Pearls are a timeless classic when it comes to jewelry. Whether you are in the market for a new piece, or are curious about one you may already own or inherited, telling imitation from real is a frequently asked question. Here are a few simple tests that can help determine whether your pearl jewelry is the real deal.
Perhaps the easiest way to distinguish real pearls is by taking an up-close look. In this case, imperfections are key because real pearls are rarely perfect. Pearls are products of nature, and each one is slightly different. Irregularity in shape is one sign of a true pearl. Most pearls will not be perfect spheres, and if they are there is a good chance they are artificial. Take a closer look at the surface with a magnifying glass. A real pearl will have a slightly grainy texture with signs of imperfections such as small blemishes and indents.
Another way to tell imitations pearls from real is by simply picking them up. Even when the weather is hot, true pearls are slightly cool to the touch. Real pearls should feel noticeably cool for a few seconds before they warm up. Fake pearls made from plastic beads generally feel warm or room temperature. The weight of the pearl is also an indicator of genuineness. Most real pearls feel somewhat heavy for their size, while fakes (especially plastic pearls) will have a light, insubstantial feel.
If the previous two tests still have you wondering about your pearl jewelry, the friction test may be a good option. Hold the pearls in your fingers, and gently rub them against each other. A true pearl will create friction with another due to the grainy, imperfect surface. Fakes, on the other hand, will easily glide past each other due to their artificial coatings. Take a close look at your hands after this test. If there is a small amount of powder that is a good sign, because real pearls will create a pearl powder upon friction. Do not be afraid to rub your pearls together carefully because it does not harm them. Simply blow away any powder or rub the pearl several times with your thumb, and they will return to their beautiful luster.
When it comes to pearl jewelry and its validity, do not ignore your instincts. Real pearls will never be outright cheap. If a seller is giving you a deal that seems too good to be true, chances are they may be imitation. As a general rule, your best bet is to purchase pearls from licensed, certified jewelers and pearl retailers. If these tests still leave you questioning pearl jewelry you already have, consider enlisting the help of an experienced jeweler.