How to Tell Real Pearls from Fake Pearls

Michelle Powell-SmithFeb 26, 2010


Pearl Jewelryis classic, versatile, and very easily faked. Even an experienced eye may not be able to tell the difference between man-made and cultured pearls at a glance. Know how to tell the difference between a strand of fake pearls and the real thing to avoid an expensive mistake at the jeweler or to appropriately value items you already own. Bring together all the evidence to ascertain whether your pearls grew in an oyster or in a factory.

Use your Teeth

Rub the pearl across your teeth. Feel the surface of the pearl, checking to see if it is rough or smooth. Expect a real pearl to have a rough or slightly abrasive surface.

Rub Pearls Together

Roll the strand of pearls in your hand and rub the pearls against one another. Look for small scratches to identify real pearls.

Fire Test

Pass the pearls through the flame of a candle. Soot marks indicate a real pearl, while melting signifies a fake pearl.

Break out the Magnifying Glass

Check the pearls with a magnifying glass. Look for a finely grained surface on real pearls and a grainier surface on fake pearls. Check for slight flaws and irregularities in color and texture, because a real pearl should not be flawless or perfect.

Heavier is better

Feel the weight of the pearls in your hand. Real pearls are heavy for their size and should feel rather dense, but some good-quality fakes may be heavy as well.


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Real pearls that are strung are usually knotted between each one. Soot marks and small scratches created while checking the authenticity of real pearls may be buffed away with a soft cloth.

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