How to tell if pearls are Real or Fake

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Before we understand how to identify real pearls, it would be handy to get some background information. Pearls are gemstones unlike any other. They are also sometimes referred to as the “Queen of Gems” and have been treasured for thousands of years, and even dating back to the roman empire. Pearls exude elegance and sophistication and compliment almost every type of outfit, which is why there is a high demand for this one of a kind gemstone.

Unfortunately this popularity has been the reason for the rise of fake pearl production. Given the advances in the creation of fake pearls, unknowingly buying fake pearls has been a problem that more and more people have to deal with. I hope to make the process of identifying a real pearl easier so that you can make a better and more informed purchase.

What is an Authentic Pearl: Natural and Cultured Pearls

First and foremost, both natural pearls and cultured pearls are 100% authentic pearls because both are produced by mollusks such as oysters and mussels. The main difference between the 2 types is how the pearl formation process begins. For natural pearls, the irritant gets trapped inside the mollusk completely by random, and for cultured pearls the irritant is inserted by humans. The pearl is then allowed to form exactly how nature had designed it.


Before the creation of cultured pearls in 1893, natural pearls were the only option available, making it very expensive and only available to royalty and the elite. Cultured pearls made the gemstone more affordable.

Rise of Fake Pearls

As the popularity of pearls continued to grow so did the rise of fake pearls. These fake pearls are made in the labs using plastic and glass. They come under the disguise of different names:

  • Faux pearls
  • synthetic pearls
  • Imitation pearls
  • Costume pearls
  • Mallorca pearls

It always hurts when you a consumer want to buy real pearls but are deceived by sellers pushing fake pearls under the guise of real pearls, and you should understand how to identify real pearls.

Difference between real and fake pearls

There are quite a few differences between real and fake pearls, and if you look for these distinctions, you will be better positioned to confirm the authenticity of pearls.

List of characteristics that separate real and fake pearls.

  • Fake pearls will have a uniform shine, so all parts of the fake pearl will shine light the same way. Since real pearls are formed in nature, there are inherent small imperfections and dents that make the light shine differently at different parts of the pearl. This is one of the most magical things about a real pearl. Additionally real pearls have a deep lusture so it seems that the pearl is illuminated from the inside. Fake pearls only shine on the surface.
  • Uniformity: A fake pearl necklace will have pearls that are exactly the same size and perfectly spherical. They will seem flawless without any blemishes when examined closely. Real pearls will never have 2 pearls that are exactly alike. This uniqueness is what makes a pearl special. All real pearls will have some imperfection or blemish when examined.
  • Colour and Overtone: In addition to uniformity, fake pearls will also have the exact same colour. Real pearls on the other hand will have slight differences in colour and overtones. This is natural considering that every pearl comes from a different mollusk.
  • Weight: Fake pearls are light when compared to real pearls of the same dimensions. However that said, fake pearl makers have realized this difference and have increased the weight by using heavier materials like glass to bring the weight to the same level as real pearls.

The Pearl Tooth Test

One of the easiest way to check the authenticity of pearls is to do the tooth test. Simply take the pearl and gently rub it along the surface of your tooth. If the pearls are real, you’ll feel a grittiness or rough feeling (similar to sandpaper). If the pearls are fake, when you rub it against your tooth, it will feel smooth like glass or plastic. This simple test will enable you to choose wisely.


Buying from a trusted retailer

With today’s online buying environment, it becomes a little tricky to buy pearls. Since you are not able to touch and feel the pearls, it becomes harder to verify if the pearl is real or not, so the tooth test becomes less useful, which is why it is always advisable to buy your pearls from a trusted retailer. While it may seem obvious, it cannot be overstated. Remember that trusted brands have a very credible reputation which helps you get peace of mind knowing that your pearls are authentic.


I hope this article helps you in your pearl purchasing decisions, and to appreciate the magical properties of pearls that make it one of the most sought after gem.




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