Have you ever been fooled into thinking that a fake pearl necklace is the real thing? Knowing how to spot a fake can be helpful for many reasons – it will help you avoid making mistakes when buying your necklace, and may even help you identify one you already have! Generally fake pearl necklaces may be called fake, faux, simulated, glass, plastic, resin, synthetic, artificial, or manmade if you are ordering online, but what if someone gives you a pearl necklace and you have no idea how to tell the difference? Here are some ways you can figure out if your necklace is real or not. (Keep in mind, cultured pearls are real! They are just artificially ‘induced’ pearls.)
1) X-rays. This is the most reliable test of all! An x-ray will tell you everything you need to know, including the actual thickness of the nacre, whether the pearl is cultured or not, and, of course, whether it’s real or fake. However, you will have to pay an expert to do this for you, and that can be expensive.
2) Destructive tests involve cutting the pearl open so that the core is visible. Natural pearls will be all nacre, freshwater cultured pearls will be nearly all nacre, and saltwater cultured pearls will have a shell core with a thinner layer of nacre. Faux pearls, on the other hand, will have a glass core with many layers of coating. I don’t recommend this at all! Why destroy your pearls?
3) Exposing your pearls to sunlight or a very bright indoor light will let you see all the color variations. Real pearls have so many color variations available that a perfect match is very rare, and in the sunlight, even more so. If both the body color and the overtones are perfectly matched, you may be looking at either a fake or an extremely costly real pearl necklace.
4) The tooth test involves running a pearl lightly over your teeth. Real pearls should apparently feel gritty whereas fake pearls will feel much smoother. This will fail to separate cultured pearls from fake ones, however – cultured pearls have a much thinner layer of nacre so they will feel relatively smooth. In general, I don’t know how reliable this test is – some experts seem to swear by it but I have no experience with it myself. Use at your own risk.
5) Magnification will show any imperfections or ridges that may exist. Real pearls will have years’ worth of nacre build up, creating some ridges that may not be apparent to the naked eye. Fake pearls will be mostly smooth.
6) Density. Real pearls should feel heavier relative to their size than faux pearls. In general – if you pick up your pearl necklace and it feels light, it’s fake. If it’s heavy, things get more complicated since well made faux pearl necklaces are nearly the same density as their natural counterparts..
Hopefully you now have a good idea of what the differences are between real and fake pearls. I should mention that Swarovski simulated pearls are very very close to real pearls – it will be hard to tell the difference in many of these categories. In that case, an x-ray will be your best bet. Good luck and I hope this helps you avoid buying a fake pearl necklace!
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