How to Spot Fake Pearls


Authored by Lisa Bower in Jewelry
Published on 11-21-2009

Pearls are a classic piece of jewelry sported by women of all ages and backgrounds. A nice strand of pearls goes well with everything from an evening gown to a sweater set. However, not all pearls are created equally. There are many fake pearls out there. With some knowledge about the creation, look, and feel of real pearls, it is easy to spot a fake set of pearls in an instant. The following includes some basic steps for spotting fake pearls.

Pearls may look round and smooth, but this is a common misconception. One of the best ways to spot fake pearls is to touch them and to peer in at their shape. To spot a fake, try rubbing the pearl against the teeth. Fake pearls will be perfectly smooth whereas the real deal will be rough in texture. Similarly, pearls are not generally a perfect sphere. Real pearls have some ridges and irregularities. They may not look like a lump, but they will not be a perfect circle.

Color is another thing to consider when trying to spot fake pearls. Hold the pearl up to the light to look for shifts in the pearls color. Real pearls will have some variation: They won’t be perfectly white. Similarly, take a magnifying glass and peer in to see the quality of the pearl. Such a glass should magnify the pearl and reveal dips and ridges that the naked eye or even your teeth may not pick up. If there are no irregularities, then the pearl is probably a fake.

The density of the pearl matters quite a bit. Pearls tend to be quite heavy whereas fake pearls are often made out of hollow glass or plastic and will be lighter. This test shouldn’t be used alone because some high quality glass fakes can mimic the density of real pearls. Rather, use this test in addition to other tests.

X-ray is another method for finding out whether or not pearls are real. To do this, invest in the services of a certified gemologist to x-ray the pearls. Inquire with local jewelers to find such professionals. This shows the viewer the pearl’s insides, where or not the pearl has been drilled or worked on before, and whether or not the pearl has the appropriate density.

A last resort for the desperate is to cut the pearl in half. Real pearls will have layers of nacre. A fake pearl will have a core with a single layer that is painted and will flake away once from the drilling or cutting. Most people wouldn’t necessarily want to do this with your pearl earrings or necklace, but this could prove beneficial if a person thinks he or she has been duped by a jeweler.

People who suspect they have fake pearls in their possession should talk to local jewelers. These professionals will know if a pearl is real or not or will know someone who can perform many of the above tests. Knowing how to spot fake pearls is important when investing in high end jewelry or if someone has inherited pearl-laden items and is wondering whether or not they’re worth anything.


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