What’s in Grandma’s Jewelry Box? Part IV

Part IV Pearls: Real or Faux

Natural pearls hidden in Grandma’s jewelry box may be a treasure worth from hundreds to thousands of dollars.  However, faux pearls that look like the real thing, have far less monetary value.  A few easy tests can help you tell the difference between real and faux pearls.

Real pearls occur when an oyster or mollusk secretes nacre repeatedly to coat an irritant that gets inside its shell.   The calcium in each makes the pearl have a surface like fine sandpaper.  If you rub a real pearl against your tooth, or rub two pearls together, you’ll feel the abrasion caused by the calcium.  Faux pearls when rubbed against a tooth, or against each other glide smoothly.

Natural or cultured pearls exhibit varying unique imperfections, size, shape, and color.  Jewelers match size, shape and color as best they can when constructing a necklace.  In contrast, faux pearls have uniformity.   Examine with a magnifying glass to check for variance.    

“Natural “pearls occur without human intervention.  Humans place the irritant in the mollusk to produce “cultured” pearls. Both natural and cultured are considered real pearls.  Cultured pearls can be produced more quickly and less expensively.  One mussel grown in fresh water can produce up to thirty cultured pearls at a time, while natural pearls, harvested from salt water, may produce only one pearl per oyster. 

Check the drill holes.  Small holes indicate real pearls, bigger holes faux pearls.  Real pearls have weight to them.  Extremely light pearls are probably plastic.  Extremely heavy indicate all glass that have been coated.  More sophisticated testing can be done, but these few procedures will give you a good idea of whether Grandma’s pearls are real or faux. 

Nancy Pride owns Morgan Fitzgerald’s and Merle Norman located at 3800 South Texas Avenue, one mile north of University Drive  979 268 0608, www.fitzyou.com

Leave a Reply