By Danielle Olivia Tefft
I have strong opinions about how to tell real gems and jewelry from fakes. Pearls are no exception! I absolutely abhor the old tip that you should run a pearl against your teeth to see if it is gritty (real) or smooth (fake). YUCK!!!!!!
Just like destructive tests of any kind, the teeth “tip” needs to be forgotten. It’s a crude and unhygienic way to go about distinguishing between real and fake pearls.
Often, you’ll hear people say that real pearls are strung on silk and the strands are double knotted between each pearl. Yes, that is usually true, but guess what? Good fakes can be strung on silk and have double knots between the “pearls”, as well. Fake pearls can even be strung with precious metal clasps. So how do you tell real pearls from fake ones?
Here are my favorite tips for telling real from fake pearls. And these tips won’t get you thrown out of a fine jewelry store, like putting pearls in your mouth might!
1. Examine the drill hole openings at both ends of each pearl with a 10X jeweler’s loupe or other magnifying device. Real pearls will typically have no burrs, flashing, chips, or other damage in this area. Real pearls will typically have smooth, perfectly round drill hole edges. This tip alone has helped me tell countless fakes from real pearls. (Rarely, real pearl nacre can chip in the drill hole area. But there is another layer of nacre under the chip - not glass, plastic or shell as in fake pearls!)
2. With the same jeweler’s loupe or magnifying device from tip #1, look at the surfaces of the pearls in question. Even the finest cultured pearls have natural imperfections in their lustrous nacre surfaces here and there. These can appear as tiny asymmetrical rings, dimples, and grainy bumps. Each real pearl’s imperfections will be in a different location and/ or pattern than another. (Yes, these are the imperfections your teeth might pick up. How much better to just observe them under magnification!) Fake pearls are perfectly smooth, or they may all have an identical manufacturer defect in the same location.
3. Press the fleshy underside of your fingers against the pearl strand in question. Real pearls will feel colder than room temperature, whereas fakes will be at room temperature.
4. In some cases, you may discern a color variation between natural and fake pearls. Fake pearls often have a really shiny, harsh luster. Real pearls are lustrous, too, but the luster is often more subdued. Also, each real pearl will have a slightly different coloration and luster, whereas fake pearls will all have the identical coloration. Truthfully, this is the least reliable indicator for me. The other three tips above are what I swear by! I hope they help you, too. Happy hunting!
Have you discovered a set of real pearls in your travels or in an inherited jewelry box? Or, do you have any clever means of telling if they are real we didn’t discuss above? If so, be sure to tell us in the comments section. And if you love jewelry as much as we do, be sure to sign up for this blog so you don’t miss an article!
Danielle Olivia Tefft is a professional writer with a lifelong passion for gems and jewelry. She is a GIA accredited jewelry professional and was the owner of online antique and vintage jewelry shop, Treasure Box Antiques for many years. Current projects include writing jewelry related web copy and blogs for clients worldwide. When she is not writing, she spends time in the garden, spoiling her cats and traveling with her significant other. Would you like to hire her? Would you like to advertise on her website or blog? Visit danielleoliviatefftwrites.com for clips, terms, her media kit and more information.
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The Found in the Jewelry Box Blog is my attempt to teach others about the wonderful world of gems and jewelry, past and present. Please enjoy!