The best way to ensure your pearls are real is to purchase them from a reputable company. When a company has a long history or satisfied customers, this can give you a real sense of comfort. If you inherited your pearls or received them as a gift, what should you look for?
Aside from bringing your pearls into a local jeweler, there are several useful signs you can look for at home.
- First, inspect your pearls closely. Do you see any chipped peeling or cracking surface paint? This a sure sign that your pearls are fakes. The best place to look is between two pearls. Carefully study the drill hole area. Do you see any peeling or chipped paint? Do you see any areas where dyes or coatings have accumulated? Are there any burrs from the material from the interior of the pearl? If so, your pearls are most likely fake. Real pearls will have a drill hole that is quite smooth and usually doesn’t show any sign of chipping or discoloration.
- Real pearls are surprisingly heavy. They are closer to the weight of rocks or pebbles the same size. If they feel light, they are likely plastic. Unfortunately if they are made of glass, a fake set could pass this weight test.
- Real pearls on a strand are never perfectly matched. Pearls are not a manufactured product, so even the best-matched string of pearls are slightly different. Look for minor surface imperfections and variations in color and shape. These signs often indicate your pearls are likely genuine.
- Real pearls will be individually knotted. This means there is a tiny knot between every pearl. The knots prevent each pearl from rubbing against another and protect against loss if your strand breaks. However, high-end fake pearl strands are often knotted between each “pearl”. So this test by itself is not a perfect test.
- Genuine pearls ‘glow’ more than ‘shine’. Study your pearls in natural light. They should have a satiny iridescence. Real pearls are made of many layers of ‘nacre’. Nacre layers are translucent and reflect light in such a way that as to project a deep inner luminosity.
- The reality check is also good to consider. Are your pearls huge and perfectly round and didn’t cost a fortune? Practically perfect large pearls will be very expensive. They are extremely rare and can easily run in the tens of thousands. If the deal was too good to be true it likely isn’t.
- If your pearls have a very unusual coloring, they may be fake. The best quality pearls are generally not dyed as they are valuable as they are. However, some real pearls are dyed to disguise surface imperfections and are then used for the season’s hottest fashion colors. Many people love their dyed real pearls – so it’s just a matter of preference.
- The temperature of your resting pearls can be an indication. Do your pearls feel cool when you pick them up? Real pearls are cool when you first touch them and then quickly warm to your body’s temperature when placed against your skin. Imitation pearls will be closer to room temperature when you first pick them up.
- Perhaps the most widely used test is the ‘tooth test’. Real pearls have tiny crystals within the nacre layers. Rub one of your pearls against one of your teeth, if it feels a little ‘gritty”, like fine sandpaper, your pearls are likely real. The majority of imitation pearls feel smooth. However, there is a caveat, imitation “shell pearls”, made from sea shells and mother of pearl, may feel gritty due to their powdered nacre.
Without performing highly specialized tests that require expensive equipment, you cannot be perfectly sure if your pearls are real. Though in general, if your pearls pass all the above tests, your pearls are most likely real pearls.