Pearls are one of the natural treasures that mother earth has to offer. For thousands of years, it has been valued by humans and has played a significant role in the ancient cultures of Egypt and Rome. As a piece of jewelry, pearls have an evident and most extended history dating to as far as 100,000 years ago. Natural pearls were reputed to be valuable and challenging to procure back then that Julius Ceasar even imposed laws describing that only a woman in a designated stature and rank can wear pearls.

Today, pearls are deemed as gemstone jewelry that manifests timeless aesthetics. According to Beatriz Chadour-Sampson, author of the book “Pearls” and a famous jewelry historian, what makes pearls special lies with its unique history, its formation process, and how it can be worn in its natural state. It has transcended borders and cultures and has been admired for thousands of years.

Natural vs Cultured Pearls

Natural pearls were so rare in the 1900s that it was a symbol reserved for nobles. Divers go through hundreds and even thousands of oysters and mussels just to find one. But the discovery of cultured pearls in 1893 made these gems accessible for the masses.

One difference of natural from cultured pearls is the way the irritant is introduced to the mollusk as preparation of creating it. Natural pearls are formed when irritants are trapped entirely by chance, while the irritant is deliberately injected to mollusk for cultured counterparts. Hence, most of the pearls in the market are cultured as natural ones are often rare and pricey.

Shopping for Pearls

When choosing pearl jewelry, one must consider various variables. Knowing how to shop for pearls entails careful selection based on quality style and color. It involves looking at the type that suits your personality and your budget. A wide color range is another factor to consider to complement the skin tone, occasion, and outfit.

The beauty of pearls imposes a growing demand for these gems. Although pearls are prevalent in shops and jewelry stores, counterfeits are omnipresent in today’s market. Talented sellers have various ways to encourage you to buy fraudulent goods. Hence, here are some tips to spot a fake pearl.


When looking at a necklace of pearls, you will notice that each of the beads has its own unique luster. Even the size and the shape vary. Fake ones tend to have regular shapes and sizes.

Touch and Feel the Pearl

Real pearls are also cool when first touched and warms up when worn. If it is warm and sticky, chances are its a fake. Artificial pearls also have exaggerated massive weights or might be very light.

Rubbing the Pearls

Genuine pearls have a gritty surface, try feeling it or rubbing it against your tooth. You may also rub two pearls together and observe if a powder is produced. If so, then the pearls are real. Note that the powder produced does not ruin nor reduce the value of the pearl. On the other hand, artificial pearls, when rubbed together, have smooth surfaces that will slip and produce no powder.

Tooth Test

Gently scraping a pearl against your teeth can help determine its authenticity. A sandy and grainy surface can be heard and felt when rubbing a real gem while a fake will just be slippery. Your teeth may even leave some dents on plastic counterfeits when lightly bitten.

Using a Magnifier

A 5x or 10x magnifying glass will also come in handy when spotting a pearl’s authenticity. Rugged eggshell surfaces denote a phony, while grainy surface, much like fine-grain sandpaper, suggests a genuine pearl.

Knife and Fire

Lightly scraping the surface of the pearl will either produce a powder, for real ones or will be smooth or reveal the true surface of the imitation. When exposed to fire, genuine pearls will not burn with no odor and will still have an intact surface. Although exposing the gem to fire to more than two minutes will produce a popping sound. Fraud copies will burn, lose its luster, and will produce odor.

Drop Test

On a glass surface, drop the pearl from a height of two feet. Genuine pearls will have a rebound height of more than a foot while knockoffs will rebound at much lower heights.

Pearls are truly amazing gems and a unique jewel produced by a living creature. Some may try to imitate its incomparable beauty, but its a good thing that there are ways to tell the real ones apart. Just remember to take precautions when doing the tests mentioned above and carefully observe the pearl. Authentic pearls are unique when compared to others with a distinct luster and grainy feel. If still in doubt, you may ask for assistance from experts that can perform further tests with chemical solutions and polarisers. Nevertheless, enjoy the elegance brought by pearls and let if radiate its symbolism of health, wealth, and happiness.