How To Identify Real Pearls

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Identifying Real and Fake Pearls

Visual and Physical Differences

Real pearls have an overtone color that is very vibrant, bright, and lustrous, whereas fake pearls have a somewhat milky, faded, and unnatural look. Real pearls are sparkling, glistening, and reflective. Fake pearls are dull.

Real pearls are cold to the touch. Here is an interesting experiment you can try for yourself: Touch them before putting them on for the first time; they will feel cold. But after you put them on, they will warm to your body temperature. Fake pearls feel “dead” and remain at room temperature.

Real pearls are heavier than fake pearls. Fake pearls are light. The former are silky to the touch, while the latter don’t feel “smooth” at all. They have a sticky feeling when being rolled or slid.

Last and maybe least, slide them along your teeth. Natural pearls will give you a gritty, sandy feeling. If it feels and glides smoothly, they are certainly fake pearls. We recommend that you try this at home and not at the store counter to the amazement of the wide-eyed and disbelieving sales assistant.

The Harm Fake Industry Causes

Fake pearls are produced using beads made from unnatural materials such as waxed glass, plastic, ceramic, or shell powder. Varnish (“pearl essence” as it is often and misleadingly referred to) is then used to coat the insides or outsides of the beads to simulate luster. Wax is then used to fill up the beads.

Natural pearls have fingerprint-like surface ridges on them. As such, they are not identical nor are they perfectly spherical. Fake pearls look perfectly identical and have machined smooth surfaces.

The counterfeit industry has taken over the globe to become a more than $500 billion industry. The harm that they bring are as many as they are harmful. Their activities have been widely reported and condemned worldwide. They bring economic, socio-political, and environmental miseries such as:

  • Decrease in sales and livelihood
  • Unnecessary and scarce resources having to be spent by the owner on product protection
  • The rightful owner being wrongly blamed for when the fake products are found broken or defective
  • Consumers actually being duped into overpaying for an inferior product
  • Workers exploited and poor working conditions

It touches and affects most if not all products and industries. They cause untold damages to millions of honest people and companies who just want to eke out an honest living. They set harmful precedents for the younger generations to blindly follow seeing how easy it is to make money albeit illegally. It is dishonest and preys on someone’s hard work. In the case of fake aircraft, automobile parts, pharmaceutical, and medical products, they can be fatal.

And the industry is growing aided by online purchasing. Even the Chinese themselves are not spared. Ningxia wines have started to be recognized globally by winning international awards, but yet they are unable to command a domestic following who prefer imported French wines. Why is this so? It is because the Chinese themselves are fearful that their own wines are fake, adulterated, or worse still contaminated.

Environmental Impact

Natural pearl production requires few chemicals if any. However, in the production of imitation pearls, a lot of plastic, mica, nylon, and chemicals are used to produce the varnish, coating film, and the pearlescent mixture to paint or fill the beads. Some of these dangerous chemicals are:

  • Lead carbonate: Used as a paint pigment in the production of pearl essence varnish. It may be fatal if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin and causes irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract of the workers.
  • Titanium dioxide: While it may be safe to use on the skin, titanium dioxide nanoparticles are not because there are concerns that these minute particles will penetrate the deeper layers of the skin and end up in the bloodstream, thus posing potential health risks to our organs, especially the brain.
  • Corals: Used to imitate pink conch pearls, leading to the destruction of coral habitats.
  • Certified and approved binders and dyes: Generally safe but unscrupulous manufacturers may not bother with certification and approvals to save cost, thus exposing us to hazardous and toxic materials.


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