Real Pearl Jewelry Buyer's Guide

Pearls are one of the most beloved and beautiful jewelry items to purchase for yourself or a loved one. Their history dates back thousands of years, and historians know that Chinese Royalty presented them as gifts as early as 2300 BC. 

Ancient Romans considered pearls a status symbol, so much so that Julius Caesar passed a law stating that only the ruling class could wear pearls. Thankfully, no such law exists today, and everyone can enjoy the beauty of pearls. 

Unfortunately, it can sometimes be hard to spot natural pearls from fake ones. The last thing you want is to spend your hard-earned money on pearls you thought were real, only to find out later were fake.

So, how do you spot authentic pearl jewelry? Read on to find out!

Related: Jewelry That You’ll Always Love to Wear 

What are Real Pearls? 

To spot the difference between real and fake pearls, it first helps to know what naturall pearls are. Pearl-bearing oysters produce natural pearls in fresh saltwater. These gems can either be cultured or appear naturally, depending on how much human intervention is involved. 

Truly natural pearls formed with no human intervention are scarce and not commercially viable. Therefore, you’ll likely only find them in museums. This is why most people buy cultured pearls, which are still authentic but are produced with some human intervention. 

To produce cultured pearls, someone needs to insert an irritant inside a mollusk (oyster). The oyster will release fluid as a defense mechanism to coat the irritant, which will later form a pearl. 

What are Fake Pearls?

On the other hand, fake pearls are entirely manmade. They’re typically made from plastic, alabaster, glass, or shells with a pearly coating, so they look similar to natural pearls. 

While it’s easy to spot some fake pearls, others can look very similar to the real ones. The most well-known fake pearl, the Mallorca pearl, can often trick your eyes. 

Know the Characteristics 

 Hand holding pearl in shell

Naturall pearls and fake pearls can look very similar to the untrained eye. Here are some of the characteristics to watch out for:


Natural pearls have an irregular shine, whereas fake pearls have a uniform glow. This is because natural pearls are made from mollusks, which have slight imperfections that result in irregular luster. 

While the luster is irregular, it’s much deeper on natural pearls than on fake ones. Fake pearls only have a surface shine, and their luster doesn’t have any depth. 

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Another way to decipher if your pearls are natural is to check the temperature. Real pearls are cold for the first few seconds when you touch them, whereas fake pearls have the same temperature regardless of touch. 

However, if the fake pearls are made of glass beads, they can be cold to the touch at first. However, they tend to take longer to warm up against your skin than natural pearls. 


In addition to the luster being irregular, there are other irregularities you can watch out for when trying to spot natural pearls. For example, fake pearls will all be the exact size and shape. Additionally, they won’t have any blemishes or imperfections on them. 

On the other hand, natural pearls have some imperfections, although minuscule. You’ll also see some shape irregularity with natural pearls. Often, you’ll need to look at the pearls under a microscope to notice these imperfections. 

The Color 

Natural pearls tend to have an overtone to them. In other words, there’s a translucent pink/green hue that appears on the surface of the pearl. 

If you purchase high-quality pearls, the translucent color will be especially noticeable. However, some natural pearls don’t have an overtone, so make sure you still pay attention to the other characteristics. 


Another thing you want to consider is the weight of the pearls. Natural pearls tend to be heavier than fake ones. If you toss a set of natural pearls and fake pearls in your hand, you’ll definitely be able to notice the weight difference. 

The only case in which fake pearls may weigh more is if they’re made from solid glass beads. Glass bead pearls will actually weigh more than natural pearls, so as we mentioned above, make sure to pay attention to the other characteristics. 

Related: Which Jewelry Can Be Worn for Any Occasion? 

Drill Holes 

The drill holes in natural pearls tend to be very small, whereas they’re large in imitation pearls. If you put the pearls under a magnifying glass, you’ll notice that the coating around the drill hole of a fake pearl is typically thin, and it often resembles shiny paint. 

Sometimes, you can also see chipped or flaked coating around the drill hole that eventually peel off. 

The Tooth Test 

 White bowl with pearls in them

While it may sound odd, there’s a tooth test you can do to figure out if your pearls are natural. All you need to do is take the pearl and rub it against the surface of your tooth. 

If the pearl is real, you’ll feel a grittiness similar to sandpaper. If the pearl is fake, it’ll feel as smooth as glass against your tooth. If you don’t want to rub a pearl against your tooth, you can also rub two pearls against each other to check. 

Related: How to Tell if You’re Allergic to Your Jewelry 

How to Wear Real Pearls 

Once you know how to spot real pearl jewelry, it’s time to buy some pearls and start wearing them. While pearls are very versatile, many people still don’t know how to style them. Here are some tips for wearing pearl jewelry:

Wearing Pearl Necklaces in Varying Lengths 

Like other necklaces, pearl necklaces come in various lengths. Try a multi-strand pearl collar necklace if you’re looking to make a statement and appear fashion-forward. 

The choker-length pearl necklace sits at the base of your neck and pairs well with a turtleneck or sweater. The most popular pearl necklace is the princess-length pearl necklace, which is between 17 and 19 inches long. This option is very chic and looks great with both high and low necklines

If you have an extra long pearl necklace, you can loop it twice to create the double-strand effect to channel your inner 1920s flapper girl. 

Wearing Pearl Headbands and Hairclips 

You can also wear pearls on your head or in your hair. A pearl headband will help tame your hair and give it an air of sophistication. A pearl hairclip is part functional, part fashion. If you’re looking for an easy style, pull your hair into a loose ponytail and use a pearl hairclip to tame the flyaways. 

Wearing Pearl Rings, Bracelets, and Earrings 

Pearl rings, bracelets, and earrings can help you stand out from the crowd. A single-strand pearl bracelet is perfect when you want to create a timeless look. If you’re looking for something a little more modern, choose a multi-strand bracelet with various sizes of pearls. 

You can also take a pearl necklace and loop it a few times to convert it into a bracelet. 

Use Pearls to Freshen Up Your Fall Fashion 

Pearls can also be an excellent way to freshen up your fall wardrobe. We suggest pairing your pearls with a plaid skirt and white turtleneck to achieve a sophisticated look. Pearls also go great with sweaters in various styles. You can even throw on a pair of pearl earrings for apple picking, as they can spruce up your outfit and you don’t have to worry about them snagging on the tree branches. 

Dress Up Your Pearls 

You can also dress up your pearls for polished occasions, semi-formal cocktail hours, or work events. Pearls pair great with anything black, so we recommend whipping out your favorite little black dress and completing the look with a pearl necklace or bracelet. 

We recommend sweeping your hair into an updo to really draw attention to your pearls. If you want to give off a rocker-glam vibe, you can wear gray or black pearls. 

Keep it Minimalist 

You don’t have to save your pearls for a fancy occasion. You can also keep things simple by pairing your pearls with a minimalist outfit. You can never go wrong with a pair of jeans, a white button-down blouse, and a pearl necklace. You can add a splash of color to the outfit by accessorizing with a colorful purse or throwing on a scarf.


As you can see, there are many characteristics you can examine to find out if your pearls are real or fake. It’s also essential to find a reputable retailer to purchase your pearls. If you’re buying in-store, you can use the list above to examine the pearls. 

Things get a little trickier when buying online, so make sure to research the retailer before you purchase and understand the store’s return policy. 

Are you looking to purchase some pearls? If so, check out our pink pearl earrings