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Real pearls are grown within mussel or a like kind of living mollusks and oysters.
Imitation pearls or "false pearls" are made of glass, plastic, or shell beads dipped and coated with ground fish scales. Imitations come in a variety of types. The main ones are:
Hollow glass beads containing wax - likely made by the same process as Jacquin's in antique jewelry.
Solid glass beads - Majorica imitation, for example, is covered with as many as forty coats of pearl essence mixed with other substances and hand polished between each coat.
Plastic beads - sometimes hang poorly due to their light weight.
Mother-of-pearl shell beads - shell or clay beads coated with substances such as plastic and glass and then baked.
Sometimes customers interested in buying pearls are concerned that they won't know the real thing from the imitation. Here are some tests to help you determine if you are looking at well-done 'fakes' or genuine pearls.
Some methods to tell Real & Fake Pearls
An old wives' tale says that if you hold real pearls in your hand, they will be cool to the touch for several seconds before warming up. Genuine pearls tend to warm with contact to the skin much faster than glass pearls. Resin or plastic pearls tend to feel somewhat warm upon first contact. This however is not a sure-fire method for checking authenticity.