Is that jewelry made of REAL pearls?
If you want REAL GENUINE NATURAL PEARLS, be alert for the following terms:
These are not pearls at all, but man-made beads concocted from ground shell! “Shell Pearls” are manufactured by reconstituting a mixture of pulverized mother of pearl shells (the lustrous inner lining of a mollusk shell) and/or fish scales combined with a binder. A shell bead (usually mother of pearl) is then dipped into or sprayed with this mixture. The bead is allowed to dry, then sanded and shaped. The fabrication process of dipping/spraying, sanding and shaping is repeated. The mother of pearl base gives the bead weight and the “pearlized coating” gives the bead “depth” and “luster.” These simulated imitation faux “pearls” can often pass for nature's own creation; however, a “shell pearl” can easily be detected by the tooth test and by looking closely around the drill hole - the shell color inside is visible, and the pearly finish is often chipped just around the hole.
Here are examples of “REAL” pearls:
The following are examples of “Shell Pearls” - which you can tell from the photos are just a little too round and a little too shiny compared to “REAL” pearls:
Some sellers will actually intentionally “fuzz” the photo so you can’t tell the difference:
Advertising for “Shell Pearls” can include misleading titles such as “Sea Shell Pearl”, “South Sea Shell Pearl”, “Tahitian Shell Pearl”, “Tahitian Sea Shell Pearl”, “Fresh Water Shell Pearl”, “Asian Shell Pearl”, “Asia Shell Pearl”, and other variations of “Shell Pearl”. The listings often include the vocabulary of “RARE” “REAL” “GENUINE” “NATURAL” “ORGANIC” and “NACRE” and may even apply a grading system! The grading system to evaluate the quality of REAL pearls includes color, nacre quality, luster, size, shape and surface quality. Because the characteristics of “Shell Pearls” are controlled by the mechanized fabrication process of the manufacturer, to attempt to apply this system to imitation simulated faux “pearls” is fallacious, erroneous, inappropriate and just plain wrong!
Another deceptive technique used in eBay Live Auctions is describing an item as simply “shell pearl necklace” and then setting the “Estimate” value at thousands of dollars! By grossly overstating the value and omitting information as to the nature of these inexpensive man made beads, buyers are being led to believe they are buying REAL pearls, and can bid up to several hundred dollars for a strand worth maybe 40 bucks. This practice continues because the unaware buyer thinks he got a great deal while the unscrupulous seller is laughing all the way to the bank.
IF YOU WANT REAL GENUINE NATURAL PEARLS THEN AVOID LISTINGS USING THE TERM “SHELL PEARL”.
The process of manufacturing “Majorica Pearls” or "Majorca Pearls" begins with workers who make the opaque nucleus of the beads by melting the tip of a translucent glass rod over a torch. The hot glass flows onto a coated copper wire which is electromechanically rotating. The size of the bead is regulated by the intensity of the flame, the melting time and the speed of the rotating wire. After the beads are removed from the copper wires, they are dipped into a mixture made from fish scales. After about 30 layers, the “pearls” are dried and drilled and assembled into jewelry. These imitation simulated faux “pearls” are also easily detected by the tooth test.
IF YOU WANT REAL GENUINE NATURAL PEARLS THEN AVOID LISTINGS USING THE TERM “MAJORICA PEARL”.
REAL “Conch pearls” are extremely rare and valuable. No one has yet devised a method for culturing conch pearls, so every one you see will be a natural pearl. It is estimated that only one in 10,000 conchs produces a pearl, and that less than 10 percent of those are of gem quality. REAL Conch pearls are usually small in size (3 millimeters or less) and baroque or oval in shape. Colors are generally pink or a salmon-colored orange-pink, although they are occasionally yellow, brown, white, or golden. The conch pearl often has another important surface feature called a "flame structure," which is a unique pattern in the coloration. The flame structure generally appears in the pink or white-pink pearls, although the other colors sometimes also exhibit it. REAL Conch Pearls look like this:
Since conch pearls are naturally both rare and unique, finding matching pearls for sets, earrings, strands, and so on is extremely difficult, thus significantly increasing both the cost and the value of such sets. So if you see “Conch pearls” advertised in perfectly matched strands or sets, you are probably actually seeing “Shell pearls”. As described above, “Shell Pearls” are cheap man made imitation “pearls”.
IF YOU WANT REAL GENUINE NATURAL PEARLS THEN BE CAUTIOUS OF LISTINGS USING THE TERM “CONCH PEARL”.
“Glass pearls” are simply coated glass beads. The glass gives the beads weight, and the opalescent iridescent coating can be quite convincing, but it will peel off in time. Some item descriptions can be very deceiving, especially when you are looking at a jewelry piece made with a mix of pearl and glass materials.
IF YOU WANT REAL GENUINE NATURAL PEARLS THEN AVOID LISTINGS USING THE TERM “GLASS PEARL”.
Generally just a plastic bead with an opalescent iridescent coating which will peel off in time. Obviously not REAL pearls.
PLEASE THOROUGHLY INSPECT YOUR PEARL JEWELRY PURCHASE UPON DELIVERY TO ENSURE YOU HAVE ACTUALLY PURCHASED REAL GENUINE NATURAL PEARLS.
The tooth test is the easiest and most telling – simply rub the bead gently across the front of your tooth - REAL pearls will feel gritty, while faux pearls will feel smooth. Inspect the drill holes for the tell tale sign of a chipped coating. The hot pin test will detect plastic – heat a pin red hot and stick the bead – a REAL pearl will stop that pin dead in its tracks, but the pin will slide into a plastic bead like butter! And if you are really brave you can touch the bead with fire – REAL pearls don’t burn (but the string does so please be careful)!
As an honest seller of REAL pearl jewelry, I am furious with the multitude of dishonest pearl sellers on eBay. I just want to get the “word” out about these scams going on. I would appreciate it if you would email me if you know of any other scams I should include in this guide. If this has been helpful please vote below (I’m trying to get my score up!). If not, please email me and let me know what I can do to improve this guide (I’m always happy to receive suggestions and constructive criticism!)
I wish you happy shopping!
PS To ensure the best shopping experience, my advice is to always check the Seller's feedback before you buy!