Pearls are beautiful and precious. But since these rare gems were discovered in ancient times, people have been using machines to create fakes. So before we move on to the practical tips you can use anywhere to tell if a pearl is real, it's important to understand the fundamental difference between the two.

how to know if pearls are real

What is a Real Pearl?

True pearls are produced from pearled oysters in fresh or salt water. Depending on whether human assistance is involved, such organic gemstones can be divided into cultured and natural. It is worth noting that almost all pearls on the market today are cultured. Natural pearls formed without human intervention are extremely rare and not commercially viable. Therefore, they are usually only found in museums. So the next time you hear someone mention the word "natural pearls" in the store, you know what they really mean is that these are real, not fake.

What are Fake Pearls?

Fake pearls or imitation pearls are artificial beads. They are usually made of glass, plastic, alabaster, or shells with a pearl coating to provide a similar appearance to real pearls. Some fakes are easy to spot, while others look too close to the real thing to be hard to spot. One of the most famous, Majorica pearls made of glass, can often fool your eyes.

Now that you know the difference between real and fake pearls, let's help you determine if your pearls are real or not with some easy-to-use methods.

Touch and Feel the Temperature

The first step is that you can touch them and feel the temperature. Real pearls are icy cold for the first few seconds before touching the skin. The fake plastic pearls are at the same temperature as room temperature, and they don't feel cool to the touch. However, fakes made of glass beads might feel cool to the touch at first. But they tend to take longer to warm up on your skin than real pearls.

Look for Tiny Irregularities

When you examine a real pearl closely or magnify, you will notice tiny irregularities and ridges on the surface of each pearl.

In a string of cultured pearls, you can always see very small differences between them, even if they are high quality and well matched. If pearls are completely perfect and identical in shape, size, color and surface characteristics, they are likely fake.

Also, cultured and natural pearls reflect light differently than fake pearls. The luster of fake pearls looks glassy and unnatural.

Check Color

Both natural and cultured pearls often have overtones, a translucent color that appears on the outer surface of the pearl. This is especially evident in high-quality pearls. You'll see a hint of pink and green on the main pearl color.

If you notice pearls have only one uniform color and lack depth, they are most likely fake. But it's worth noting that some real pearls also don't have overtones. Therefore, it is impossible to distinguish the authenticity of pearls by this method alone.

Observe the Shape

Most true pearls are rarely round. They come in a variety of shapes, including oval, button, near-circular, round, coin, teardrop, and completely irregular baroque. Generally speaking, the price of round pearls is higher than that of other shapes. But even with a very round real pearl necklace, you can still see that they have slightly different pearl shapes.

So, regardless of the shape of the pearls, if you find them to be exactly the same, it could be a sign that they were made by a machine.

Rub Pearls to Check Surface Feel

Both natural and cultured pearls have textured surfaces due to their layered nacre structure. So when you rub the pearls lightly against each other or over the front teeth, they can feel a little gritty. However, fake or imitation pearls often feel smooth or glassy.

Feel the Weight

Real pearls are usually heavier than fake pearls. Gently flip them up and down to feel the difference in weight. You can use this method to test those made of coated glass or plastic beads.

The only exception to this weight test is solid glass beads. They are much heavier than natural or cultured pearls. So you need to use the other methods mentioned here to judge.

Check Drilling

The drill holes for real pearls are usually small, while the drill holes for artificial pearls are usually larger. Under a magnifying glass, the coating around the fake pearl holes is usually thin and looks like a shiny coat of paint. You will often see a flake or chip coating around the drilled hole that will eventually peel off.

It is important to remember that none of the above methods can be used alone to make a conclusive judgment about the authenticity of a pearl. It is always useful to combine several of these methods to detect fake pearls.

You can also perform advanced testing in a gem lab for more conclusive results. As a rule of thumb, you will want to buy pearl jewelry from a reputable jeweler and pearl expert. Your retailer should tell you whether the pearls you bought are real or fake.

At HER’S Jewelry, all of our pearls are freshwater or marine cultured pearls from environmentally sustainable farms around the world. Treat yourself to some beautiful pearl earrings or necklaces now.

Pearl Drop Earrings Bridal

These drop earrings feature two white stud-set round freshwater pearls for a sophisticated look. Angel wings add elegance to cultured pearl drop earrings. These angel wings pearl earrings are perfect for women who like to keep things simple and elegant.

Baroque Pearl Earrings

These beautiful baroque pearl earrings showcase a pair of sparkling baroque pearls. Charming and lustrous, these gorgeous pearl pendants are highlighted by small diamonds set in a trendy gold earring wire. Flared metal and tiny zircon above a single baroque pearl add a vintage touch and elegance to the earrings. A delightful gift for a June birthday or pearl occasion, and a great treat for someone.

Pearl Drop Necklace

A sparkling freshwater pearl elegantly hangs below a tiny sparkling diamond. This pearl necklace is made of silver and plated with 18k gold, these vintage elements highlight the unique charm of pearls. Simple yet sophisticated, this classic pearl and diamond pendant necklace is perfect for both formal and casual looks.

pearl bead necklace

This freshwater pearl beads necklace exudes nobility, with an air of sturdiness and serenity. Designed to complement and enhance your favorite day and evening outfits, this beautifully crafted pendant is sure to be a welcome addition to your jewelry collection.