I have received a box of jewelry from my grand mother who just passed away. In the box I found a pearl necklace, but I do not know if it is real or not. Is there a simple test to tell if it is a genuine strand? I showed it to a friend of mine that worked at a jewelry store a few years ago, but she said the only way to tell was by having it x-rayed. I am hoping there is a simple method to tell if it is real, and to find out if it has much value.
There definitely is an easier test to determine whether or not the strand is real. The most basic method is what we like to call "the tooth test". Take the necklace and run one of the beads against the biting edge of one of your front teeth. If there is a gritty feeling it is possibly a real pearl. Compare the texture to that of a smooth bead, or a piece of plastic. Pearls are made up of concentric layers of nacre so they have a scaley texture and you can feel this with your teeth.
If the strand is round, it would probably be Akoya (if it is genuine). Take a look down the drill-holes. If the necklace is indeed old you should be able to find several knotted sections that have stretched over the years, exposing the hold. You should be able to peer down the hold a make out a nucleus if the pearl is cultured.
A last resort would be to just take it to a jewelry store and compare it to a strand of genuine pearls. Side by side it is typically quite easy to determine real versus fake.
Another way to tell the difference besides the tooth test is to give the strand the luster test. Fake pearls only have a surface shine, but cultured pearls have a deep luster or glow that comes from within the pearl. I agree with TievoliJewelry that you should bring the strand in to a jewelry store and compare it to a strand of cultured pearls and faux pearls and you'll will be able to tell if the pearls on your grandmother's strand are real.