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Pearls are some of the most diverse gemstones, ranging in color from white to blue to gold to black. They also range widely in quality, and are often imitated. The value of a pearl is based on a number of factors from luster to size (via The American Gem Trade Association), but even as pearl farming techniques have improved, so have their imitations (to be clear, we are including cultured pearls as real, because almost all pearls are cultured these days, and it’s the imitation or simulated pearls we’re looking to uncover). Unlike most jewelry, you don’t need a special magnifying glass or an expert eye to suss out the real pearls. All you need is a set of teeth (preferably your own), and this tip. Prepare to be a pearl-spotting expert.
Flash those pearly whites to find out if pearls are real
Even though looking at pearls closely for “luster” and “overtone” is often recommended (for instance, by Zales), if you can’t tell a real pearl from a fake, looking for subtle differences in shape and surface quality would likely be a waste of your time. Instead, start by running the suspect strand across the front of your teeth (not the edges, or you might scratch the surface of the pearl). Strange as it may sound, the texture of the pearl is a dead giveaway: A pearl grown in a shell is made up of layers and layers of a substance called nacre, which you might know as mother of pearl. Nacre will feel slightly gritty when rubbed against the teeth or the surface of another pearl.
An imitation pearl, by contrast, will feel perfectly smooth and almost glass or plastic-like against your teeth (via ABC News). If you try this method and still aren’t completely sure whether the surface is rough enough, you can either compare it to the texture of a pearl you know is genuine, which should make it clear, or put them on. Real pearls will feel heavier for their size compared to imitations, but more importantly they are cool to the touch when placed against the skin and slow to warm up to body temperature. Fake pearls, meanwhile, will warm up to skin almost instantly (via Southern Living).
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