How to know if your pearls are real

Here at Empire Pearls, we find our pearl family saddened at the alarming amount of fake pearls for sale both on and off the internet.

How real pearls are formed

Pearls are nature’s gems: special, beautiful works of art that are formed inside clams, oysters and even mussels, over lengthy periods of time. An irritant finds its way into the mollusc, and as a defense mechanism, the irritant is coated with a liquid called “nacre”. The longer the irritant is inside the mollusc, the more it is coated, and the larger the pearl.

How fake pearls are made

There is a multitude of different ways that fake pearls are made. These are machine made pearl imitations, and they are often made of materials like plastic, glass, wax, or even mollusc shell! They are then often coated and polished to look more like a real pearl.

As stewards of the pearl industry, and members of the CPAA, Empire Pearls is dedicated to the responsible and honest operation of vendors within the pearl industry. To assist our pearl family and any new pearl enthusiasts, we’ve collated a few different methods that you can use in order to identify real and fake pearls.


Every pearl is unique. When you look at each pearl, the color, shape, size and luster will be different and will never be exactly the same as any other pearl. Because they have been made in nature, by nature, each pearl will have an individual “personality”. At Empire Pearls, we encourage the unique nature of each of our pearls, and our jewelry is designed to show-off these personalities!

Fake pearls are usually perfectly round and will have a uniform size, shape and sometimes even colour.


True Pearls do not always have a perfectly round shape. A perfectly round pearl is extremely rare, this is why large, perfectly rounded pearls are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars! If you get one, please DO let us know!

Tooth Test

Beware! The tooth test is NOT a test which requires you to bite your pearl! This can end up scratching or otherwise damaging your pearl (or even your teeth). Simply rub the pearl against the front of your tooth – a real pearl will feel gritty and a fake pearl will feel very smooth. This is because real pearls are exposed to many layers of nacre and sediment and therefore have uneven surfaces.


Real pearls will have flaws, imperfections and slight variations in shape and texture, thus enhancing the personality of the pearl itself. The longer a pearl remains inside a mollusc shell, the more likely it is to develop characteristics such as dents and divots – these are the rare signs that your pearl came from nature – fake pearls will not have these natural characteristics.

Are Cultured Pearls real?

YES, cultured pearls are made IN nature, BY nature.
The mollusc is surgically implanted with a seed (a small piece of tissue or shell from the oyster). This takes the place of a grain of sand that might naturally enter the shell. The action in both of these situations is the same:
The mollusc secretes layers of nacre over time to coat the seed, and this creates the pearl.