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How Can I Tell if a Strand of Pearls is Real?

Aug 17, 2007
Want to know if you've got the real thing? Rub the strand across the front of your upper teeth. It may sound strange, but real pearls will feel rough or gritty while fake ones will feel smooth. This is due to the micropores found on the genuine article.

Imitation pearls are usually made by dipping a glass or plastic bead into a solution of fish scales. The coating is generally fairly thin and will chip over time. Check the pearls for tiny chips or flakes near the hole drilled through them. If you see chips, chances are your pearls are fake.

Try holding the pearls in your hand for a minute. Real pearls will feel cold initially, then will warm.

Real pearls can be either natural or cultured. Natural pearls are formed when a mollusk secretes a substance called nacre to coat an irritant that makes its way inside the animal's shell. Cultured pearls are formed with a little human help -- an irritant is purposely introduced into the shell of the animal. You usually need an x-ray or an expert to distinguish between natural and cultured pearls.

Pearls differ from other gemstones in that they're not mined from rock, but rather harvested from mollusks, especially oysters. Clams and mussels have been known to produce pearls as well. Basically, a pearl is produced when an irritant such as sand gets caught inside the oyster. To protect itself, the oyster secretes a substance akin to mucus. This substance builds up around the sand and hardens. The end result is a pearl.

Natural or South Sea pearls are those made by mollusks harvested from the ocean. Every now and then, one of the pearls will be a darker shade, either gray or black. These are rare, and as a result, very expensive.

As you can well imagine, it's a long, tedious practice to find oysters that have ingested a piece of sand to produce a pearl. The longer a pearl stays inside an oyster, the larger it becomes. Because of this, quality pearls are considered rare and cost a pretty penny. Fortunately for those who favor this gem, there are now farms in which the irritant is deliberately injected into the mollusk to produce the pearl. These pearls are known as cultured.

When pearls are made without the benefit of a mollusk, they're considered man-made. Man-made pearls are made by using a bit of sand or shell along with a fish-based product called hermage to act as a substitute for the oyster's mucus. Other synthetic pearls include the "glass" pearl, a bead painted with hermage and left to dry and harden. These pearls have little or no value.

Freshwater pearls are produced by mussels. As their name indicates, these pearls are found in rivers and lakes rather than the ocean. Unlike the oyster, the mussel can produce many different pearls at once, sometimes as many as 40 or 50! These pearls come in various shapes and sizes.

Pearls are considered classic and elegant. They're the first choice for bridal jewelry and have a reputation of looking good with any outfit, even the most casual. They'll also add class and elegance to the most formal wardrobe. If you're considering a purchase of pearls, it's best to do some research to find the type of pearl best suiting your needs and budget.

Remember, everyone looks good in pearls!
About the Author
Victor Epand is the owner of JewerlyGift.biz, a huge online jewelry retailer featuring the largest and best selection of jewelry including personalizable items...
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