How to Tell If Pearls Are Real: Simple Techniques at Home 

Everyone loves pearls - they're gorgeous and essential to beautiful jewelry. But just like every shining thing isn't gold, everything that looks like a pearl isn't actually a pearl. The gemstone market is full of counterfeits crafted so well that it is hard to tell if the pearls are real or fake. The pearl industry will hit $43.5 Billion by 2032, so we can expect many more counterfeits to flood the market. Given the situation, you're always prone to getting duped by a seller. We'll help you avoid that by explaining how to tell if pearls are real.

What are Real Pearls? 

In fresh or saltwater, real and organic pearls are produced by oysters, clams, mussels, conchs, and gastropods. Whenever an irritant in the form of a parasite or a piece of shell enters their body, they release a substance called nacre. After six months to six years, the nacre forms a pearl that can be harvested from the body. 

Humans started intervening in this process in the 5th century BC when the Chinese inserted carved ceramic objects into a mussel. Since oyster pearls are rare and not commercially viable, almost all the real pearls today have been cultured. That doesn't mean they're not natural—it's just that they have been produced by human intervention for chains, bracelets, and other forms of jewelry.

What are Fake Pearls? 

If the real pearls are made by oysters, the opposite is true for fake pearls. They are manufactured by humans from glass, rubber, alabaster, or shells with pearly coatings. Fake pearls can usually be distinguished from real ones, but sometimes it gets really difficult. For instance, the Majorica is a well-known man-made pearl that gets really close to the real deal and can easily fool your eyes. 

After understanding the basics of real and fake pearls, we'll discuss the techniques you can use at home to differentiate between them and avoid getting defrauded. 

How to Tell If Pearls Are Real: The Best Techniques

  1. Check the Temperature 

So, how to tell if a pearl necklace is real? The first step is to touch it and check the temperature. Natural pearls are cold in the first few seconds but get warmer with your body heat as time passes. Plastic pearls also do not show these properties and are usually at room temperature. 

One important thing to remember here is that some fake glass pearls can also be cool to the touch initially, which can dupe some people. The best way to differentiate them from real pearls is that they take much longer to warm up against your body.

  1. Keep an Eye on Small Irregularities 

Surprisingly, pearls on real vintage pearl necklaces aren't smooth on closer inspection, unlike some claim. You'll notice small ridges and irregularities on their surface upon magnification, which tell you that it's the real deal. Even if the cultured pearls are top quality and seemingly well-matched, you'll still notice tiny differences. 

On the contrary, if the pearls show perfect symmetry, are equally sized, have exactly the same color, and have other matching surface characteristics, they are most probably man-made, and you should be cautious while purchasing them. 

The luster of pearls also helps you differentiate real from fake ones. Fake pearls are usually way more glossy and look unnatural, while real ones have a natural, subdued shine.

  1. Notice the Color 

Both natural and farmed pearls have a translucent color usually seen on the outer surface, especially on high-quality pearls. The usual colors of natural pearls are pink and green.

On the other hand, fake pearls are uniform in color and lack depth. You need to be careful here, as some organic pearls also lack overtones, so this method alone isn't reliable enough.

  1. Rub Two Pearls Together 

Rubbing two pearls together is one of the best tests you can perform to check their authenticity. When you rub two organic pearls against each other, you'll experience friction from the nacre that the oyster has plastered all around them. That friction produces a fine powder, which can be achieved by scratching the pearl with a knife. You'll also hear a unique sound in the process. 

Rubbing two pearls of a pearl necklace fake achieves the opposite results. Very little sound is produced, and the two pearls have a smooth interaction: little to no friction, and no powder is produced in the process.

  1. Check the Drill Hole 

Examining the drill hole of a pearl can provide some insights into its authenticity. As you know, holes are drilled into pearls and other gems to string them into a necklace or a bracelet. Pearls can be partially or fully drilled, depending on the use case. 

Organic pearls usually have clear and sharp drill holes without build-up of nacre or other materials. You also won't be able to scratch or peel off the nacre layers at the drill holes. 

The case with fake pearls is pretty different here. You'll often find a buildup of materials like acrylic paint around drill holes. If the manufacturer of the fake pearl has used a pearlescent outer coating, it might chip or peel away around the holes.

  1. Bite the Pearl 

The bite test is a surprisingly good way to check a pearl's originality. Put one between your upper and lower teeth and gently bite it to perform it. Pay close attention to the feel when you push your teeth. 

Since real pearls have a nacre coating around them, they will provide a gritty feel like sandpaper rubbing against your teeth. On the contrary, fake pearls will have minimal roughness and grit.

  1. Test the Weight 

This simple test has proven to be quite effective in checking the authenticity of your pearls. Many people ask: are real pearls heavy? The answer is yes. Organic pearls have a significant heft to them, which you can feel as soon as you pick them. Fake pearls, on the other hand, feel way lighter and cheaper.

  1. The Bouncing Test 

It's time to check your bouncing skills by dropping the pearls on a hard surface. Although both real and fake pearls bounce, some subtle differences can tell them apart. Organic pearls bounce repeatedly as if they're dancing on the floor. That's because real pearls have more density, which makes them bounce much more than their fake counterparts. 

On the contrary, the bounce of fake pearls will die down soon. Usually, the amount of time real pearls spend on bouncing is double that of fake pearls.

  1. The Water Test For Pearls

Before discussing how to tell if pearls are real with the water test, understanding the concept of “orient” is critical. It is a natural phenomenon in which light is reflected and refracted by the inner surface of pearls, producing a distinct glow. 

To perform this test, fill a plastic container with tap water and put it in natural light. Introduce some pearls in the container, and look for the orient effect. If the pearl exhibits this effect, it's real; otherwise, it's a fake

  1. The Reflection Test 

The reflection test is performed by holding a pearl directly to natural light. The surface of organic pearls is reflective, as you can easily see a reflection of light in them. On the other hand, the surface of fake pearls is non-reflective, dull, and matte, instantly giving away their actual nature. 

Techniques to Avoid When Testing Pearls

Testing pearls is important to check their authenticity, but ensuring that you don't damage them during the process is equally important. Let's look at a few things you must avoid while testing pearls.

  1. The Heat Test

While some may suggest heat testing your pearls, we advise against it for good reason. Here's the heat test in a nutshell: The pearl is placed near a flame. If it stays intact and doesn't melt, it's authentic. If it shows signs of damage or starts melting, it's fake. 

It sounds like an effective test, but it isn't. Yes, the outer covering of a fake pearl will melt away when brought near the heat source, but the nacre around a real pearl will also meet a similar fate. No matter how authentic your pearl is, its nacre and luster are affected by heat. 

  1. The Vinegar Test 

The vinegar test is quite effective in differentiating real pearls from fakes, but the same effectiveness is actually its downside too. This is how the vinegar test goes: put a few drops of vinegar on a pearl or submerge it in vinegar. 

Organic pearls are primarily made up of calcium carbonate. When vinegar touches its surface, there's a chemical reaction, and you start seeing erosion. The vinegar concentration determines the reaction's speed and the resulting erosion. On the contrary, a fake pearl won't show any erosion because it's not made up of calcium carbonate. 

The problem with this test is that it damages your expensive pearls. You might know in the end whether your pearl is real, but at a cost, you definitely shouldn't pay.



There you have it: a definitive guide on how to tell if pearls are real. From checking their weight to testing their surface, there are many ways to test pearls. Whether you're buying a necklace, bracelet, earrings, or any other piece of jewelry, always find a reputable dealer. 

If you want to buy premium pearl jewelry, look no further than Drivn. We are a leading men's jewelry brand selling necklace chains, pendants, rings, and bracelets. We use real pearls in our jewelry, which sets us apart and helps us make an authentic style statement. 

So, elevate your style today with Drivn. Visit our website today and pick your favorite jewelry with a 30-day easy return policy.