A Closer Look at Types of Imitation Pearls - Part III - Marina Korneev FP

A Closer Look at Types of Imitation Pearls - Part III

Posted by Marina Korneev on

This post is the last in the series about the imitation pearls and how to distinguish them from the real ones.

Understanding Majorica Pearls

In the world of jewelry, imitation pearls offer a beautiful and affordable alternative to their natural and cultivated counterparts. Among the renowned types of imitation pearls, Majorica Pearls stand out. Let's take a look at this fascinating kind of pearl and learn how to distinguish it.

Majorica Pearl Necklace - Marina Korneev Pearls

Majorica Pearls: A Rich Tradition

Majorica Pearls are considered to be splendid artificial pearls that are often found in upscale department stores like Barney's or Saks Fifth Avenue. Traditionally presented in white, black, gray, and gold colors, these pearls retain a "realistic" color palette and look VERY convincing, especially in the latest baroque forms.

These pearls have been manufactured since the late 1800s on the Spanish island of Majorca. The creation process involves repeatedly immersing a solid and heavy glass sphere (to give the "pearl" realistic weight) into a substance called "essence d'orient."

The exact recipe is a closely guarded secret, but it's well known that the pearlescent substance consists of a liquefied mixture of ground fish scales, powdered mother-of-pearl, and mineral oil. The "pearl" is dipped into it, dried, and then hand-polished to remove spots, roughness, or uneven areas of coating. This is done about 30 times to achieve a good, thick coating over the glass core.

Vintage Majorica Pearls - Marina Korneev Pearls

Recognizing Majorica Pearls

A friction test works very well on these pearls. Another distinguishing fact is their plastic-like shine compared to the softer glow of most cultivated pearls.

Majorica Pearls offer an attractive and convincing option for those looking for the elegance of pearls without the price tag of natural or cultivated varieties. With their long tradition and unique manufacturing process, Majorica Pearls have become a symbol of affordable luxury. Recognizing these pearls requires an eye for detail, and understanding their characteristics can help jewelers and enthusiasts alike appreciate their unique beauty. Whether for fashion or collection, Majorica Pearls continue to charm those who encounter them.


Shell Pearls: A Unique Imitation

In addition to the renowned Majorica Pearls, there are other imitation pearls that capture attention and beauty. Among these are Shell Pearls. Let's explore this fascinating variant and uncover the techniques involved in their creation.

Shell Pearls: Uniformity and Elegance

Like Majorica Pearls, Shell Pearls are ideal for their uniformity in shape, color, and reflective ability. These artificial pearls are often created in the sizes of South Sea pearls (range 10.0 - 14.0 mm) and in pastel colors traditionally associated with marine types of pearls: white, black, gray, gold, pistachio, chocolate, and delicate pink.

Shell Pearls - Marina Korneev Pearls


Shell Pearls are created in two ways:

  1. Grinding the Mother-of-Pearl Layer: The most common method involves grinding the mother-of-pearl layer from the inner surface of shells into finely crushed mother-of-pearl powder. This powder is used to coat the core, a process similar to that used in Majorica Pearls.

  2. Carving from Oyster Shells: The second method creates round beads from sea pearl oyster shells, utilizing the thickest part near the crown. These beads are smoothed and rounded into perfect spheres and then dyed in various colors. They are baked at high temperatures to set the color's resistance and finally polished carefully.

Recognizing Shell Pearls

A friction test will not be effective with Shell Pearls due to their composition (crushed mother-of-pearl over the core or a bead carved from the shell), and the surface of such pearls may not be perfectly smooth, making identification even more challenging. In this case, focus should be on the shine and colors to determine whether the pearls you are looking at are genuine or Shell Pearls.

Shell Pearls, carved from the shell, will demonstrate a very uniform rate of light reflection, and all their colors will be solid, uniform shades with almost no natural variations.

Shell Pearls offer another captivating choice in the realm of imitation pearls. Their unique creation methods and the beauty they exhibit make them a delightful addition to jewelry collections. Understanding the nuances of these pearls adds a layer of appreciation and intrigue to the world of pearl jewelry. Whether you are a collector, a jeweler, or simply an enthusiast, Shell Pearls provide an opportunity to explore and enjoy the diverse artistry that defines the world of pearls.

Shell Pearls - Marina Korneev Pearls

Swarovski Crystal Pearls: The Shine of Precision

Among the imitation pearls, Swarovski Crystal Pearls hold a unique place with their captivating brilliance and meticulous craftsmanship.

Swarovski Crystal Pearls - Marina Korneev Pearls

Swarovski Pearls: A Mark of Quality

Swarovski Crystal Pearls are always marked by the manufacturer as artificial, easily identifiable by their very plastic-like shine and perfect uniformity in color and size. These pearls are created using a Swarovski crystal core, which is then coated with a powdered mother-of-pearl substance that reflects all colors of the rainbow.

Swarovski Crystal Pearls are exceptionally durable for everyday wear and serve as an excellent alternative to genuine pearls. 

Amazingly, these pearls can even be dry-cleaned without damaging the outer layers.

Swarovski offers both finished jewelry pieces with their branded fittings and individual beads. It's the latter, which can be threaded and adorned with any desired fittings, that I'd like to draw your attention to - both their appearance and how they feel to the touch.

My Personal Favorite: Kenneth Jay Lane

I must also mention my personal favorite brand - Kenneth Jay Lane, which has been selling glass beads as imitation pearls for over half a century. Their pearls are made from glass in the Czech Republic and stand out for their variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. They were favorites of famous figures like Jackie Kennedy and Barbara Bush, and I also have a strand in my collection for reference. Perfectly shaped with flawless surfaces, they are marked with JKL fittings and never pretend to be genuine; you can easily distinguish them from real pearls.

KJL Pearls - Marina Korneev Pearls

Buyer Beware: Price and Seller

Always, always pay attention to the seller and price. Pearls with perfect surfaces and bright shine, especially if they are large, cannot, and I emphasize, CANNOT be cheap. And by cheap, I mean ranging from a few tens to a few hundred dollars. The price of the real thing will be 10, or even a HUNDRED times higher than an imitation.

Swarovski Crystal Pearls and other esteemed imitation pearls, like those from Kenneth Jay Lane, enrich the world of jewelry with affordable, appealing alternatives to genuine pearls. Whether you're seeking the shine of Swarovski or the vintage charm of Kenneth Jay Lane, understanding these imitations adds depth to your appreciation of pearl jewelry. With an eye for quality and a discerning view of price, you can explore these captivating creations without losing sight of authenticity.

Remember, the elegance of pearls, whether genuine or imitation, lies in their timeless beauty. It's about choosing what resonates with your style and sensibilities.

Happy pearl hunting!

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