Yellow freshwater pearls or not?


Well-known member
Sep 13, 2023
I have a strand of yellow-colored pearls that I got 10-ish years ago from Goodwill for $5-10. The clasp is 14K white gold plate and I knew they weren't anything fancy but nice enough. I have always figured they were freshwaters. I have some cheapie calipers and they range from 7.5 - 8.5mm.

Having started to learn restringing, I took these apart to clean and restring. Now, I'm confused by what I'm seeing. It looks like they are bead nucleated rather than solid nacre because around the drill holes, it looks like they've rubbed and worn away the nacre. Are they possibly Akoya? If they are, they're not great quality. Can you please take a look and let me know what you think?

Not freshwaters, I don't think. Fully round FWP in that size were not being sold as long ago as that (you got them used so the previous owner bought them before that.) Abrasion can occur in FWP also so it is not that that makes me lean away from FWP.

But also, FWP in that size range didn't tend to be dyed that color, from all I've seen. (We do see a lot of large FWP being passed off as GSS these days, but the size of yours is smaller than GSS.)

IMO they are either akoyas or imitations. I am leaning toward dyed akoyas, partly because the size is variable. If it were a strand if imitations they would likely be all the same size. We won't go by the clasp as they may have been previously restrung.

A couple of questions:

1. Are they gritty when rubbed together? Imitation pearls glide smoothly; real pearls feel gritty.

2. Have you already cleaned them? I'm asking because grime tends to accumulate in the area around drillholes (because that part is not in contact with skin, so it doesn't get mechanically rubbed off in the normal course of wearing.) In other words, I'm not sure if all of what I'm seeing is wear or if some of it is just grime.

3. Were they knotted? If they were not knotted, they may have rubbed against each other, abrading the surface somewhat. However, Japanese pearls are often not knotted except near the clasp, yet they don't necessarily abrade each other.

And congrats on learning restringing!!
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Thanks so much for your quick response! Yes, they feel gritty and I'm positive they're not imitations. They have some obvious marks/flaws. I'll include a pic below.

Yes, I gave them a bath so the stuff around the drill holes isn't grime. Honestly, I'm a bit embarrassed by how much better they look. I didn't realize they were so crusty. Yes, they were knotted before but they were stretched out. I'm in the midst of stringing them now so I had to be creative with taking photos.

Thanks again for your help!

That last photo looks like nacre over a bead nucleus.

It's remarkable how much skin oils, lotions and general environmental pollution can gunk up pearls. I bought several nice akoya stands at consignment shops that were just dirty, therefore not lustrous, and priced low to sell (in one case thrown in with imitation jewelry). I suspect because women were cautioned not to get the silk wet, they just didn't clean them.

Do post a photo of the completed strand!
It looks good!
I can barely see knots between the pearls, except at the ends. Did you find the knots slipping into the drill holes?

Is the length good? If you find it too short, you could make the knot a tad larger by doing a jeweler's knot (passing the needle through the knot loop one more time before tightening it), which will add maybe 0.1mm -0.2mm to each knot for a total additional length of about 1/2 cm to 1 cm.
Thanks so much for your kind words! Yes, the knots did slip into the holes so I used a jewelers knot. Even still, they were still slipping into the drill holes. I may have to go to Serafil 30. I have the rose color in 30-weight which isn't a great match but might work.

As for the length, it's now 16.5 inches. So, a little on the shorter side but I'll see how it goes.
I normally use Serafil 30 (Medium). Did you use 40 (Fine)? Fine is too thin for almost all my pearls.

If you actually used Medium, switch to 20 Heavy.

If you increase thread thickness, revert to regular overhand knots instead of jeweler's knots.

I also recommend knotting just 4 or 5 pearls first-- not adding the clasp, just pearls--as a test. Once you know what works best, cut the test pearls apart and string the neclace.
Oops, yes I had that wrong. I used the Serafil 30 medium. I need to try it with the 20 weight. Thanks for the advice!