Pearl, Is It Real or Fake?

What’s the Difference between Cultured and Man-made Pearls?

      Pearls are one of the greatest miracles created by the Creator, and they are also a timeless classic subject. Pearls cleverly capture the exquisite beauty of the mysterious ocean.
      However, as technology has improved, it has become increasingly difficult to tell the difference between real cultured pearls and imitation pearl jewelry.
Let’s take a moment to explore the question: Are my pearls real or fake? What’s the Difference between Cultured and Man-made Pearls?

      We’ve distilled for you some of the most important aspects to consider before you make your choice. From the shape and size of cultured versus man-made pearls to the subtle but noticeable differences in texture and temperature.

Here are a few of the most effective ways to tell the difference.

Real Pearls are Heavier than Fake Pearls

One of the first differences between cultured and man-made pearls is their weight. If you’re holding a cultured pearl necklace in one hand and a faux pearl necklace with the same number of stones in the other, the cultured pearls will often feel heavier. However, this method of testing real pearls against man-made pearls is not always 100% accurate. While plastic and resin imitation pearls feel immediately very light when held, other materials such as composites or shells can do a good job of simulating the weight of real pearls.

Real Pearls Aren’t Perfectly Round

      Beauty is rarely defined by perfection - cultured pearls are the prime example. While some cultured pearls can be as close to perfectly round as possible, most are not. In contrast, man-made pearls, whether glass, composite, plastic or shell, are perfectly round. If you’re determined to find out if your gorgeous pearl necklace is made of cultured pearls, just take a closer look with a magnifying glass. If each pearl looks perfectly symmetrical and round, you’re most likely looking at a faux pearl necklace.

Real Pearls Are Unique

      “No two leaves are exactly alike”. Like anything else nature creates, no two pearls are exactly alike. Natural pearls are the very definition of “perfect in its imperfection” - that’s exactly what makes them so special. Real pearls also vary in luster, size and color. When looking at a row of pearls, it's easy to tell you’re looking at a man-made pearl necklace if each pearl is the same size, weight, emissivity, and color.

Check for an Overtone

      If you’re still not sure if your pearls are real or just a high-quality batch of artifacts. You can try this, and all you need for this test is a little sunshine. Good-quality pearls are often prized for their overtones — the subtle color that is visible on their outer surface when light hits them. Fake pearls will usually not have this overtone effect, which is tricky to duplicate. In fact, real pearls radiate a light that cannot be duplicated, and their reflective qualities are undeniable. If the pearls on a necklace are equally white in sunlight, it’s probably a man-made pearl necklace. Necklaces or bracelets with pearls with slight color variations and subtle yellow or occasionally pink hues are likely to be genuine pearls. Since some real pearls don’t have a visible overtone, not seeing an overtone on your pearl isn’t necessarily a sure sign that it’s fake.

Real Pearls Are Colder Than Fake Pearls

      And since real pearls come from deep in the water and are 100% organic, they'll be cool to the touch no matter the weather. Whether worn or not, the vast majority of faux pearls will likely feel warmer and stay at room temperature. In contrast, while real pearls may feel cool initially, they adapt to your body temperature once you wear them. There are some very high-quality man-made pearls that mimic the thermal properties of real pearls. Most of these styles are made of glass, which is cool to the touch, just like real pearls. However, glass beads take longer to warm the skin than natural pearls.

Real Pearls Feature Small and Neat Drill Holes

      One of the most obvious differences between natural and man-made pearls is that real pearls usually have smaller drilled holes. Not only that, but in many cases the man-made pearls will have peeling paint around the drill holes. Real pearls have neat holes without any cracks or discoloration. In most cases, the quality of pearl jewelry can be easily assessed simply by looking closely at its finish.

Real Extra Large Pearls Are Very Expensive

      When it comes to pearls, if you think a piece of jewelry is too good to be true, with impressively large stones and an attractive price tag, it probably isn’t real pearls. In fact, extra-large real pearls are rare—and when they do, they command significantly higher prices. As you might have guessed, large pearls are more valuable, which means that it's basically impossible to find good bargains featuring large pearls.

Real Pearls Do Not Sound Tinny, While Fake Ones Do

      Another easy way to test pearls: Listen to them! Yes, the sound of pearls is an important indicator of their authenticity. If you take a pearl necklace, tap the beads together and hear a tinny sound like metal, chances are you’re holding a man-made. However, if shaking and tapping your necklace produces a soft, warm sound, it’s probably a real pearl. If you’d like to keep testing, there’s one more thing you can do: rub two pearls together while paying extra attention to the sound they make. You can tell your pearls are real if you hear a sandy sound.

Real Pearls Are Gritty

      The Tooth Test entails gently rubbing or scraping the surface of the pearls against your teeth. Do this Very Gently, pearls are soft, so you really want to avoid scratching the pearls’ surfaces. What you’re feeling with your teeth is a gritty texture, somewhat like a fine-grain sandpaper; this texture is the result of thousands of microscopic layers of aragonite (crystalline) platelets layered on top of each other, creating a microscopically rough top layer.
      Synthetic pearls will feel smooth, like plastic, because man-made gems lack these crystalline plates. The Tooth Test is not 100% definitive, but it will point you in the right direction and spot most man-made pearls.

Real Pearls Create Powder When Rubbed

      If you're determined to clear up your doubts, try the rub test - but be aware that it may cause your pearls to degrade slightly. Just grab two pearls, rub them together and watch them form a fine powder. If so, then you’re looking at real pearls - but if not, then you’re rubbing fakes. Sometimes coated faux pearls rub off the coating when rubbed together, but they don’t look like a fine powder.


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