How to Distinguish Fine Quality Pearls


Pearls are precious gifts of nature; it’s no wonder why they are given as beautiful and fitting gifts to loved ones. Pearls are lovely to behold, with an elegance and grace no other gem can exude. They make wonderful heirlooms as they can retain their luminescent beauty for years and years. But their beauty and popularity has resulted in the production of numerous imitations- fake pearls made of glass, plastic and other materials. Some are made so flawlessly it can be difficult to distinguish from the real thing.

To avoid purchasing imitations for the price of the genuine article, it is important to familiarise yourself with the characteristics of genuine pearls and how to differentiate them from the fakes.

Distinguishing Real from Fake

Fake pearls can sometimes be made and sold to appear real, but there are a few telltale steps in order to definitively identify a fake pearl. Following are some simple tests you can do to spot the fakes. It is advisable to conduct more than one of these tests to accurately determine the authenticity of your pearl.

  1. The Teeth Test. Run a pearl lightly along the edge of your front teeth. Real pearls ought to feel sandy or gritty. If it feels too smooth, chances are the pearl is an imitation.
  2. The Friction Test. Rub two pearls together lightly. Similar to the teeth test, real pearls should feel somewhat gritty, and produce a powdery substance from the layers of nacre, the substance that makes up real pearls.
  3. The Magnification Test. Look at the pearl under a jeweller’s loupe. The magnified surface of real pearls ought to have a scaly, maze-like appearance, whereas fake pearls just look grainy.
  4. The Variation Test. Take a close look at each of the pearls, if they all look identical in shape, lustre, size and colour and appear to be completely flawless, then they may be fake as real pearls often have slight variations.

The Genuine Article

Genuine pearls have many fine qualities that fake pearls will never truly possess or replicate. These pearls are graded in quality with A representing the lowest and AAA representing the highest, based on the fine qualities they possess. Those with a trained eye for appraising pearls know if a pearl possesses these qualities with just a glance, but anyone can spot these qualities with some careful observation and knowledge of what to look out for.

In order to distinguish a truly exquisite, genuine pearl, look closely for the following features:

  • Lustre. Lustre basically represents the quality and quantity of light reflected from the pearl. Lustre is not just represented by how “shiny” a pearl is, but how intensely it illuminates from within. This seeming illumination is caused by the pearl’s many layers of light-reflecting nacre. Pearls come in a range of lustre levels, from low to very high. More nacre in a pearl means higher lustre levels and a longer period of retaining its iridescent beauty.

To determine the lustre level of a genuine pearl, try examining it under a fluorescent lamp over a light-coloured material. Roll it back and forth to check for uniform lustre. The more distinct the reflected images are on the surface of a pearl, the more lustrous it is and consequently, more valuable. If the surface appears chalky with washed-out reflections of light and other objects, the pearl most likely has low lustre.

  • Colour and Overtone. Pearls come in a wide variety of colours and overtones, and some are rarer and consequently more expensive than others. The most common colours are white and cream, but these can be slightly more expensive when they have rose or silver overtones, which are colours that complement the body colour of the pearl. Darker toned pearls are also more desirable and expensive than lighter ones.
  • Shape. Pearls come in three basic shapes: symmetrical, spherical and baroque. The more spherical or rounder the pearl, the more desirable and expensive it is. Symmetrical pearls, such as teardrop-shaped ones, are also desirable but not as expensive. The least expensive of all pearls would be the baroque ones, which are irregularly-shaped.
  • Size. The bigger the pearl, the more nacre and time are required to form it, thus making it more expensive and valuable.

If you are still in doubt after examining your own pearls, it is best to get the expert opinion of a certified gemologist.

Where to Find Quality Pearl Jewellery Online

If you are on the lookout for fine, quality pearl jewellery online, look no further than Watches & Jewellery sells numerous brands of jewellery and watches in Australia, including some fine pearl necklaces, earrings, pendants and bracelets made from genuine freshwater pearls. They also have lovely silver and gold jewellery that can serve as perfect gifts for special occasions.

Debra Wright blogs about a plethora of topics including watches and other fields. Wright considers Watches and Jewellery as one of the leaders in selling online jewelleries and watches.

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