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Imitation or Not
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Flaw Test: Examine the pearls for flaws. If they appear flawless, this is a sign they're imitation. Also note the types of flaws present. Many of those found on cultured pearls look different from those on imitations. If you examine pearl flaws with a 10-power magnifier whenever possible, it will be easier for you to recognize them.

Matching Test: Note the shape, luster, size and color of the pearls. Imitations often seem perfectly matched, whereas there tend to be variations among the pearls on cultured or natural strands.

Heaviness Test: Bounce the pearls in your hand. If they feel unusually light, they're most likely made of plastic or filled with wax. Solid glass beads may feel heavier or about the same as cultured and natural pearls.
a loupe. If it looks grainy, like a photo taken at an ISO of 1000 and above, there's a good chance it's an imitation. Pearls normally look unusually fine grained. Sometimes, though, dirt or pits on a pearl may make it seem to have a grainy appearance. Occasionally, too, freshwater and South Sea pearls may look a little grainy, but other surface characteristics mentioned in this section can prove they are not imitation.

If you have access to a microscope, also examine the surface at the highest possible magnification.

A surface with tiny, crooked lines giving it a scaly, maze-like appearance is characteristic of cultured and natural pearls. These scaly lines are not always evident at first. The surface may look smooth except for the flaws. Try using a strong, bare, direct light such as a fiber-optic; and shine it on the pearl from various angles to find the scaly lines. It's curious that pearls, which feel gritty to the teeth, can look so smooth under high magnification; whereas imitations, which feel smooth, tend to look coarse and rough. However, the less smooth an imitation is, the rougher it looks. On pearls, it's the "scaly-line" ridges that cause their gritty feel.

The best way to learn what the surface of pearls and imitations looks like under magnification is to examine many examples of each. When you can recognize how distinctive their surface textures are, you won't need to do any of the other tests to spot an imitation pearl.
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