Got these from a vintage antique store! The clasp says 14K and my mom believes they are real since she has a pair like these. Can someone let me know?


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May 12, 2024


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Yes, those appear to be real cultured pearls. Not high end, but nice.

Are the pearls in the neck shot the same ones as in the larger photo? I'm asking because in the neck shot the pearls look round but in the larger photo they seem a bit eggy shaped /off-round-- which could just be image distortion. If they are completely round then I'd say they are akoyas. Freshwater pearls of that size are frequently somewhat egg shaped as they do not have a bead inside to make them fully round.

For future reference, and for other readers of this thread, here are a few simple tests to help you determine if pearls are real or imitation.

Temperature test. Real pearls are cooler than glass imitation pearls. If you keep the pearls in question in the same temperature environment as some other pearls that you know are fake (or know are real), then you can compare how warm or cool they are. A sensitive place to test them is your lip. (Be sure to wipe the pearls clean first!) I have not tested this with cheapo plastic fake pearls, but those are easier to recognize because they are so lightweight.

"Tooth test". This test is called "tooth test" because if you gently rub a pearl against the edge of your front tooth it will feel gritty, whereas fake pearls will feel smooth. However, I've gotten away from recommending rubbing pearls on teeth. Teeth are harder and could scratch the pearl. Now I just suggest you rub two pearls together, preferably pearls near the clasp. This should not scratch them, but don't rub too hard. If the pearls are grimy this could throw off your test. Wipe clean first.

Drill holes and surrounding nacre. Look at the drill holes and the pearl nacre near the drill hole. In real pearls the hole is small and not beveled. Pearls are sold by weight so they keep the drill hole small to preserve weight.
In inexpensive glass imitation pearls, the drill hole may be relatively large (which then requires using thicker thread which then makes for larger knots). There may be swirls of excess pearly coating near the drill hole, or areas where the coating has flaked away to reveal the glass bead beneath. They may have a beveled hole. Note, the really good fakes (like Majorica brand) will not have any of these indicators, and mid-range fakes may not either.

Surface appearance under 10x magnification. Using a 10x jeweler's loupe, look at the surface of the pearl. Real pearl nacre looks very smooth (obviously you will want to look where there aren't blemishes visible to the naked eye), while fake pearl coating looks somewhat coarser. This is the case even with very good fakes.

• Overall uniformity. Fake pearls can look extremely uniform in color, shape, size, luster, and generally do not show any iridescent or overtone colors. Majorica brand imitation pearls have iridescent colors, but that is just caused by the final coating used in manufacturing them. Otherwise they are very uniform.
Real pearls usually are not quite so uniform. Even straight size akoya strands vary within 0.5mm (for example, 7.0-7.5mm). High quality akoyas will show some overtones, but inexpensive strands with thin nacre may not have great luster or overtones. High end freshwater pearls may be nearly round to the eye but still be slightly off-round if you look closely (except for some newer ones that have a bead inside.)

• Look at the metal of the clasp. Usually real pearls are not strung with base metal clasps; usually the clasp will be gold or silver. Of course they may have been restrung at some point with a base metal clasp at the owner's request-- say, if they wanted a magnetic clasp due to having difficulty managing the original clasp.
Similarly, imitation pearls don't usually have gold clasps. Usually the clasps will be base metal or silver, or gold-filled, or vermeil (silver plated with gold.) Majorica usually uses silver or vermeil clasps but I have a Majorica necklace and bracelet that have 18K gold clasps, original to the pieces. There are always exceptions, so the clasp can't determine for sure whether the pearls are real. It's just one more clue to consider.

• Need I say it? Price. Usually you won't get more than you pay for. If it's too good to be true, buyer beware. On eBay it is very common to see freshwater pearls being listed as the more valuable akoyas, Tahitians (dyed), and South Sea pearls (often dyed to look like golden SSP.) Sometimes they are listed at freshwater pearl prices, but sometimes they are way overpriced for FWP. And sometimes fakes called "shell pearls" are sold as real. Shell pearls are just another kind of fake pearl.
Mind you, sometimes you can find a real bargain at a thrift store or consignment shop-- grungy vintage graduated pearl necklaces desperately needing to be washed and restrung (I have found 3 such necklaces), but that takes a bit of serendipity.