Whether you inherited a strand of pearls from your great-grandmother or you just want to be sure that a jeweler isn’t trying to swindle you, you can examine your pearls to tell if they are real or fake. Real pearls are made by shelled mollusks, like oysters, and exhibit characteristics that are quite unlike fake pearls, though the two may look the same to the naked eye. In just a few minutes you can have a pretty good idea of whether you have real or fake pearls.
Look closely at the pearls if they are old. Real pearls are natural and will show signs of wear over time. If you inherited pearls, you should see some slight scratches or discoloration from where the pearls have changed with body oils.
Put the pearls in your mouth. Rub it on your tongue and on your teeth. A fake pearl will feel perfectly smooth, while a real one will have bumps and ridges. If it’s gritty and rough, you know that it’s real.
Hold the pearls in your hand. Real pearls should feel somewhat heavy, while fakes ones are lighter. This is not a sure sign, however, as some companies fake the weight to make them seem more real.
Take the pearls to an appraiser. Though you may have some idea of whether or not the pearls are real, the only way to tell for sure is through a jewelry appraiser. Not only will she be able to tell you if the pearls are real or not, but she’ll be able to tell you how much they are worth, which is necessary if you want to have them insured.
References and ResourcesJerry Smith, Beads: Freshwater Pearls--Real or Fake
Bourdage Pearls: Pearls of Wisdom