Let’s say you come across a pearl necklace in Grandmother’s things or at an estate sale. How to tell if those pearls are authentic, real pearls?
First, let’s talk about pearls. Pearls are created naturally when a tiny piece of unwelcome matter enters an oyster’s shell. The oyster secretes a protective coating over the speck of matter, layer by layer, until a pearl is formed.
An authentic, natural pearl is a rare thing indeed. To have a necklace with perfectly matched natural pearls is to have something that is exceedingly rare. Our treatment of the environment over the past century has mean that fewer natural pearls have been produced. Demand cannot be met. (It’s the same story with coral). As a result, natural pearls are becoming even more rare…nearly extinct. A true natural pearl necklace will be thousands and thousands of dollars.
Today most “authentic” pearls are cultured. This means that pearl producers force pearl creation by placing a speck of matter inside an oyster until the desired pearl is attained. Cultured pearls are less desirable than natural. There are so many cultured pearls coming out of China and the Far East that the pearls are dirt cheap. Check out the plethora of cultured pearls on eBay. And, sellers on eBay are calling many cultured pearls “natural”. Not True!!!
A quality pearl necklace should exhibit the following:
1. Pearls of consistent quality, with beautiful luster and consistent color.
2. High quality hand-made knots between each pearl on the strand.
3. A quality clasp, at least 14K gold. A sterling clasp or 10K is less desirable.
4. Excellent condition.
Ultimately, the only way to determine if a pearl is natural or cultured is to take the pearls to a jeweler and have them X-Rayed.
Natural and cultured pearls have a slight grit to them. Rub a real pearl across your teeth and you should be able to feel the grit. Fake pearls will feel smooth.