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  1. #1

    Default How do I know it's not shell pearl?

    I bought these champagne SSP 9.5mm at a trusted vendor. They were undrilled and were mostly tear dropped shaped. I had to go through for almost an hour trying to find more round ones and as blemish-free as possible. I couldn't get all with similar overtones and chose more for roundness/luster and as close in color as possible. Back story is that the previous week I picked thru all the better quality ones and these were all she had left in stock for champagnes and not alot in this smaller size or color. There are some with black pits. Can you all tell me more about it? My sister (whom I bought it for) asked me how to know they're not shell pearls or fakes. Please advise. Excuse ahead of time if pics don't attach. I tried doing it on my mobile and clicked on the full site button which gave me option to upload. May have to wait till I'm in front of computer if this attachment doesn't work. Thx.
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  2. #2


    Also I have bluish tinted windows so you may see bluish due to filtered light in 2nd pic. Pic#1&3 I moved to better lighting.

  3. #3
    First-graft Pearl Senior Member Lugana's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2016


    Hi, and welcome to the forum)
    If the pearls are from a trusted vendor, as you say, may I ask why do you doubt their nature?.. Reputable vendors wouldn't stake their reputation.
    To tell fake pearl from real pear is easy: just rub two pearls against each other gently, if the contact is completely smooth - they are imitations, if there is some grainy uneven feeling between them - they are real (or very good imitations, but usually it's not the case).
    The main question for me would be whether they are SSP indeed or died freshwaters. What do you mean by "black pits"? Can you close up on that aspect in the photo?

  4. #4


    I don't doubt them but I didn't have an answer for my sister as to how do I know they're not shell pearls. I did do the teeth as well as scratch test. I've bought quite a lot from the vendor and based on just buying experience of SSP from the 2 vendors and comparing them to the hundreds of other stalls, I do recognize the SSP. Short of looking under a loupe and xray , what are some other things to rule out shell pearls? Coworkers have bought from this vendor numerous times and their families are in the jewelry business. Coworkers had them independently appraised at 4-5x what they were bought for. Thx.

  5. #5
    Natural Pearl Sciences Senior Pearl Expert Lagoon Island Pearls's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Tofino, BC Canada


    Quote Originally Posted by mvpearl View Post
    I didn't have an answer for my sister as to how do I know they're not shell pearls.
    Pearls grow with concentric lines radiating outward from the nucleus. Beads made from cut shell have visible bisected lines at the surface. The nucleus radiates inward from outside the circle.
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  6. #6


    Thank you!!

  7. #7
    Rare Pearl Senior Pearl Expert
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Orlando, Florida, USA


    Dave's diagram shows the difference better than I could have described it. Perfect diagram.

    Also, I think a mother of pearl shell bead isn't going to look anything like a pearl. It won't have nacre all the way around it like a real pearl would.

    I'd be more concerned that they are real pearls, but Chinese freshwater pearls rather than South Sea pearls. I cannot tell from your photos.

  8. #8
    Pearl Scholar Senior Pearl Expert pattye's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005


    "Real" cultured pearls will show subtle differences in shape, size, color, no matter how well they are matched. These indicators are very clear in your photos, and your Sister will be able to observe this, too. Best observed on a white paper towel, white napkin or something similar. Kinds of blemishes, such as light ring, or partial ring, dents or small pits will be present on some pearls, unless you are paying for a very high quality, and even then there may be a few on close inspection.

    Imitation or "shell" pearls will have no difference in color or size (though some can be graduated). They will not have blemishes. Close inspection of the drill hole, which is often larger than in cultured pearls, will not have the crisp edge of a drilled pearl, but will often show some build up of the coating.

    I feel you chose the pearls well, it's a lovely necklace!


  9. #9
    Third-graft Pearl Senior Pearl Expert
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Northern Virginia


    Your strand is lovely

  10. #10
    New Member Abi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2017


    Such lovely GSSPs!
    "The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too."-Vincent Van Gogh

  11. #11


    Thank you all for the info and your kind words! I'll let her know what the forum here said. If she wants to get them appraised she can do it in the U.S. ☺

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