Tips for stone care

How to recognize real pearls from fake ones?

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. Pearls are most often used for jewelry intended for the fair sex, which gives their features extraordinary tenderness and sophistication. Mother of pearl is a symbol of modesty, innocence and devotion. Rings, earrings, pendants or beads inlaid with this precious stone were presented to lovers or brides as a sign of endless mutual love. The fashion for magnificent jewelry with pearls never goes away; over time, they become even more popular and in demand. Such jewelry harmoniously complements any style of clothing, but they are especially suitable for lovers of the classics. So how can you tell real pearls from fakes? Let’s take a closer look at all the nuances and features of choosing this miracle of nature.

Tactile assessment

The simplest and most accessible test for the authenticity of a pearl is tactile evaluation. To the touch, natural mother of pearl will not be perfectly smooth. In addition, it does not glide over the surface as freely as a fake, which has a perfectly smooth surface and interacts with objects of different textures without problems. Another way to determine the natural origin of a stone is to take a pearl in your palm (or better if there are several of them) and evaluate the beads by heat transfer and weight. Original pearls will be cool like marble for some time and will noticeably weigh down your palm, while a fake pearl made of polymer or other material is much lighter.

Visual assessment

This method will also help when choosing jewelry with a gemstone. Using this method, you can evaluate the uniformity of surface coverage with mother-of-pearl. Each element of a pearl thread, made of non-natural material, will be identical to the previous one, while each natural bead has a completely special sheen that is not repeated in others. The originality of this semi-precious stone is also determined by its appearance. Real pearls have evenly iridescent highlights, in which you can easily see your reflection. When exposed to direct light, natural beads acquire an exquisite soft blue hue. Too bright a shine can only confirm that this is a fake. If possible, you need to inspect the hole through which the thread or pearl fastening is threaded. In real beads, the edges are clear and even, and upon closer inspection with a magnifying glass, you can see the entire inner side of the cylindrical opening, where the layer of mother-of-pearl should be uniform and uniform. Mother of pearl is a material that has the property of bouncing off surfaces like a ball, and therefore if you throw a natural pearl, for example, on the floor, it will “briskly” jump around the entire room, without stopping for a long time.

Expert review

A professional assessment by an experienced gemologist is rightfully considered the most reliable. He has access to modern, advanced equipment, owns the necessary technologies, and can check pearls under a microscope, using a refractometer, as well as X-rays or other methods, which allows him to distinguish even the most skillful fake.

What you should pay attention to

Price . A high, but at the same time affordable price should alert you, because, despite any discounts and promotions, natural pearls cannot have a low price. Attractive names. Many scammers, in order to make the fake look respectable, call it some attractive name. You should not devote time to such sellers; they often actively focus your attention on the name, and not on the physical characteristics of the stone.


Pearls are a very specific material and should not be heated or exposed to strong chemicals. Professionals do not recommend buying jewelry from unverified sellers or those with a bad reputation. To avoid spoiling the appearance of your items, their cleaning, grinding and polishing should be entrusted to experienced jewelers. When ordering jewelry from our jewelry studio “UvelirMoscow”, each buyer can be confident in the quality of the inserts, because it is confirmed by certificates from international laboratories.

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