Pearls, natural or cultured ?

I came across a necklace of pearls in the attic. I wanted to find out if they were cultured or natural. I took the string to six local jewelers and three said natural and three said cultured!

How does one tell the difference? What do I need to do to find out? What are the price differences between the two. Thanks for any help.

It’s hard to tell the difference because a natural and a cultured pearl are almost identical. Both are made when a small irritant (a piece of sand in natural, and often a very small bead for cultured) is coated with layers of calcium carbonate by the oyster. Really, a cultured pearl is just as natural as a natural one, in terms of it’s composition (sans bead,) how it’s made, etc…

Wikipedia says:

Seeing as x-rays are expensive, and the price difference between a cultivated and natural pearl isn’t really that large (at least compared to natural and artificial gemstones), so it’s probably not worth the time and effort to find out.

What you probably want to know is if they are “real” pearls, or glass/paste fakes.

Rub the agains your teeth. If they feel “gritty” they may be real. If they don’t, they’re fake.

I know this sounds like an old wive’s tale, but it isn’t. I work in a jewelry store, and buy these types of things for a living.

And, in my experience, the people that work in a typical jewelry store are totally useless. That’s not to denigrate the ones that have some professional experience, just telling it like it is. :slight_smile:

“Rub the against your teeth. If they feel “gritty” they may be real.”
Oh, they are real alright. But natural/cultured is hard to differentiate.
50-50 with the six jewelers opinions!!
! Went to the Tiffany & Co site and the naturals were far more expensive.
As BOUV said, ya got to x-ray to tell the dif. Is that accurate? Are their other ways to tell which they are ? Thanks.

Natural pearls will be somewhat irregular in shape. Cultured pearls will be spherical. If the cultured pearls are started with the equivalent of a grain of sand they also might be irregular, but they will have taken a long time to accumulate and will be the equivalent of “real” pearls. I can’t imagine any culturer who is willing to wait the long time that is required for such a pearl to accumulate.

Quite interesting [informative], David, thanks.

Except that we have today “farm-raised” fresh water pearls. They are real pearls, but incredibly irregular in shape. It’s a lot more complicated that you might think.

Are you covered by good health insurance?

Perhaps you could duck into an urgent care clinic, claim that you really think you’ve broken your arm, talk everyone into an x-ray despite any exterior sign of trauma, and duck the pearls into the frame of the x-ray at the last second when you get an x-ray.

It would be tricky, but come on, it just might be crazy enough to work.

I didn’t think natural pearls were available anymore aside from keshis. Do you have an example of a natural pearl piece at Tiffany’s? I had a look but didn’t see any.

My god, what kind of a house do you live in that you find unsuspected pearl necklaces in the attic?

Since the jewelers are divided on whether it’s natural or cultured, you know at least that they are real pearls. Because probably every woman you know owns what looks like a pearl necklace, and may in fact be one, you may tend to underestimate the value of a really fine set. Whether cultured or natural, a top quality necklace can be worth a fortune. This applies particularly to a string of pearls all the same size, since it is harder to find a set of pearls all the same size than a graduated set.

Cultured pears are real pearls. It’s just that they start from an artificially implanded seed.

It figures that the industry would find a way. If cultured pearls look like natural peals and are built up out of a number of layers of nacre so as to have an equivalent luster, then any distinction is real close to mere snobbery.

1920s Style "Death Ray
“Do you have an example of a natural pearl piece at Tiffany’s?”
You’re right, it wasn’t Tifs. I got lost searching sites last night and don’t know where the Natural Pearl Necklace site was.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
Thanks for the interesting Bochic site!!!

Might just do that!

My necklace dates back to my grandmother (old).
Does anybody know the cost of x-raying and where (who) it can be done?
One jeweler said only in NY or LA !! (?)

Threemae When I broke some toes, I brought along a puzzle I wanted x-rayed. After they did my foot, they did the puzzle from several angles without fuss or charge. I still have the x-ray.

Alternately, next time you fly you could ask the security people at the airport to run the pearls through the machine.

Hospitals often offer to x-ray bags of candy free of charge on Halloween. You could presumably get a free x-ray of your pearls then.

Your dentist also has an x-ray machine.

Keep in mind that these people will probably be happy to help since you’ve taught them how to tell whether any pearls they have are natural or cultured.

Thanks, Doc.

I can’t believe we’ve gone this far in a thread about pearl necklaces and no one has made an ejaculation joke.