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How to Tell If Your Pearls Are the Real Thing

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Pearls are awesome. We love having them at Funky Junk Auctions and we love their natural variety. They’re what happens when mollusks turn little bits of sand or shell into something pretty. When you’re looking through your jewelry collection or items you’ve won, it can be useful to know whether your pearls are real… or not, because if they are? They’re usually worth more, especially if they’re nearly round.

Here’s what to look for when those pearls are in your hands.

Touch & Feel

Real pearls are rough. You can’t see with your naked eye, but they’re covered in ridges because of how they’re formed in the wild. When you rub them against your teeth you can feel the texture, and if you’re able to look at them with a magnifier, you’ll be able to see those tell-tale ridges.

Since fake pearls are often made of glass or other materials, they’ll be smooth… except maybe for areas where the paint is chipped.

Real pearls are also cool to the touch and warm up as they’re held or worn. Imitation pearls always feel warm and may be a little sticky depending on what they’re made of. Those genuine pearls won’t be sticky unless they’ve been sitting in something they shouldn’t.

Shape & Lustre

Nature doesn’t make flaws, nature makes character.

The real thing isn’t usually perfect. They’ll have slight imperfections in their shape, or little blemishes. As you turn a real pearl it reflects light in a different way to an imitation pearl. If you shine a light on the real thing, it almost looks like that pearl is lit from inside.

Pearls that are perfectly round and don’t show any imperfections are, most of the time, fake. If they aren’t fake, then you have a very expensive strand of pearls in your hands.

The lustre of a real pearl is strong and bright. What that means is that when light is shone on the pearl, it seems like the pearl is lit from within.

Fake pearls have a kind of flat look – sure, they’ll be shiny, but they don’t have the depth of the real thing.

Two Simple Tests

There are two simple, mostly harmless ways to tell if your pearls are real. They don’t require fire or acid like the higher-risk tests do.

One option is to rub two pearls together. If they’re real, then a ‘pearl powder’ will be made. It’s the same thing that happens if you lightly scrub a pearl with a knife. Nothing weird happens when two fake pearls are rubbed together. It’s like rubbing glass beads.

This test is neat: knock to real pearls together and you get a soft, pleasant sound compared to doing the same thing with fake pearls. If your sound test results in a metallic noise, those are fake pearls. You can hear the texture of pearls when you rub them together, too, because they are definitely not smooth.

Bounce ‘Em

No. Really.

If you drop a pearl from at least two feet up onto glass, it will bounce at least a foot. It’s wild. Imitation pearls won’t do this – worst case scenario, they might just go careening off into the void under the couch.

Now that you know how to tell fake pearls from the real thing… I think you’re ready to go pearl-hunting with Team Funky. Check out our latest auctions at Funky Junk Auctions.

A lovely piece of pearl jewelry we had online several years ago.