Imitation Pearls

In addition to cultivated pearls, we also have Imitation Pearls, nowadays an ordinary surrogate. In the past, however, they were the only affordable alternative to natural pearls. Imitation Pearls are usually glass beads covered with a thin layer. This is a suspension of iridescent guanine crystals, which is obtained from the gloss layer of the scales of certain fish, such as herring or early night. This is also used to give pearly shine to, for example, nail polish. Imitation Pearls do not come from oysters but are completely man-made. Some Imitation Pearls are so handsome that you will almost not be able to see the difference between a natural pearl and an imitation. However, these pearls are often easy to discover with a simple trick. The 'tooth test'. Gently pull the pearl along your upper teeth (the upper teeth are more sensitive). If the pearl feels granular then you are dealing with a real pearl. If the pearl is completely smooth then you are dealing with an imitation pearl.

Types of Imitation Pearls

There are different types of Imitation Pearls:

A very good imitation pearl is the so-called fish scales pearl (Majorca pearl). It consists of glass or enamel and is covered with a substance made from the scales of certain fish species.

Majorca pearls may not be called pearls, because they are not at all! Nowadays there are also Sea Shell pearls they resemble South Sea pearls but are absolutely not, they are made by hand using pearl powder in combination with a binding substance and here the plastic balls are immersed. One makes them look like real pearls, but they are absolutely not. There are also plastic variants on the market.

Glass Imitation Pearl

In recent decades many imitations have been made from glass by the Majorica brand. This company makes glass balls where they apply a layer of fish scales (mainly of herring), giving the spheres the appearance and structure of real pearls. They are difficult to distinguish from real cultivated pearls and are sold among others by the department store 'De Bijenkorf'.

Plastic Imitation Pearl

In addition, 'pearls' are made from pieces of cut shell where a layer of plastic is applied. These globules are presented by the brand 'Pearl Roma' as real Zuiderzee pearls and Tahiti pearls that have undergone surface treatment. The Misaki brand also makes Imitation Pearls in the same way that, thanks to their named X-treme Luster technique, have an even better gloss than any other cultivated pearls. In reality, the shine is due to the fact that they polish their plastic-covered 'pearl' with care.

To paint Imitation Pearl

Also many cheap cultivated pearls are treated so that they get the appearance of a pearl that is much more precious than in reality. Mainly they are dyed gold so they wear and are sold as gold lip pearls because of their rarity and resulting preciousness. The color treatment is very difficult to recognize, because the treatment is performed very accurately in (mainly Japanese) laboratories. When purchasing a real cultivated gold lip pearl, the jeweler or goldsmith must provide a certificate of authenticity stating that the pearl has not undergone any treatment. The range of colors is limited. To enlarge the color palette, the shellfish's tissue is colored, so that every color can be made. A colored pearl is therefore colored through and through which the color does not wear and it remains a real pearl. In order to meet the demand and supply of the market, pearls are also intentionally colored in trend colors.

Difference between Natural and Imitation Pearls

It remains difficult to distinguish cultivated pearls from Imitation Pearls, as more and more techniques are being developed that can mimic real pearls. Consumers with an untrained eye can make the distinction on the basis of a number of small characteristics.

  • If you rub a pearl along your teeth, he should feel like a stone. This feels rough and not slippery.
  • Sand 2 pearls against each other, creating a fine powder. If you rub the beads afterwards, no damage is visible.
  • If you wear a pearl on the skin, it feels cold first and then adjusts to the body temperature. An imitation pearl always stays at room temperature.
  • The bead of the pearl is perfectly formed, while Imitation Pearls have a rounded edge. With string of pearls, there is a button behind each drill edge to prevent you from losing several pearls if the cord breaks. False pearls are not extra securely attached.
  • The dental test consists of lightly brushing against the incisor with a pearl along the bottom. If this feels a bit gritty, gritty, then you are dealing with a real pearl; if the whole feels smooth, then it is an imitation.
  • By means of X-ray radiation the screening of the pearl.
  • A real pearl weighs more than an imitation pearl. The weight of pearls is indicated (= 0.05 g = 0.25 or ¼ carat). The Japanese weight MOMME (1 momme = 3.75 gram = 18.75 carat is 75 grains).The Japanese unit for weighing pearls is called MOMME; of these 266 mommes in 1 kg. 90 pearls of 3 mm weigh one momme.


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