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There are several methods to determine the differences between real pearls and imitation pearls, they are:
First, when rubbing two pearls against each other, the imitation pearl feels slippery, while the real pearl feels rough and the layers of nacre will leave a powdery residue.
Second, when rubbing glass with pearls, the imitation pearl leaves no scratches, while the real pearl leaves scratches of pearl powder. After the powder is wiped off with cotton cloth or hand, one can feel that the genuine pearl is not damaged.
Third, although not slightly, if you run a pearl over the edge of your teeth. A real pearl will feel sandy and gritty, while a fake pearl will have a very smooth texture.
Fourth, if look at the pearls carefully, either out in the sunlight or under intense light. Fake pearls usually appear perfect without any flaws. And real pearls usually have flaws and imperfections such as minor color variations and shape differences.
Fifth, if you put pearls under a magnifying glass, the surface of real pearls look rough, while the surface of fake pearls would appear very smooth.
Six, although not true for Majorca pearls and high quality man-made seashell pearls most of the time, but especially for plastic imitations, you can tell the difference when you weigh the pearls in your hand. If it feels light, it is probably an imitation. Real pearls have a higher density and therefore they are a bit heavier.
Seven, if you really can`t tell if a pearl is real or not, and you do not mind losing an extra pearl, you can also cut it in half with a knife or smash it open with a hammer. The inside of real pearls consists of thin layers of nacre that looks like the layers of an onion.
Under normal circumstances, the above methods should be sufficient. However, if you still can't decide if it is an imitation or a real pearl, you can get your pearl to be examined or x-rayed by a certified independent gemologist, which may be costly, however, it can provide a good piece of mind when it comes to determining the status of a pearl.