Imitation Pearls - Faux Perles

Imitation Pearls Defined
Imitation pearls are products elaborated to simulate the appearance of cultured or natural pearls, but do not possess same natural chemical composition or physical properties nor origin (a living organism) of cultured or natural pearls.
Faux Perles - A group of Imitation Pearls

A group of Artificial/Imitation/Faux Pearls.

Imitation pearls are man-made or man-worked or faux perles, as they are known in the jewelry trade.

Imitation Pearls are Manufactured in Factories
  • Imitation pearls are artificial, man-made or manufactured "pearls". As such, they have no real value as a gemstone.
  • Imitation pearls can be made from glass, ceramic, shell or even plastic. The bead is then coated with a different "lacquer" coating and/or other materials to produce a pearl-like luster and iridescence.
  • Each company has its own "secret recipe" to produce their "pearl coating" (referred to as "pearlescence" by some or "essence des perles").
This video by the "Majorica" brand explains the production of their faux perles:
  • In the video you can see that they manufacture glass beads and how they "dip" these into their propietary "pearlescence" or "pearl coating" and finally polish them: no mollusks involved anywhere!
  • These brands will exploit every reference to "pearls" as possible to make it possible for you to believe these are actual pearls. They usually employ terms such as "organic", "gems" and "marine" for this purpose.

Imitation Pearls Must be Labeled as Such
  • Imitation pearls are marketed under descriptive terms such as "faux", "semi-cultured", "simulated", "artificial", or "man-made." Sometimes regional names are also used: "Mallorca pearls", "Red Sea pearls", "Laguna pearls", etc.
  • In the United States and many other countries, it is considered a deceptive trade practice to market imitation pearls without clearly identifying them as such.
The Tooth Test to the Rescue!
A common test to determine whether a pearl is a genuine or imitation, consists of scraping the pearl gently across one's upper front-teeth, from side to side.
Faux Perles - A group of Imitation Pearls
Imitation pearls feel smooth, while genuine pearls feel slightly gritty due to the crystalline structure of the pearl's nacre.

Take a Close Look!
  • Imitation pearls can also be identified rather easily when inspecting them using a loupe or microscope.
  • What are we looking for? The most easily discernible thing to look for are the "pearl's" drill hole.
Faux Perles drillholes - Different Imitation Pearl drill holes

Differente imitation pearls showing their drill holes.
You see, real pearls (or mother-of-pearl) will display a clean-cut drill hole (unless there was a problem when drilling) and imitation pearls often display different kinds of drill holes: they may have "plastic shrapnel", they may be "bumpy" or "depressed" or "swirls", but they do not look like a real pearl's drill hole.

The Truth always...Surfaces
Imitation pearls are "pearl wannabes" but they cannot hide their true nature when inspecting them up close. Their surface is usually prone to "accidents" that are not common to pearls, such as:
  • Peeling - part of their lacquer or varnish just falls off.
  • Grainy surface - their surface appears "grainy" like the damaged exterior of a plastic-made article.
Peeling- Black Mallorca Imitation Pearl - Peeling- Black Mallorca Imitation Pearl
On this photo you can see a "black" faux perle from the "Mallorca" brand, and you can admire two different surface defects: the peeling coat of "pearlescence" (revealing the glass bead) and the grainy surface.

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