Geological classification

How to check whether pearls are real or not?

Although real jewelry cannot be cheap, a high price does not always indicate natural origin. Let’s talk about how to determine which pearls are being offered to you – natural or fake.

Types of pearls, fakes and imitations

Pearls can be either saltwater or freshwater, but in any case, almost all of them are cultured, that is, artificially grown. Important: this fact does not make it unnatural or less valuable. But artificial pearls include fakes and imitations, whose market share today is approximately 4,5%. They learned to create imitations back in the 15th century, but active experiments in this area began in the middle of the last century. To create fakes and imitations, mainly painted plastic and glass were used; porcelain, gelatin, alabaster, wax, mother-of-pearl (essence from fish scales), and Swarovski crystals with a proprietary coating were also used. They also came up with the idea of ​​using cotton as a base for beads. This is how cotton pearls appeared, which are produced in Japan, Thailand and China. The production technology of the latter is that cotton is pressed under high pressure and formed into beads of different diameters and shapes, then covered with paints and at the last stage impregnated with natural pearl essence, and the result is fixed with varnish. There are two types of imitations that are most popular on the jewelry market: ● Majorica – a Spanish brand that has been producing pearl jewelry made from alabaster coated with artificial mother-of-pearl since 1890. The beads are perfect in shape and have a bright shine. ● Shell pearl – the technology was invented in the twentieth century in America as an analogue of South Sea pearls. This is an imitation, but of high quality; natural mother of pearl is used in production. Only something made from natural and cultured pearls can be considered jewelry; everything else is costume jewelry.

Basic authentication methods

The difficulty of checking the authenticity of pearls when purchasing is due to the fact that sellers in most cases will not allow such tests to be carried out, since damage to the product cannot be ruled out. In addition, the methods discussed are not applicable to all jewelry. There are several ways to distinguish pearls from fakes, which can be grouped into three groups: visual, mechanical, physical and chemical. Below we will look at each group, but let us remind you that in case of doubts regarding authenticity, the most reasonable decision is to take the jewelry to a gemological laboratory.

Visual methods

A simple inspection will help verify the authenticity of a pearl necklace. Since even if they are grown on a farm, pearls do not turn out exactly the same, they are easy to distinguish from artificial ones, which are always one to one in shape, color, and surface evenness. Closer to the center, the best pearls are strung on a thread, while at the periphery – smaller and less even ones. The growth layers are not visible on the surface of the imitation. Another method is to examine the sample under a microscope or a magnifying glass with tenfold magnification: the surface of a natural pearl will be scaly, but in the case of a fake, the surface will be uniform and more uniform. Pay attention to the shine: real pearls have a uniform and deep shine, as if coming from within. But it is worth considering that low-quality natural beads can also be dull. Also, the natural material does not chip at the drilling sites and has a clear transition between the mother-of-pearl and inner layers, unlike the fake. Not all black pearls in jewelry stores are naturally this way; sometimes they are colored with a solution of silver nitrate. How can you tell if a pearl has been dyed? Under a magnifying glass, small specks or thickening of color in the surface layers will be visible. Natural color is distributed evenly.

Mechanical methods

You can distinguish real pearls from artificial ones both visually and using tests. Since natural pearls are heavier than artificial pearls, if you have individual beads, you can pick them up and feel the weight. You can also conduct the following test: throw a bead from your height onto the floor – a genuine one will bounce back, unlike a fake one. A temperature test will show whether what you have in front of you is genuine or fake. The first, when you take a separate bead in your hand, will be cold, and the second – body temperature. If you want to check the authenticity of a string of pearls, then rub two adjacent pearls against each other with force. Pearl powder will form on both and will leave scratches, which on natural pearls can be eliminated by running a fingertip across the surface. In the case of a fake, you will simply erase the top layer of paint. This verification method is used at a pearl factory in China. By carefully running the pearl along the front surface of the teeth, you can hear a thin creak from a natural one and feel resistance, roughness like fine sandpaper. Scratches from the original are removed in the same way as the previous method. Here you need to be careful, since there is a risk of damaging not only the test sample, but also tooth enamel.

Physico-chemical methods

Such experiments are not recommended, but if you have a separate pearl and want to determine its origin, wipe it with a cotton pad soaked in acetone/nail polish remover – nothing will happen to the natural one. A separate bead can also be held for testing using tweezers over the open flame of a lighter or candle. Natural pearls will be covered with soot, which can be easily cleaned with a paper napkin. The plastic will melt and emit a corresponding smell. Not everything is a pearl that has a pearlescent sheen. Indeed, if jewelry with real pearls can be confidently classified as jewelry (with an appropriate price), then objects decorated with artificial stone – or rather, its imitation – are nothing more than costume jewelry. But how to distinguish one from the other? Are there any characteristic features that will allow us to identify real pearls and distinguish them from fakes and imitation? Eat. But first, it’s worth understanding how imitations are made, because the method of creating ersatz pearls also determines its main differences from real jewelry that pearl shells give us.

How to obtain imitation pearls

The basis of almost any imitation is a hollow ball made of glass or glass-like materials. The inner surface of such a ball is processed, and it itself is filled with some composition whose color is similar to the color of mother-of-pearl. The first imitations were filled with nacreous solutions obtained from material from the inner surface of shells, or even with luminous gas. Modern pearl jewelry is almost no different from the first imitations. Unless the filling materials are synthetic. Sometimes imitation pearls are made from solid materials: for example, black pearls are “obtained” from hematite, which, after processing, acquires a characteristic glossy gray sheen.

Comparison of real pearls and imitation pearls

  • By weight;
  • According to the invoice;
  • By color.

The mass of natural pearls is always greater than the mass of imitation pearls. The fact is that real pearls are a very dense material, while most imitations have either voids or cavities filled with not too dense material. A real pearl necklace weighs, accordingly, much more than costume jewelry.

If we are talking about determining whether real pearls are used in a ring or not, then it is difficult to determine the weight offhand. Other parameters come into play – shine and texture.

Anyone who has ever seen a real pearl will have no difficulty in distinguishing a fake even by the nature of its glow and shine. In general terms, the shine of a fake (or imitation) is deliberately bright and even, while a real pearl glows softly and can even shimmer slightly.

In terms of texture, the imitations are also somewhat deliberate: pearls do not have surfaces as smooth to the touch as a glass ball filled with mother-of-pearl paste or gelatin. It’s very easy to check what’s in front of you by running a pearl over your teeth: you will feel characteristic roughness that does not exist in imitations.

There are several more proven ways to test pearls. For example:

  • Drop test (a pearl is thrown onto a hard surface and then bounces up). Real pearls have enviable jumping ability, while glass (if it doesn’t break) will only bounce a little above the floor or table;
  • Friction test (by rubbing pearl against pearl, we can feel dust on our fingers – this is the result of the interaction of two calcium carbonate surfaces of equal hardness).

Finally, if it is impossible to verify the authenticity using most “physical” methods, the parameter of the cost of pearls remains – a real pearl cannot be cheap. In addition, a fake can be easily identified by the person offering it. For example, if they are trying to sell you natural, “literally just caught” pearls for a high, but affordable price, we are talking about a fake. The fact is that almost one hundred percent of the products that are now offered for purchase separately or as part of jewelry come to us from pearl farms, and not from the bottom of the sea.

We hope that you have no questions about how to determine the authenticity of pearls. Moreover, our store offers only natural pearls.

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