Great, great grandmothers pearls


May 2, 2022
Hello! I was given my great great (possibly great again but not sure on that) grandmother-in-law’s pearls. This should make them a minimum of 70 years old. They were fairly well off folk and well traveled. I know they weren’t my mother in laws originally but if there is one great less they would likely be at least 50 years old. It is unclear if they were originally from the German side of the great grandparents or the English side.

This is all the history I know. My mother-in-law has recently passed away so I can’t ask her the exact details.

They are gritty to the teeth, some are irregular shapes, each pearl is between 6-7mm. The entire string is 65cm as a necklace (so 130 if cut and laid straight). I’ve just been wearing them with a knot in. My mother in law did the same and certainly wouldn’t have every cleaned them or anything. As a result are a bit grubby up close and less shiny, but if I rub them they go all lovely and shiny and glowy again. I’ve tried shining a light at them but I have no idea what I’m doing or looking for (pics below). They are quite heavy for the size compared to say an amber necklace, and are really cool to the touch.

Someone suggested to me recently they might be real and now I’m scared to wear them! Can anyone possibly confirm if they are real and worth anything. They have great sentimental value to me as my mother in law was my best friend, and I love how they look and I don’t want to be scared of wearing them so I’m not actually sure what I’m hoping the outcome of this is!


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Hi Breeble! And welcome to our Pearl Loving Forum!

From what I can see (drill holes, shapes, imperfections) these are real, the question truly is: are these Natural or Cultured pearls???
I don't SEE a bead inside the pearls, but this can mean they are freshwater pearls and not natural pearls. The shapes, sizes, colors make me believe they are freshwater pearls but the "time period" given makes me wonder. Fifty years ago means...1972 or early 1970's late 1960's. These look more like late 1980's to 1990's cultured freshwater pearls to me...but there is a chance they could be natural!

Hoping we get more members chiming in :feedback:
My first impression is freshwater cultured pearls.

I think people often tend to assume that pearls that belonged to a grandparent/great-grand (etc.) are necessarily old pearls, but even old people like to buy new pearls now and then, or are gifted such pearls.

So to me the relevant question is: Was the original owner alive during the period that cultured FW pearls of this sort were being sold? (1980s and later) If so, then they are likely cultured FW pearls.

Cultured FW pearls are real pearls! They are sturdy and durable, and you should not hesitate to wear them and enjoy them!

If they are grubby you can give them a brief, gentle bath in warm water with a mild soap, or wipe them clean with a soft damp cloth, then let them air dry on a towel. You can also restring them if you wish (silk thread becomes weakened when dirty, and can break, so restringing is a good idea.) Many of us restring our own pearls; it's not hard at all and saves money if you do it yourself. See the tutorial sticky thread on the Lowly Beaders Forum.
My first impression is freshwater cultured pearls.

I think people often tend to assume that pearls that belonged to a grandparent/great-grand (etc.) are necessarily old pearls, but even old people like to buy new pearls now and then, or are gifted such pearls.

Ha! Yes! I just made a brand new strand of freshwater multis as a 100th birthday present for a lovely lady.
Thank you so much! I’m relieved to know they are not super valuable so I can wear them without worrying as they mean so much to me! But lovely to also think they are real pearls - and a durable kind at that so I can pass them on to my little girls in turn!

I also gave them a wash and they have come up super shiny and lovely, with green and pink reflections instead of just matte so thanks so much for that tip! I can even see myself in some of them! (The water was pretty gross just from wiping them with a wet cloth!)


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They have a much better luster after washing than my early freshwater pearls, but it's difficult to tell without seeing them.
This is so interesting...even older people buy new pearls. My grandmother got herself a set of amazing freshwater rice pearls with a cameo and diamond clasp when she was 85. She only had faux pearls before then. It also reminds me of a recent article on how Mr Astor (It think it was him) traded his house to Cartier for pearls for his wife. I might be fuzzy on the details, but the take away was that pearls pre-WWI were very hard to get and super expensive. Technology has changed enough that new pearls are so much cheaper, it is likely that older people have bought newer pearls. Love, history that you can use!