Global How to tell real pearls from imitation pearls > Inspection and identification

How to tell real pearls from imitation pearls > Inspection and identification


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.


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