On average, pearls cost between $300 and $1500, depending on the type, color, size, and surface quality, among other features. The price would also differ depending on whether the pearls are natural or cultured. What this means is that if you are planning to buy the best of pearl necklaces and you wouldn’t want to be duped and lose your hard-earned money, you need to know what the differences are between the fake and the real pearl necklaces.
And with one of the most expensive pearl necklaces, La Peregrina, which was last sold for about $11.8million, made of 50.6-carat pearls as it was previously owned by Elizabeth Taylor, it makes sense for you to know the differences between real and fake pearl necklaces are.
In this article, we’ll share with you tips and tricks to help you know the differences between the fake and the new pearl necklaces.
How to tell fake pearls from real (Detailed Guide)
Before we look at the differences between fake and real pearls, let’s first take a look at what exactly these pearls are and how they differ.
What are real pearls?
A real pearl is the type of pearl that is produced by pearl-bearing oysters in freshwater or salty water conditions.
But depending on whether the development of the oysters has some human involvement or not, these organic gems could be either natural or cultured.
Generally, natural pearls are pearls that are formed without any kind of human intervention, which makes them extremely rare and also not viable commercially. As a result, these kinds of pearls are often found in museums or sold at very high prices to different collectors.
So, the next time someone mentions that they are selling natural pearls in a store and at a high price, you will know that you are getting real pearls and not fakes.
The fake pearls, also called imitation pearls, are the man-made variety of beads that are actually beads and not pearls. The imitation pearls are mostly made of glass, plastic, shells, or alabaster, and then they are made to develop a pearly coating that makes them look exactly like the real pearls. As a result, the fake pearls are easy to spot when you hold them close to the real pearls. One of the most common and well-known fake pearls is the Majorica pearl, which is made of glass. This type of pearl is very well made, and it easily fools the eyes, even for some of the experts.
So, how do you differentiate these two types of pearls?
- Touch the pearls and feel the temperature
The first thing you need to know about the fake and the real pearls is that they have differences in temperature. Generally, the real pearls tend to be cold to the touch for a few seconds, but then they warm-up against the skin after a few minutes.
The fake plastic pearls, on the other hand, don’t feel cold or cool when you first touch them, and you will not feel any coolness with them. They are at room temperature, though. That said, it takes a bit of time for the fake pearls to warm up against the skin. Note, however, that if the pearls are made of glass, they will initially feel cool to the touch, which is the reason why the Majorica pearls are often mistaken for real pearls.
- Design and Super-small irregularities
Not sure if you have a real or fake pearl, you’ll need to examine the pearls under the microscope, looking out for the tiniest bits of irregularities. The tiny irregularities might include ridges and other kinds of tiny irregularities on the surface of the pearls.
In the case of a pearl necklace, the strands of cultured pearls would have very tiny bits and differences on the surface, even for the well-matched, top-quality pearl necklaces. If you notice that all the pearls in the strand are perfectly shaped and identical in size, shape, surface characteristics, and colors, you are most certainly looking at fakes.
At the same time, the natural and cultured pearls will also reflect light just a little differently than the fake pearls. For the fake pearls, look out for the glassy and unnatural look on them.
- Color differences
Generally, the cultured and the natural pearls all have an overtone in a translucent color, appearing to cover the outer surface of the pearl.
The overtone is quite noticeable with the finest quality pearls. Note that the overtone has hints of green and pink over the main color of the pearls. In case you realize that the pearls have just one uniform color and that the color is lacking in-depth, then it means that you are certainly looking at the fake pearl necklace.
The catch, however, is that not all real pearls have the green or pink overtone, which is why you cannot use this method alone to determine the authenticity of the pearls.
- The shape of the pearls
You can differentiate fake from real pearls by observing the shape of the pearls. Generally, most of the real pearls are hardly ever rounded, as we’ve been made to believe. The real pearls are available in button, oval, circular, circle, coin-shaped, or even completely irregular baroque shapes. And the real round pearls tend to command a much higher price tag than the pearls in other shapes.
That said, it’s worth noting that even pearl necklaces made of perfectly round real pearls will not be completely round, and you will always notice slight differences in the shapes of the pearls.
So, if you come across pearls that are completely identical in shape, it would mean that the pearls are man-made since that high level of precision is only made possible by machines.
- Tooth Test – Pearls Surface Feel
You can tell the difference between real and fake pearls by rubbing on the pearls to check how they feel on their surfaces. Both the cultured and natural pearls have a textured feel on the surface when rubbing lightly against each other or even with the front teeth, and they also feel a little gritty.
The fake pearls, on the other hand, tend to feel glassy and smooth. So, if you are trying to quickly figure out if the pearls are real or fake, feel them – smooth represents the fake pearls while the gritty ones are authentic pearls.
Generally, if the pearls are fake, their surfaces will feel a tad grainy, while fake pearls feel smooth with an eggshell-like texture and a slightly rugged look.
- Weight of the pearls
You could also tell the differences between the fake and real pearls by feeling their weight on your hands. In most cases, the real pearls feel heavier than the fake pearls.
You may want to toss them up and down gently in your hands, then feel the differences in weight between them. Using this method, you will be able to differentiate between fake and real pearls.
But there is one exception to this method – in the case of fake pearls made of solid glass beads, they will weigh much more than the real pearls.
- Check for the drill holes.
The drill holes are often seen in the real pearls, but these drill holes are too small in the real pearls, but the drill holes in the imitation pearls tend to be bigger.
You need to check for the drill holes under a high-power magnification, noting that the coating around the drill holes in the fake pearls will be thinner, looking a lot like a kind of shiny paint. You may also notice chipping and flakes around the drill holes.
As mentioned above, most of the recommended tests above are not foolproof, and you may want to incorporate at least one or more tests to determine the authenticity of the pearl necklaces.
The other way in which you can tell if the pearls are authentic or fake would be by checking their luster. Real pearls feature this unique and natural luster, albeit with a rough feel.
Although the ridges are not visible to the naked eye, the jewelers would be able to detect them under a microscope.
But if you don’t have a microscope, you could still feel the ridge under your teeth to check for any natural flaws. The catch is that retailers do not allow this test for their pearls.
- Rubbing two pearls together
You can also tell if pearls are real or fake by rubbing the two pieces together. Essentially, when you rub two real pearls against each other, you will see some real pearl powder. This is the same effect seen when you scrub a real pearl using a knife.
But if you have two fake pearls and you rub them against each other, the effect will be smooth, with no powder produced.
Besides rubbing them together, you could also test the authenticity of the pearls by gently knocking the pieces against each other. The soft pearls give off a unique but soft sound, while the counterfeit pearls only produce a slight sound.
- The Bounce Test
Take the pearl and drop it on glass from a height of 2 feet, then observe if the pearl rebounds and to what height. If the pearl’s bounce is more than 1 foot high, then it is a real pearl. But if the bounce is lower than 1 foot, it most likely is a fake.
- Fire Test
This is the other method for testing the authenticity of the pearls is the fire test, and the best part is that you cannot go wrong with this test.
If the pearl necklace is real and is subjected to the pearl test, the pearl will remain shiny and intact, and it will not produce any odor. But after about 2 minutes under the flame, consistently, the real pearl will make a pop sound. The counterfeit pearls, on the other hand, will not only lose their luster under fire, but they will also emit an annoying, bad odor.
- Chemical tests – Density and Acid tests
For a more definitive answer, you could test the authenticity of the pearls by testing the pearl’s relative density, as well as the stone’s reactivity when exposed to hydrochloric acid. A genuine pearl’s relative density is 2.73 and is soluble in hydrochloric acid. The fake pearls will not, however, react with hydrochloric acid.
Exposure to acetone, however, will affect the counterfeit pearls, and they will lose their luster, unlike real pearls that do not react to acetone.
And there you have it – a list of the most effective tests for real and authentic pearls. Next time you are not sure if the pearl necklace is not worth the money, try some of the recommended tests above.
Tiger is a fashion&jewelry lover. He is also a fashion jewelry manufacturer that help thousands of small business to grow and also do business with some big fashion jewelry brands. He is a truly metal expert and he will share some information you are looking for.