Are Those Pearls Real? Here's How To Find Out

Southern women are not ones to be duped.

Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women
Photo: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

There's nothing wrong with wearing imitation jewelry, but we want to know what we're working with. Here are six ways to tell if your pearls are the real stuff, regardless of whether they're passed-down or purchased.

Look at their size and symmetry.

They won't be perfect. You should see slight variation between each pearl if they're on a strand. While more expensive pearls will look perfectly round to the untrained eye, a top-notch professional will be able to spot a fake with a glance.

Look at their color.

Too shiny? They're probably fake. Likewise, if they're a bit on the dull side they're probably not authentic.

Feel their weight.

Real pearls have some heft while fake pearls will feel lighter.

Give them a (gentle) bite.

Alternatively, you can rub them against your teeth. Real pearls are made of many layers of something called nacre (also known as mother-of-pearl), which will give a sandpaper-like-feel against your teeth. Imitations will feel smooth as silk.

Feel their temperature.

Real pearls will be cool to the touch even if it's warm and will eventually warm as they sit against the skin. Fake pearls will start off room temperature and tend to stay that way.

Look for a drill hole.

If you really want to put your inspector skills to the test, look at the pearl under a magnifying glass to see if there's a ring around the drill hole. If so, they're probably real. Drill holes in real pearls will also typically be a bit smaller than those in imitation pearls.

Here are a few more ways we've heard pearls can be tested but—word to the wise—it's better to leave these methods to the professionals.

1. The bounce test: Real pearls will have a higher bounce than the fake variety. Real pearls should bounce about 35 cm after being dropped from a height of 60 cm.

2. The lighter test: Fake pearls will have a burning smell and the surface will turn black when held to a flame, whereas real pearls will still be shiny.

3. The solution test: Imitation pearls dropped into an acetone solution will lose their luster almost immediately.

Watch: 10 Things Every Southern Girl Needs in Her Closet

Also beware of retailers that are selling natural pearls. Natural pearls are extremely expensive and rare. Most pearls are made by placing a piece of sand in an oyster, which results in layer upon layer of nacre being applied to the grain as the oyster tries to protect itself from the unwanted intruder. Natural pearls are formed when a foreign body enters the mollusk without human intervention. So, if the price of those natural pearls is too good to be true, it probably is.

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