Like diamonds, pearls have always been a must-have for any women with a taste for fine jewellery. Apart from the lure of their luminescence and their practicality in terms of going with almost any ensemble, these shiny orbs have a long and glamorous history with an innate sense of mystery. Clearly more than enough to draw attention to almost every facet of the wearer’s personality.
Pearls ooze sophistication and understated elegance! One only needs to remember the late Princess Diana’s magnificent multi-strand pearl choker, (the one with the huge sapphire clasp) worn with a black dress.
Going back even further, aristocratic Russian dukes were said to have a habit of showering their favoured opera singers with fine pearls while Belle Epoque courtesans are said to have judged their lovers by the length and shine of the pearl belts they were gifted with.
More recently, pearls have been flaunted by the likes of actor Sara Jessica Parker (of Sex & The City fame) and adored by other celebrities including singer Mariah Carey, actor-singers Rita Ora and Rihanna.
But despite their obvious global appeal, pearls have a dubious reputation for being replicated widely. It is often difficult for consumers to distinguish between the real thing from and artificial pearls.
To the naked, untrained eye, fake or imitation pearls seem to have the glitter and shine of real pearls. Artificial pearls are usually made from cheap materials like glass, ceramic, shell or plastic, and then coated with a special varnish or lacquer to imitate the luster of a genuine pearl. Unlike real pearls which are purely an act of nature, fake pearls are machine-made, mass produced and readily available.
Listed below are 10 ways which can help you determine whether the pearl string you so badly want to buy is made of real pearls or cheap plastic/ceramic imitations.
The easiest way to identify a real pearl is by just using your observation. Real pearls are nature’s bounty. Each one unique in itself. Ergo no two ‘real’ pearls can ever be alike in terms of their size, shape, luster or colour. Fake pearls on the other hand tend to be exactly alike in every respect.
Ever seen a necklace of perfect pearls? If you have, chances are it either costs tens of thousands of dollars or it’s an imitation piece available with most stores that sell imitation jewellery.
It’s extremely rare to come across a natural pearl with the perfect size, shine and shape, much less a necklace full of them. Now you know why perfect pearls of above average size are so sought after and sell for a small fortune.
True pearls are cool to the touch even when the temperature outside may be soaring. Fakes made from either glass or plastic tend to get sticky with heat and are much heavier than the genuine variety.
Further, real pearls when rubbed against the skin or teeth have a rough, gritty and sometimes uneven feel while fakes will boast of a smooth surface and in some cases, show teeth marks if it’s been made using plastic.
Sound can also be an important ally when trying to spot a genuine pearl. When shaken gently, real pearls produce a softer sound while most fakes give a thin almost metallic sound.
Cultured or natural pearls can also be identified using basic magnification (5x, 10x), wherein their surface will appear to be grainy with hints of rings or ridges around the drill hole. Fake or imitation pearls will usually reveal a rough, eggshell-like surface under magnification.