How To Tell If Pearls Are Real?

Pearls are one of the most coveted and timeless gems, known for their beautiful luster and elegant appearance. They can be found in various forms, such as freshwater pearls, saltwater pearls, and cultured pearls.

However, with the rise in popularity of imitation pearls, it can be challenging to tell if the pearls you have or want to purchase are real or not. Fake pearls are often made from plastic, glass, or other materials and lack the natural beauty and value of real pearls.

In this guide, we will discuss how to tell if pearls are real so you can confidently purchase and wear these precious gems. Let's get started!

Process Of Producing Real Pearls

Real pearls are produced by mollusks, both in freshwater and saltwater environments. When a foreign substance accidentally enters the mollusk, it triggers a defense mechanism.

To protect itself, the mollusk secretes layers of nacre around the irritant, gradually forming the pearl over several years. This natural process gives real pearls their unique luster and depth, qualities that are difficult to replicate precisely in imitation pearls.

Cultured pearls undergo a similar process but with human intervention. A technician introduces a small bead or piece of tissue into the mollusk to start the nacre secretion process.

Though cultured, these pearls are considered real because they are produced by the same natural process as wild pearls. Understanding the origin and creation process of real pearls is crucial in identifying their authenticity.

What Fake Pearls Look Like?

Fake pearls, often referred to as imitation pearls, exhibit several distinguishable characteristics when compared to real pearls. One of the most noticeable differences is in their appearance.

Imitation pearls tend to have a uniform, glossy surface that lacks the depth and subtle variations of real pearls. The uniformity in size, shape, and color of fake pearls is a telltale sign, as real pearls usually show slight irregularities due to their natural formation process.

Additionally, fake pearls are often lighter in weight compared to genuine pearls because they are made from materials like glass, plastic, or alabaster. This difference in weight can be a useful indicator when assessing the authenticity of a strand of pearls.

How To Tell If Pearls Are Real

How to tell if pearls are real is quite hard if it's your first time. Here are a few tips to help you identify real pearls:

Use The Tooth Test

To conduct the tooth test, softly glide the pearl against the edge of your teeth. This straightforward technique can effectively differentiate authentic pearls from imitations.

Genuine pearls exhibit a slightly rough or sandy texture because of the nacre layers. In contrast, counterfeit pearls feel smooth and slick due to a coating of varnish or synthetic material on their surface.

It's a quick and accessible test that doesn't require any special tools, and you can easily do it anywhere, ensuring you have a basic but powerful means of verification right at your fingertips.

Observe Their Visual

Appearance and luster are key in assessing the authenticity of pearls. By paying close attention to these visual cues, you can gain insights into whether the pearls in question are genuinely from nature or artificially produced.

Real pearls have a deep, radiant luster that creates a subtle play of light on their surface. They also display slight variations in color and shape, owing to their natural formation.

Fake pearls, on the other hand, often appear too perfect, with each pearl exactly matching in size, shape, and color. Their surface shines in a uniform manner, lacking the gentle warmth and depth seen in real pearls. 

Feel Their Weight

Real pearls have a noticeable heft to them due to their dense composition. When you hold them in your hand, they should feel solid and substantial, unlike fake pearls, which might feel light and hollow.

This difference in weight is a direct consequence of the materials used in their creation: real pearls are layers upon layers of nacre, while imitations are often simple plastic or glass beads.

Comparing the weight of a single pearl or a strand in your hands against another known genuine or fake sample can help you sense the distinction. This tactile evaluation, while subtle, is an additional tool in your arsenal for discerning the authenticity of pearls, building on visual inspection and the tooth test.

Knock Them Together

Another practical way to distinguish real pearls from the faux ones is by gently knocking them together. This method can reveal differences in sound that are characteristic of whether a pearl is genuine or not.

Real pearls produce a soft, muted sound upon contact, reflecting their organic composition. In contrast, fake pearls often generate a high-pitched, tinny noise indicative of synthetic materials like plastic or glass.

This sound test, while not as widely recognized as others, offers yet another sensory cue to aid in determining pearl authenticity. It's a simple yet effective technique that requires no special equipment, just a keen ear and a bit of practice.

Check Their Temperature

Pearls naturally have a cool temperature to the touch, especially when first picked up. This is due to their organic composition and the layers of nacre.

If you hold them in your hand for a few minutes, real pearls will gradually warm up to your body temperature, a characteristic that synthetic pearls may not mimic accurately. Fake pearls, made of glass or plastic, might initially feel cool but won't exhibit the same warming behavior as natural pearls.

This temperature test is subtle yet effective, offering an additional sensory method to help authenticate pearls.

Rub Them Together

Another method to test pearls' authenticity is by gently rubbing them together. This action can help differentiate real pearls from imitation ones based on the powder they may or may not produce.

Real pearls, when rubbed against each other, will produce a very fine powder due to the natural friction between the layers of nacre. This powder is a sign of genuine pearls, as the nacre wears off slightly.

In contrast, fake pearls will not produce this powder, as their surface is usually a solid material like glass or plastic, which does not wear off in the same way. 

This subtle test adds another layer of verification when assessing pearls' authenticity, enhancing your ability to distinguish genuine pearls from imitations.

Look For Tiny Irregularities

One of the most telling signs of real pearls is the presence of minor imperfections and irregularities on their surface. 

Each pearl is unique, formed naturally over time, leading to slight differences in shape, size, and color. These tiny nuances are a hallmark of authenticity, showcasing the individuality of each piece and contrasting sharply with the uniformity of fake pearls. 

Observing pearls under a magnifying glass can reveal these intricacies, providing clear evidence of natural origin. This close examination not only allows you to appreciate the beauty of genuine pearls but also equips you with a reliable method for distinguishing them from their artificial counterparts.

Check Drill Holes

Exploring the attributes of the drill holes in pearls can also serve as a significant indicator of their authenticity.

Genuine pearls typically have smaller, more cleanly drilled holes with edges that may slightly taper inwards, reflecting the care and precision necessary when handling natural pearls. In contrast, imitation pearls often have larger, more roughly made drill holes that can sometimes show signs of chipping or cracking around the edges due to the less sophisticated methods used in their manufacture.

This examination offers a nuanced way to assess pearls, adding yet another layer of scrutiny to the authenticity verification process. 

By understanding these subtle differences, you can further refine your ability to identify true pearls among imitations.

Where To Get The Real Pearls?

If you're looking to purchase genuine pearls, it's essential to buy from a reputable source.

  • Jewelry Stores & Designers: Local jewelry stores and designers are ideal places to find real pearls. These establishments often have a good selection of high-quality pearls, with knowledgeable staff who can assist you in your purchase.
  • Pearl Farms & Auctions: Some pearl farms offer direct-to-consumer sales, providing a unique opportunity to purchase genuine pearls at competitive prices. Pearl auctions, both online and in-person, also offer a vast selection of authentic pearls from various sources worldwide.
  • Antique & Estate Sales: Older pearls, passed down through generations, can provide a unique chance to acquire authentic vintage pieces. Antique stores, estate sales, and online vintage marketplaces are excellent places to search for these treasures.
  • Private Collections & Resellers: Private collectors and resellers can also offer a wide range of authentic pearls for sale. These individuals often have a passion for pearls and extensive knowledge to help guide you in your purchase.
  • Online Platforms: The rise of online shopping has also made it possible to purchase genuine pearls from the comfort of your own home. Online retailers, such as reputable pearl specialists and established jewelry brands, can provide a vast selection of authentic pearls with the added convenience of convenient delivery.

With these tips in mind, you can confidently navigate the marketplace to find genuine pearls that will bring joy and beauty for years.


In summary, discerning whether pearls are real or imitations requires a blend of observation and tactile tests, summed up in how to tell if pearls are real. Recognizing the genuine from the imitation thus becomes not just an act of discernment but one of connection to the deeper narratives woven into each iridescent sphere.

From the warmth they borrow from the touch of your skin to the subtle whisper of nacre powder as they brush against one another, pearls encapsulate more than just beauty—they are carriers of stories, history, and authenticity. 

And remember, in the world of pearls, each piece is a whisper from the depths of the ocean, a reminder of the enduring beauty that lies in the imperfections of nature.