Well, although we have not had many direct comments on our blog, we do have a tool that allows us to know how many daily visitors we have, it also tells us which posts have yielded a higher amount of visits and what people are searching for (keywords) before they “land” on our blog and, based on this, we can say that the favorite topic so far is the one about how to distinguish between real pearls (both cultured and natural) and imitation pearls or “faux perles” (such as ” Mallorca Pearls”). Therefore, we will continue discussing this issue and, once again, I invite you to submit your comments.
A New Option: The Pearl’s Drill-Hole
For those who have followed us through the pearl identification tests (e.g., the “Fire Test” or the “Water Test”) we will have a new option for you: the “Pearl’s Drill-hole Examination“. This method can be used mainly on pearls that have been drilled for their use in jewelry, so if the pearl has not been drilled yet we cannot use this method. On the other hand, imitation pearls always have their drill holes when sold (I have yet to find an imitation without a drill-hole, although I am certain they can manufacture them) so this in itself might be an indicator of the kind of pearl you have. A possible complication to this identification method might be the type of jewelry setting affixed to the pearl: some metal settings will not allow us to inspect the pearl’s drill hole.
How does this method work? Most of the false or imitation pearls contain some type of plastic (they are either wholly made of plastic or they have it on their outside), and fortunately for us this material has a very different behavior from nacre (the material pearls are made of), so this behavior is visually evident (in most cases) and allows us to distinguish between a true pearl and an imitation pearl. As an example, we have the photo of a mother-of-pearl button:
As you can see, the drill-hole on the button is very “clean”: it does not have any “swirls” or “flakes” or “burrs” (due to their similarity with metal shavings). We just have a “perfect drill-hole”: clean and straight. Let us now examine the drill-hole of a fake pearl…
Comparing drill-holes: true pearl vs. imitation pearl
Depending on the type of imitation, each type display different characteristics in their holes: with “swirls” being more prevalent in the more plastic-like fakes, or with a “big & bulgy” hole in the “Shell Pearl” brand, or with a very good drill-hole –similar to that of real pearls- in the “Majorica ” or “Mallorca” brand imitation pearls. In the latter case, the hole in the fake pearl is more like that of a pearl because the core of these imitations is made of glass or mother-of-pearl shell. Still, it is quite possible to see some “burr” around the drill-hole, the paint coming off in peels, especially when new.
Analyzing Pearl Jewelry:
In most cases pearls will be set on jewelry, either mounted on metal or wire- and we will want to apply this method to identify the pearl. Sometimes the metal setting will not allow us see the drill-hole, so the identification of the piece must be done using the “water test”, the “fire test” (we have covered both methods on this blog) or other methods that will be discussed in future posts.
In the case of bracelets, necklaces or strings of pearls, examination of the drill-hole is possible by applying pressure between the pearls on the string -in order to separate them- and being able to see their drill-holes (using a magnifying glass or lens, if necessary.) Finding knots between pearls can be a very good indicator of a pearl’s authenticity. Why? The knots are there in order to help you avoid losing your pearls in the event of the necklace/bracelet snaps or breaks… since the value of imitations is very low (when compared to high quality pearls), producers of fashion-jewelry save money by avoiding these knots in their items.
Unfortunately, many freshwater pearl necklaces and bracelets do not have knots between their pearls, and this not because they are not “genuine pearls,” but because their value and quality does not make them worthy using knots. So, whenever possible, do examine the pearl’s drill-hole.
In our next installment we will discuss how to distinguish pearls using their external appearance, especially their color and texture.