Pearls are beautiful jewelry. You can get them shaped like earrings, necklaces, bracelets or even as an accent to a ring. There are hundreds, if not thousands of pearl jewelry designs to choose from the market today. Before you get one for yourself, you should learn how to know if what you are getting is real or fake.
First, you must know the variety of pearl that is available in the market. They are categorized into two:
1. Saltwater pearls – these are created inside oysters that are living in the ocean. It has three kinds – Akoya, Tahitian, and South Sea Pearls – depending on the variety of oyster that produced it.
2. Freshwater pearls – these are formed inside mussels that are living in rivers, ponds, lakes, or any other body of freshwater.
Both saltwater pearls or freshwater pearls can be cultured or natural.
Cultured means that a pearl farmer will carefully open the shell and inject a small object as an irritant (commonly a stone or metal), then get them back into the water and wait for the pearl to grow. This normally takes 2-5 years. On the other hand, Natural means that there is no human interference and the pearl is formed naturally by the mussel or oyster. The pearl oyster secretes nacre an iridescent material formed of calcium carbonate. The nacre will cover a microscopic irritant entering its shell till a pearl is formed.
There are a lot of artificial pearls out there, but it is more pleasant to have a real pearl jewelry at least once in your life. A real pearl does not only mean “natural”. Even “cultured” pearls are real pearls too, having the advantage of being more affordable than natural pearls.
When you hear of artificial pearls, it means that they are artificial pearls made of ceramics, glass, plastics or any other similar materials. They are also named “faux” pearls and are sold as costume jewelry. In the face of advanced technology, humans can produce pearls that seem like the original one. Mind you, fakes can have the precise original look, but they do not have the identical texture or weight. And their shine is dimmer, which is enough to prove that they are imitations of the original. They do not include any gem value.
To help you with recognizing natural freshwater pearls, here is a three-way test:
1. Tooth test – take the pearl and run it against your front teeth, just right under the biting edge. If you sense a gritty sense, it is most probably genuine. Fake pearls are smooth, like glass or plastic. However, be careful of the pearls that are formed from ground shells as they can to be gritty.
2. Luster test – test the pearls on all kinds of light. Artificial pearls will have a shine just on the outside, while natural pearls always shine from within.
3. Rub test – take two pearls and rub it together. It should be gritty and do not slip off each other.