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Articles by Stan Paul

Cultured Pearls Versus Natural Pearls

A Natural Pearl is formed when an irritant accidentally gets into the soft tissue of the mussel in an oyster.  As a defense mechanism, the animal produces secretions to coat the irritant.  Many layers of coating are deposited on the irritant making the irritant smooth. A natural pearl is thus born.

A Cultured Pearl is formed in the same process as a natural pearl. The only difference is that it begins by inserting a shell bead nucleus inside the oyster and irritating the oyster to produce the layers of  nacre. The outer layers of a cultured pearl is composed of concentric layers of an organic substance and of calcium carbonate. Human intervention starts the secretion of a cultured pearl, whereas natural pearl secretion starts without any human intervention. Why are  natural pearls so rare?  It may take over 100,000 oysters to get enough pearls to make a pearl necklace. Matching  natural pearls to make a  pearl strand is extremely difficult since they are never round or uniform in size and color. A well- matched natural pearl strand can be extremely  pricey.

Real Pearls Versus Fake Pearls

Real pearls are valuable because they display a natural beauty, whereas fake pearls (sometimes called “faux”, “costume” or “imitation”  pearls) are worth little in value. They can be made of glass, plastic or fish-scale imitations. Here are some tips on how to distinguish real pearls from fake pearls.

  1. Real pearls have fingerprint-like surface ridges when viewed under magnification. Fake pearls have bubbles or mat patterns on the surface when viewed under magnification.
  2. Real pearls have enriched body color and an overtone color.  Fake pearls only have one body color. The color looks flat and lacks depth.
  3. Real pearls are cold to touch. You don’t feel the coolness when touching fake pearls.
  4. If you rub pearls across your teeth, real pearls feel gritty while fake pearls feel smooth.
  5. Real pearls are heavy in weight. Fake pearls are light in weight.
  6. Real pearls show smoothness around drilled holes. Fake pearls show roughness or bumps around drilled holes.


This article was published in the North Shore Women's Journal

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