The growing popularity of pearls and the growing advancements in the manufacturing and production processes it is becoming ever hard to spot the difference between fake pearls, cultured pearls and the naturally grown and harvested pearl. There are a number of simple tests you can do including simply identifying them by their name, the sun test and weighing them. However, there are some more complicated tests that can be carried such as subjecting the pearl to a powerful x-ray.
The sun test is one of the more revered tests for uncovering fake pearls, by subjecting the surface and luster of the pearl to sunlight or very bright indoor lighting. Real genuine pearls won’t have a perfectly matched surface and you must specifically look for differences in the color and tone of the pearl. If the surface of the pearl is perfectly matched it was either unimaginably expensive, or more likely fake. This is because of the huge advancements of technology with regards to producing fake pearls that are perfectly round with a high-quality perfectly matched surface, with no differences of color and tone. This is because real pearls are solid nacre and are never a perfect sphere, whilst cultured and fake pearls are manufactured to be perfectly round. Therefore, merely carefully inspecting your pearls will be enough to identify them.
For the more demanding of originality, your pearls can be subjected to x-rays to see if they are fake or have been cultured. By looking inside the pearl you will be able to tell if it has been bead-nucleated, this is when a core is inserted into the oyster for the rest of the pearl to grow around. This is a key factor in the production process of cultured pearls, particularly freshwater pearls in the largest producer of freshwater pearls, China. However, if your pearl is the real thing it will be composed of solid nacre and therefore there will be no core inside of the pearl for the x-ray machine to detect.
Real pearls are composed of solid nacre and will therefore be heavier than the fake or cultured pearls which are composed of much less nacre and will be lighter than the real deal. This means that simply weighing your pearls and comparing them against the weight of pearls that you know are fake or cultured could be enough to identify fake from real. Another simple at home test you can carry out is looking at the pearls under a magnifying glass. Real pearls that have been naturally created and harvested will have an uneven surface with ridges and irregularities. Fake pearls however, will have a texture of grainy smoothness to their surface, allowing you to identify them as fake.
However, the simplest of all the tests that can be carried out is simply identifying the names in the product that you are purchasing. Names that would be in the titles of fake or cultured pearls include, faux, simulated, glass, plastic, resin, artificial and manmade. Cultured pearls should ideally be labeled somewhere on the product to inform you have they have been manufactured artificially in a man-made environment.
It is essential that if you want peace of mind and a high re-sale value, you should have these tests carried out by a certified professional. This will allow you to obtain a gemologist certificate that for around $150 will give you peace of mind and prove to anyone that your pearls are the real artifact.