Sierratradingpost.com usually has Majorca strands on sale. If you sign up with them, they email coupon codes at least twice weekly, anywhere from 25 to 40 percent off. They currently have baroque and round strands. The baroque strands are 10-12mm, 14-16mm. This morning I saw a round peacock strand of 8 or 9mm pearls for $65 with discount coupon. I've bought active clothing, running shoes, blankets from them. I have not bought any Majorca from them. Just FYI if anyone is looking for a source.
Today we took a drive to Putnam, CT to browse antiques shops. We like to stop in at the Antiques Marketplace, which is a large multi-story group shop (i.e. multiple sellers, each renting space. The sellers are usually not present.)
Behind the glass of one display case I saw a vintage light blue clamshell-type box whose inner lining was printed in gold lettering with "Cultured Pearls" Another box with a necklace was laid crosswise over it, obscuring a full view, but underneath I could see part of the necklace. The pearls were round and of slightly varying sizes, and a tag read, "$100" and indicated the clasp was gold.
I asked for the case to be opened so I could see them. An employee (not the seller) took them out for me.
As soon as I lifted the strand, I knew from their weight that they were plastic, and said so. I didn't need my loupe to know they were fakes, but with the store employee looking on, I pulled out my loupe and examined the surface briefly-- that was all it took to pronounce them definitely imitations. I offered to show the employee how I knew them to be imitation, but he merely put them back in the case (!) and said, "I'll tell him." There was no attempt to set them aside or mark them so they would not be accidentally sold before the seller could be notified. I told him that if someone buys them and has them checked they will be very upset.
I left feeling that nothing would be said or done about this. I hope I'm wrong. We visit that shop no more than 1-2 times per year so I won't be checking on them any time soon.
Buyer beware! Anything can be put into a box that once held genuine pearls.
I have to say the blasé unconcern of the employee soured me somewhat on that shop. Certainly I'm soured on that seller's display case.
Reading this thread and the article on pearl treatments triggered an afternoon of macro photography, using my own real and Majorica pearls. Truth be told, when all I saw was nacre, I had a hard time distinguishing between real and faux.
Now, I'd like to compare them to the nacres of other real pearls. Can someone point me to an old thread that contains magnified or macro shots of CFWP, SSPs, and Akoyas?
I recommend getting a 10x loupe as that is where you will really see the difference between the fine, smooth surface of genuine nacre and the rougher-textured surface of imitation pearl coatings. Even my best imitations (Majorica) definitely look rougher on 10x magnification.
But even without magnification, if you are looking at a strand of pearls there are giveaways.
• The drill holes on imitation pearls may be beveled, or there may be a swirly bit of excess coating. (You won't find this on Majorica brand, however.)
• There may be areas where the coating has peeled away and the bead is revealed, on older imitation strands (Again, on Majoricas you will likely only see another layer of pearlized coating, since there are up to 40 layers.)
• On imitation pearl strands you won't see any variation in the overtones of the pearls. (But this can also be true of low luster akoya or FW strands.)
• With Majorica pearls there is a fake "orient" that creates a colorful rainbow effect. On the white pearls it's green and red, to imitate high end akoya pearls. Their Tahitian type strands have purple and green colors. (see Post #45 in this thread for "Tahitian" Majorica photos) But the key is that every single pearl in the strand will have the same color effect. In a genuine strand there is variation in the pearls.
(Only the top layer of Majorica coating has this color effect. I know from having peeled the top layer off a damaged Majorica pearl and discovered the layer below it is silvery-white with no color overtones.)
If it's not a drilled strand-- say, just an earring-- then the tooth test will still reveal real nacre. Majorica pearls are smooth when rubbed against the edge of one's front tooth.
I've been thinking about something I saw on Saturday that disturbed me.
My husband and I had taken a drive to a favorite shoreline town where we had our first date many years ago. In the course of the day, we stopped in at a small independent jewelry shop where we have bought things in the past. They have nice colored stones and do not sell synthetics or costume jewelry. Although not everything they sell is high priced, it is all genuine.
Usually the owner is present, but on Saturday, it was just the 2 sales ladies I've often chatted with before.
I spotted in their upright pearl case a strand that, through the glass case (and with my progressive eyeglasses at that difficult angle), looked like round Tahitians in a range of greenish colors, and asked to look at it. I was immediately told that they were not Tahitians but were cut out of the shell. The label stated "FW pearls", price was about $250.
Sure enough, they were imitations-- shell "pearls"-- but the sales woman assured me they were real pearls. The supplier from whom they had bought them had told them they were real pearls cut from the shells.
Well! You may imagine the conversation that followed. I explained that they were imitations; that although it was possible to cut a semi-circular mabé pearl from a shell, one could not cut a sphere that is nacre all around-- it just physically can't be done. That "shell pearls" have a shell bead inside and/or are coated with a mixture of ground-up shell and a sort of lacquer-- a fake coating, not made by a living organism, unlike real pearls.
I had my loupe with me and was wearing my SSP drop earrings, so I handed the loupe to the sales lady and asked her to look at the surface of the shell "pearl", then at the surface of SSP. She saw the rough texture of the imitation and the fine surface texture of the genuine nacre.
I strongly urged her not to sell the pearls as anything but imitations (if at all-- the product is out of step with everything else in their shop.) We talked at length. I suggested she visit Pearl-Guide to learn more. She said they would talk to the supplier the next time she comes in. I'm sure the supplier will defend her product.
I just hope she also talked with the owner. Reputation is a fragile thing. A jeweler needs to be above reproach. I could just see an unknowledgeable customer buying them and later discovering she'd unknowingly paid $250 for imitation pearls...not good.
I don't have an issue with imitation pearl strands-- as long as they are described honestly. There is a place for them, but in a store that otherwise sells only genuine gems? No.
I have a follow-up to this story. We visited the same shop yesterday for the first time since April. The imitation pearls were gone! I pulled the sales lady aside and quietly asked her what had happened with the fake pearls. She said the next time the vendor came, they gave her back everything they had gotten from her, telling her, "They don't work for us." Smart move!
My dear sister proudly showed me her special Thahitins twomyears ago ..beautiful big baroque so ..such lustre. Then I got a good look , Majolica .. $400 .. They were sure pretty though. We don't have them here to my knowledge so I had no idea they did 15mm Baroques etc damn nice ! Be good to take on trips so you don't have to leave the real stuff in a hotel room safe.