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What is the difference between cultured Pearl and Glass Pearls?

Saturday, 28 April 2018  |  Anne

Do you have some pretty old pearls from the past? What is the difference between cultured and glass pearls?  Can you tell if they are real? Are they glass or plastic or have they been grown with a little help from man?  Looking at the pictures you just can't tell but here is a bit of information that just might help you.


The Difference Between Cultured and Glass Pearls

In the beginning, only natural pearls which grow inside oysters in the sea were available. These are very rare and precious and it's difficult to find sufficient similar ones to make up a necklace. Even today a string of natural pearls is beyond the price most are prepared to pay for them. Being beautiful and desirable and costly people wanted more so alternatives were developed. These include completely artificial or faux pearls made of glass or plastic with a pearlescent coating. Better than these are ones which have been grown inside oysters in the sea but have had help along the way – these are known as cultured.  Cultured pearls are the most desirable of the alternatives to natural and are what most of us look for these days when we think of a string of pearls.

Here is how to identify the different types:

If you want to learn The Difference Between Cultured and Glass Pearls I suggest that you assemble one example necklace of each.  Plastic, glass and cultured. The lightest in weight will be the plastic ones, it is usually quite a discernable difference between these and the other types. We now come to the tooth test. Eeeek! Yes you really do have to touch them against a tooth.Not so bad if you know they are clean or if they are your own but quite yucky if you are at a flea market, car boot or auction and are handling a vintage set. Lightly rub the pearl against the biting edge of a front tooth. Can you feel the texture?
Glass Pearls
A glass one will be very smooth, there is no resistance to it running across the tooth at all. This will also apply to plastic ones but the weight of them should save you from having to do this test.
Cultured pearls:
A cultured pearl has a completely different texture. It is subtle and you may have to practice for a whilst until you can detect it but the surface of pearls grown inside oysters has a light roughness to it.  A bit like a very fine sandpaper of emery board – very fine but enough to tell the difference.
Natural Pearls

Telling natural pearls from cultured ones is more difficult. You need to look inside where the drill hole is and to be a trained expert. Please leave this to someone qualified as you could be making a very expensive mistake.  Natural ones are so very rare it is unlikely that you have a string of these even if they are quite old. Cultured pearls were introduced in the Victorian era.    

I do hope this has helped demystify these lovely gems just a little and you can now tell The Difference Between Cultured and Glass Pearls. Glass or real, How do you wear your pearls?