Pearl and Bead Stringers: Be Wary of Bad Advice from “Experts”

The internet is wonderful for so much. However, and this is a big however, the publishing freedom it provides means that there is an awful lot of advice out there that is not only wrong, but destructive.

I came across a good example of this in a news site that suggested various ways of identifying if a pearl is real or fake.

This is a question professional pearl and bead stringers will often get from clients. And, it’s one that you should know the answer to. I’ve developed a video that walks through the ways we can determine if a pearl is real without resorting to x-ray equipment and posted it below.

But the advice given on this website is bad and worse, destructive. The author recommends that a pearl be rubbed along a plate of glass. The fake pearl, according to the author, will leave no mark, while a real pearl will leave a faint white trail of nacre powder.

I don’t know if there’s any truth to this test. That’s because I don’t perform destructive tests on gemstones. Why on earth would you want to damage the nacre on a pearl? Nacre is a pearl’s heart and soul. It’s what gives a pearl its “pearly” appearance and nacre coverage is a quality factor that helps to determine the value of a pearl.

In a second test recommended by this “expert,” he or she (there is no author cited) suggests rubbing pearls together to look for a powdery residue. Huh? Again, this is a test that will damage the pearl’s nacre.

I was given some very good advice early in my career and that is to never, ever identify gemstones on the spot.  Don’t volunteer that the “pearl” necklace is lovely. It could be faux.  When clients ask about certain gemstones, including pearls, deflect the question with a comment. “It’s certainly a beautiful piece of jewelry,” etc. But don’t let yourself be put on the spot. If you get it wrong, your credibility is gone forever.

If the client insists, suggest that you need time to perform tests to determine authenticity. In the case of pearls, just follow the advice in the video and in the article posted in this section.

And, always, always be wary of anyone who suggests that a destructive test can determine authenticity. They can, but at the expense of a sometimes valuable or cherished gemstone. Don’t do it. And if someone suggests it, you’ll know their “expertise” is a sham.

If you want to see the news article I’ve referenced, click here,  but watch the video below for constructive suggestions on determining if a pearl is real. The information in the video is contained in an article here that you can print out for future reference.


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