.
How to tell real pearls from fake pearls in jewelry
In a necklace, each pearl on a string will be more or less similar in color, but not identical. It will always be a little lighter or with a slightly different color saturation.
In good quality earrings it is difficult to tell the difference between two pearls, but in bracelets and necklaces it is easy. Pay attention to whether they are tied with knots. The knots between the pearls provide double protection against rubbing against each other and against scattering in the event of a possible destruction of the jewelry. In fakes, the nodal connection is practically not used, because this work is more laborious.
By gloss, it is not easy to distinguish real pearls from imitations, because artificial pearls are cultivated to imitate natural radiance. However, in simulations, this glow is shallow. In natural beads, the radiance comes from the depths, because they are made up of layers of mother-of-pearl stacked on top of each other. Since these layers are slightly transparent, the subsequent layers also emit a glow, creating a depth effect.
How to check the authenticity of pearl products at home
- friction method helps to understand whether it is a real pearl or not — you need to rub the beads against each other before you feel friction. Don’t be afraid to apply a little force, without it the difference is not noticeable. Real pearls are rough to the touch. The artificial material is smooth and slippery. If you look closely at the place of friction, you can see slight abrasions and light dust, even if the stone is very dark. If you only have one pearl, try gently rubbing it against your front tooth. Surface roughness will be felt.
- How to distinguish pearls by the strength of reflection. Any mother-of-pearl, whether natural or cultured, is fairly stable. When slowly falling from the height of a lowered hand onto a smooth glass surface, it should reflect half this height. The plastic imitation will bounce much higher, while the glass imitation will bounce much lower.
- How to check if a pearl is real with boiling water. Counterfeit products under the influence of hot water, vinegar and acetone are deformed and lose their luster. Nothing happens to natural ones, even if you leave them in boiling water for a long time, put them in acetone, vinegar or alcohol.
What are the main differences between natural pearls and cultured and fake ones?
There are many imitation pearls on the market in different materials. The most famous fakes include such types as:
- Majorca — a regional product that is sold with a certificate, so it is often confused with natural pearls. These beads are made only by hand from glass or porcelain balls, on which subsequent layers are applied. First they are painted, and then coated with a protective varnish. After that, a multi-layer paste of oil, crushed fish scales or mother-of-pearl is applied. As a result, the pearls are even and shiny;
- Shell — artificially formed balls from shells crushed to a powdery consistency. Features of this type: ideal roundness, smoothness and low price of products from it;
- Swarovski Elements — imitation pearls made on the basis of Swarovski crystals and covered with mother-of-pearl. They come in 29 colors, so they are relatively easy to recognize by their identical shade.
With this knowledge of pearls, you will be able to choose your jewelry more consciously and correctly identify fakes before buying without the help of an expert. Our store has a wide range of pearl earrings.