Imitation Pearls Identification Guide 101

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Imitation Pearls Identification Guide 101

There are several types of imitation pearls, including:

  • Hollow glass beads containing wax

  • Solid glass beads

  • Plastic beads

  • Mother-of-pearl shell beads

These imitation pearls are usually coated with something to give them a pearly appearance, such as pearl essence, powdered mother-of-pearl and synthetic resin, synthetic pearl essence, plastic, cellulose, and lacquer.


Here are a few tips and tests that may help you figure out whether your pearls are real (meaning cultured or natural). Experts recommend using several of these tests on your pearls to best help in ruling out the possibility of fakes. No one test is fool proof, and certain tests are less effective with different types of pearls.


1. Tooth test: rub pearl lightly across upper front teeth

  • Real Pearl - feels gritty or sandy
  • Imitation Pearl - feels smooth

2. Magnification test: examine pearl surface with a loupe

  • Real Pearl - appears unusually fine-grained
  • Imitation Pearl - appears grainy

3. Drill hole test: examine the drill hole area with a loupe

  • Real Pearl - edges are smooth and sharp
  • Imitation Pearl - holes are bumpy or ragged

4. Heaviness test: bounce pearls in your hand

  • Real Pearl - feels heavy to hold
  • Imitation Pearl - feels unusually light (unless they are solid glass beads)

5. Flaw test: examine pearls for flaws and blemishes

  • Real Pearl - most will have at least minimal flaws
  • Imitation Pearl - if they appear absolutely flawless they are most likely fake

6. Price test: compare price to similar pearls from other dealers

  • Real Pearl - has reasonable or comparative price
  • Imitation Pearl - price is unbelievably low or discounted
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