How to Tell if Pearls are Real or Fake

The jewellery industry has its fair share of imitations and counterfeits available, and pearls are no exception. In the same way that you want a genuine Louis Vuitton if you’re splurging on a timeless piece, you want to make sure you’re getting the real deal when it comes to pearls.

So, how can you tell if a pearl or piece of pearl jewellery is fake or not?

Here’s how to tell if pearls are real.

What are fake pearls?

Fake pearls are imitations of the real things. They’re man-made, often from materials like glass or plastic. Some imitation pearls are very obviously not the real deal, and are easy to spot. However, some of the higher-end imitations can easily be mistaken for genuine pearls if you don’t know what to look for.

Real pearls are made from molluscs, normally oysters. They can be freshwater or saltwater pearls, and are either cultured or natural. Read our articles on how pearls form and the different types of pearls to find out more about the process of creating luxury, genuine pearl jewellery.

Signs that a pearl is fake

Now that you know what a fake pearl is, how do you avoid being misled when you’re in the market to buy? To avoid parting with your hard-earned money in return for a fake pearl, here are some ways to tell if pearls are real or not.

1. Lustre and colour

Lustre is a much-desired quality in a pearl, and the pearls which have that gorgeous iridescent look are usually worth much more. But beware of anything that has a brilliant, and completely even lustre and colour. Usually, this is a sign of a fake.

Real pearls are created by oysters, not machines! So they won’t have a completely uniform glow to them. And on close inspection, you’ll see different shades and overtones. You want there to be some depth and complexity to the lustre. The pearl shouldn’t display a synthetic, “plasticy” look.

Anything that is completely uniform is unlikely to be real.

2. Pearl Shape

Like with lustre and colour, shape is another way to tell if pearls are real. The “perfect” genuine pearl would be completely spherical in shape. But completely round pearls are very rare, and normally come at a high price. If you take two pearls, there should be slight variations in their shape and symmetry if they are real.

If you’re looking to buy pearls and they’re perfectly round and uniform, it’s a red flag. Especially if the price seems too good to be true!

What to look for in a real pearl

How do you tell if a pearl is the real deal? We’ve listed some of the telltale signs of a fake pearl. Obviously, the reverse applies when you’re looking for a real one.

Here are a few other things you can test to see if a pearl is real:

  • Temperature. Hold the pearls for a while. Real pearls will feel cool initially and then warm up. Fake pearls are more likely to be warm from the offset
  • Feel the weight. Real pearls are usually quite heavy, whereas fake pearls are likely to be lighter. However, some high-grade imitations might include materials to make them heavier.
  • Reflection = Real pearls

Always buy Pearls from a reputable retailer

If you buy your pearl jewellery from a reputable dealer like Lullu, you’re guaranteed to be buying genuine pearls. Your pearls should also come with a certificate of authenticity.

If you buy via classified sites, private sales, or even some auctions, then be prepared to do some detective work before committing to a sale.

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