February 2023

How to Know if a Pearl is Authentic

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Pearls have a notoriety for being faked widely. If you didn’t already know about it, there are primarily two different kinds of pearls to be found in the world – the natural and the artificial. The former kind is what is known as the real thing. So when you are looking for authentic pearls, chances are that you are thinking of naturally occurring pearls. These are found typically in mollusks of various kinds, such as oysters, mussels or other types of bi-valve species. However, such pearls usually take a very long time to form and are quite rare by nature. Finding some of the truly splendid and large ones among them could be a matter of simple good luck.

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These days, however, pearl dealers rarely depend on such chance discoveries. The stakes are too many and the supply will be too meager to meet the demand. Hence, pearls today are cultivated or farmed. This is done by artificially inserting a suitable material into each mollusk and then causing the nacre to envelope it in concentric layers over an extended period of time. This, in turn, produces the iridescent nacre which has become the true identifying trait of a real pearl.

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Fake pearls, on the other hand, have all the glitter and shine of real pearls except their value. They are usually made up of inexpensive materials like glass, ceramic, shell or plastic, and are then coated with a special varnish or lacquer to give them a pearl-like iridescence and luster. Fake pearls are entirely made by human hands, are mass-produced and carry none of the exclusivity or value of real, ‘natural’ pearls.

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There are a few ways to determine whether the pearl you are buying is real or a fake one. Here is a short list.

  • Fake pearls appear more perfect than real pearls. The latter, upon close inspection, almost always reveal some imperfections in their shape, texture, color or otherwise. That’s the way Nature intended them to be. Fake, artificial pearls, on the other hand, are perfectly crafted with a high degree of cold, mechanical precision.
  • Real pearls reveal hints of rings or ridges around the drill hole. They can be seen under powerful magnification. Fake pearls display no such hints.
  • Fake pearls, in spite of their outward luster, lack the natural brilliance and iridescence of authentic pearls and do not reflect light well. Fake pearls also feel lighter Real pearls appear cold to the touch and when rubbed against the front of the teeth, show resistance and feel gritty.

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