Cultured pearls are made by two types of mollusk: oysters create salt water pearls, and mussels create freshwater pearls. To culture a pearl, the technician performs a delicate surgery to insert a bead nucleus or tissue. A nice pearl will hopefully be the result, and will eventually make it you to purchase at a jewelry store. Pearls are often rated on the “triple A” scale, but there is no universal grading standard. So, it’s a good idea to figure out the different types and what denotes quality.
The first thing you will want to do when identifying a real pearl is to look at the luster of the stone. A genuine pearl will have a glow to it. A natural pearl can be detected by looking at the thickness of the nacre layers. Roll a strand of pearls on a bright white surface under a very bright light. They should “wink” at you. The color will appear lighter and darker as they are rolled on the white surface.
Take a strand of pearls to a professional jeweler. They will be able to do a number of tests to find out they are real. You may think that they are not real if they are not a true color, but the fact is that natural pearls can come in many colors, such as pink pearls and even gold. There are even some rare kinds of pearls you can find that are black or even blue-black.
Other items that you can factor in when looking at pearls are shape and skin. Higher value pearls will be almost perfectly round. Obviously, the larger the pearl, the higher value it is going to have. The fewer blemishes that you can see on the skin of the pearl, means it is a high quality pearl and is also going to be more expensive. Real jewelers are more than happy to scape the surface of the pearl to prove it is real, which is another thing to ask about.
Pearls can also be paired up with gems to make unique pearl jewelry pieces. Once of the more popular places to find unique pearl jewelry pieces are Japan. These unique pieces allow you a larger variety of selection for pearl jewelry.
If you are in the United States, there are some professional jewelers who also offer different unique pearl settings. A couple of tests you can do are to bite the pearl. If it feels gritty on your teeth, they you know it is authentic. If it feels smooth on your teeth, you will know that it is fake.