How Can I Tell if My Pearls are Real? Ten Quick Tips.

Pearls International only carries genuine cultured freshwater and saltwater pearls, but with so many convincing fakes on the market, how can you tell if the pearls you got somewhere else are the genuine article?

Today recently broke a story about dishonest salesmen in destination spots like Cozumel who duped their customers into purchasing jewelry that wasn’t real. We wanted to take a moment to help educate our customers and readers about how you can avoid scams like this on your vacation and protect yourself from people who don’t have your best interests in mind.

First, always ask for recommendations at your hotel or with a local resident you trust. Most people aren’t going to shop at a jeweler who is hidden down some dark alleyway, but it’s always a good idea to be smart about where you spend your money.

Satisfaction Guarantee SealSecond, ask about their return policy. If you get home to discover that an item you thought was gold instead turned out to be gold plate, at least you’ll know how to get your money back. Pearls International offers a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee with easy returns and exchanges. If you ever purchase the wrong size or color with us, we’ll happily and enthusiastically make it right.

So what if you’ve already made a purchase, and you’re wondering whether you got your money’s worth? Or maybe you’ve inherited some jewelry and you’re thinking of selling it, but don’t want to risk taking it to a pawn shop or a gold-buyer without knowing what it’s worth?

It’s always a good idea to have a jeweler you trust take a look at a new piece to validate its authenticity. At Pearls International, we’ll even give you a free jeweler’s loupe that you can use to look at the metal hallmarks in your jewelry, and they’re also very useful for doing annual checks on prongs to prevent your stones from getting lost!

If you don’t have time to bring your jewelry to an expert, there are several things you can do at home to find out if your pearls are real.

Are my pearls real? Ten things to look for:

Tip: It’s best to start with a clean strand so you can identify small details that might be missed due to a buildup of oils or perfumes on the surface of your pearls. If you need to find out how to clean your pearls, check out this tutorial or use our specially created pearl-safe cleaner.

Pearl Juice
Normal gold and silver cleaners are acidic and can damage your pearls. Use a pearl-friendly cleaner like our Pearl Juice to avoid damaging your pearls. It is best to start with a clean strand when determining if your pearls are the real deal.

[dropcap2]1[/dropcap2]Real pearls are heavier than fake pearls. Imagine you are holding a strand of little pebbles. Would your strand be about the same weight? If not, you might be holding some pearl impostors. The nacre that makes up the layers of a real pearl is very dense, so it will weigh quite a bit more than plastic or resin, two common materials used in many fake pearls. Beware! Some materials such as glass and composite, or ‘shell’ pearls (pearls made from crushed and reconstituted shell) may fool this test.

[dropcap2]2[/dropcap2]If your pearls are heavy, but you still suspect they may be false, chipped or cracking paint is a sure sign that your pearls are fakes. To find it, look carefully between two pearls at a drill hole. If you notice any paint is missing, or if the material from inside the pearl formed a ‘burr’ when the pearl was drilled, your pearls are probably fake. Real pearls will have a drill hole that is quite smooth and doesn’t show any chipping (unless it has been mishandled). If in doubt, ask an expert.

Chipped Pearl Paint

[dropcap2]3[/dropcap2]Real pearls on a strand will never be perfectly matched. Since no two pearls are identical in nature, look for minor variation in color and shape that indicate your pearls are authentic. You may need to look very closely, as high quality strands will be well matched. However, the differences will be there! 

[dropcap2]4[/dropcap2] Size matters. Are your pearls enormous and perfectly spherical? If you paid a comically tiny price for your comically huge pearls, it’s very likely that they are fake. In nature, the longer a pearl remains within an oyster’s shell, the more likely it is to develop imperfections like dents and divots. As a result, pearls of a very large size can be extremely valuable. If your pearls fit this description, it’s likely you have a strand of shell pearls.

[dropcap2]5[/dropcap2] Knots are important! Real pearls will be individually knotted on a silk or microfiber strand. These knots are crucial to the longevity of your pearls. In addition to preventing each pearl from rubbing against its neighbor, the knots also protect against the loss of more than a couple of pearls, should your strand get caught on something and break. Many high-quality fakes will be knotted (such as Mallorca Pearls), but they are easy to identify when you know what to look for.

Tip: If your strand is knotted, take note of the condition of the knots. Are they frayed or discolored? Is there space between the knots and the pearls? If so, you may need to have your strand restrung to prevent breakage. Pearls International offers restringing for $1/knot. Contact us if you’d like to get more information about our jewelry repair services.

Knotted vs. Unknotted Pearls[dropcap2]6[/dropcap2]If your pearls have unusual coloring, they may be fake. While some real pearls are dyed for fashion or to cover up unsightly surface imperfections, good-quality pearls usually stick to colors that appear in nature. Your favorite chartreuse strand might not be the real thing, but feel free to rock that look if it suits you! To learn more about color treatments in pearls, check out this post.

[dropcap2]7[/dropcap2] The temperature of your pearls can give you some hints. Real pearls often feel cool to the touch and will quickly warm to your body’s temperature when worn. Fake pearls will feel much more close to room temperature when you first pick them up.

[dropcap2]8[/dropcap2] Do your pearls look like soldiers in a row? If they are perfectly uniform without any differences or imperfections, it’s very likely that they were manufactured. Real pearls are born in the sea, so they grow up getting rolled around by wind and waves, and as a result, they are never, never perfect. Even ’round’ pearls will show small lumps and bumps and minor imperfections in the nacre. In the pearls of utmost quality, these may not be visible without a loupe, but they are still there. Don’t worry — these are signs that your pearl came from nature!

Pearl Shape

[dropcap2]9[/dropcap2]Genuine pearls appear more ‘glowy’ than ‘shiny’. Look at your pearls under natural light. Real pearls are made from layer upon layer of a material called ‘nacre’. These layers are translucent, and reflect light in such a way that a real pearl appears to have an inner glow that is almost impossible to recreate with artificial methods. If your pearls appear harsh or have an unusual brassy or metallic appearance, they may be fake.

Graduated white akoya pearl necklace
Genuine Akoya Pearls from Pearls International – this exquisite strand shows you a real life example of the ‘glowy’ quality mentioned above. Faux pearls can appear more metallic.

[dropcap2]10[/dropcap2]Last but not least, one of the best methods for determining if your pearls are genuine is the ‘tooth test’. Real pearls have microscopic crystalline structures, not unlike fingerprints. Every pearl has its own structure, but fake pearls do not have this unique characteristic. As a result, if you hold one pearl between your thumb and index finger, then gently rub the pearl on one of your teeth (this only works with real teeth, not veneers or dental implants), you will feel a slight ‘gritty’ texture, as if you are rubbing sand on your tooth. Fake pearls will feel perfectly smooth. Note: Shell pearls, due to the powdered nacre they contain, may feel gritty. Ask your jeweler to identify them for you.

Now you know!

We hope these tips helped you determine if your pearls are real or fake. Still not sure? Drop by and we can take a look for you, or you can send your pearls to us at the address below. Be sure to include your name, phone number and a return address with your package!

Pearls International
3114 So. Atlantic Avenue
Daytona Beach Shores, FL 32118

28 thoughts on “How Can I Tell if My Pearls are Real? Ten Quick Tips.

  1. Your site is so very helpful. Years ago I inherited some of my great-grandmother’s jewelry, including strands of pearls. I love wearing them, but they need to be restrung. I needed to find out if it was worth restringing them or if they were fake. Thank you!

  2. t his has been very helpful to me. I have been collecting very old jewelry from turn of century thru 1950.i took the pearl test with my teeth andiactually have a very old set of real do I go about selling them.

    1. Hi Tammie!

      For vintage pearls, private collectors are the way to go!

      Plenty of shoppers on Etsy and similar sites are looking for antique pearls to replace missing pieces from their personal sets, and many small-scale designers use vintage pearls in unusual ways.

      Good luck!

  3. The day I went to see my Uncle who has passed, I drove by a house that had a table out the front with lots of items and a “Free” sign. I took a box with a pearl necklace and bracelet, I assumed they were fake and was going to give them to my daughter to play dress ups. I’ve been feeling like they may not be fake, every one of your points says my pearls are real! I’m in shock. Thank you for such a detailed list

  4. Thanks so much for the various ways to determine real pearls. I just got false teeth and am so disappointed that i no longer could rely on the tooth test. This helps immensly.

  5. I have midnight blue twins pearl’s one is 6.05 the outher is 5.80. Went to Silver Dollar City and pick a oster and it had 2 in it .ive got the Pearl Certificate in my hand .i would like to know how much they are worth

    1. Hello Vickie! The best way would be to take them to a jeweler to have their worth estimated. You can always send us some detailed photos and we can give you a very rough estimate, but without seeing them in person it will be difficult to provide an accurate assessment.

  6. Hello!

    Thanks for ur good information that would really helps us.. Is there any chances that a pearl weighing 26kilos is real? I have a friend that he got it from the sea..

    1. It’s not impossible! Some giant clams create pearls that large, and while rare, it’s not unheard of. The largest was found in the Phillippines, and weighed a whopping 34 kg!

    1. Hi Joyce!

      Pearls aren’t naturally magnetic, but some jewelers have developed an ingenious way of carefully carving pearls so that magnets can be embedded into their nacre, allowing them to have a very cool ‘stuck together’ effect. It’s a tricky process, because pearls can fracture due to the friction and heat caused by the drilling process.

      Thanks for your question!

      The Pearl Girls

  7. Hi there! thank you very much for the information and the photos. All really very helpful. In point 10 of your quick tips about the ‘gritty’ feeling on teeth from real pearls, since this gritty feeling will also be from ‘shell’ pearls, how can one tell the difference between shell and the real pearl? Is there any other simple at home test apart from taking them to a jeweller?
    Thank you again.

    1. Hi Gloria!

      Most shell pearls are made using a mold, so they will be identical. Cultured or natural pearls are always going to show variation, since each oyster is unique and will produce a unique pearl.

      Look carefully at your pearls. Do they show any imperfections to indicate that they were made by a tiny ocean-dwelling creature or are they obviously perfect (which would point to their being made by machine)? Is there any flaking paint? Are they perfectly, perfectly, perfectly spherical? If they are an unusual shape, is this exact shape replicated throughout the strand or does it vary? These are all good questions to ask.

      If you still can’t tell, your jeweler should be able to let you know, or you can send them to us for more info!

      Pearl Girl Sophie

  8. There is a fellow in my Facebook selling salt water pearls. He shucks the oysters right in front of you and the oysters produce beautiful pearls. There is colors like green, dark blue, lavender, light pink, red or maroonish, is colors like this possible in salt water pearls and are they real like he presents them to be.

    1. Hello!

      Very strong colors are unusual in natural pearls, although they can occur. Some vendors will use dyed pearls that are placed into oysters, which are then chemically treated to contract around the pearl. These pearls, while they are probably genuine, have likely been pre-color treated. The vendor should disclose this information to you.

      Pearl Girl Sophie

  9. Hi there.
    This site is very helpful.
    However I still have a few questions.
    1. Can sea pearl be in slight pinky ish colour?
    2. Instead of tooth test, can crystalline structures be seen under a microscope or watch maker magnifying glass?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *