Real pearls or imitations? What's the difference?
Over the last few decades, pearl jewellery has become a fashion item for good. This was due to the increased availability of these gems grown on farms since the beginning of the 20th century and the promotion by some fashion houses of wardrobe accessories made of imitation pearls. Jewellery once reserved for the mighty has undergone evolution and reached the wide masses. However, this has not been followed by changes in consumer awareness - most people, when buying pearl or pearl-like additives, move blindly using the wrong vocabulary and make the wrong choices when buying. When choosing imitations or the cheapest pearls, we often overpay for a mass product that is not worth the price.
What are real pearls and what do we lose when we buy imitations of them?
Let's get the vocabulary in order.
When we talk about pearls we should first of all learn the correct vocabulary used in jewellery and understand the meaning of the terms. When we talk to a person who knows the subject, we do not need to emphasize that we mean true pearls, because the word "pearl" itself means a precious stone and using it with any adjective does not change this fact. It is quite common to call imitations "artificial" pearls, or to add to the word "pearl" any own names or brands such as "Majorca", "Swarovski", "Seashell" or to use terms such as "shell pearl" to sell imitations is simply an attempt to mislead the buyer.
Why is the word "artificial" inappropriate? Artificial stones are called those that have been produced in a controlled technological process, but have physico-chemical characteristics identical to those of nature. But this is not true for jewels born in the flesh of mussels, nor for imitations of mussels. Man has never managed to create a pearl in a factory or laboratory - these stones are now grown in living organisms of pearl molluscs on specially organized farms (they are still created by nature, man only stimulates the body to create a pearl). In turn all lacquered beads sold in shops with fashion jewellery at the most imitate their appearance - so they are only imitations of them. It should be added that these beads usually imitate the appearance of pearls quite ineptly - a skilful eye can easily distinguish between imitations and real pearls.
The appearance of a real pearl cannot be perfectly imitated by any of the known imitations. A stone made of layers of aragonite crystals reflects the light in a different way, and a plastic ball painted with emulsion of a similar colour and gloss. A layperson may confuse an imitation with a pearl of poor or average quality. In a really beautiful pearl, the light is split up to create a unique play of colors, while the "mirror" of the jewel itself seems to have an almost three-dimensional "depth". We will not see it in any of the imitations available on the market, whose optical effects are only surface effects and look a bit "plastic".
The easiest way to recognize imitations in the ropes - balls are perfectly repeatable, of identical colour, usually of identical size and perfect shape. It is impossible to see the slightest differences between them, which makes them a bit "boring". Ropes with real pearls are characterised by a certain changeability (size, shape, colour distribution) - even the most perfect selection of stones will not make them perfectly repeatable on the model of balls produced in factories. Some ladies who want to emphasize that they do not wear cheap imitations buy strings of pearls with slightly irregular shapes, so that even an unknown person will have no doubt that we are dealing here with jewels created by nature.
For some readers this may be a surprise, but not always imitations will be cheaper than real pearls - it depends on the genre, shape and quality of the latter, and above all on the honesty of the seller offering pearl-like beads (which sometimes can be found at absurdly high prices). A foreign-sounding brand (e.g. Italian-style) and a high price often serve to convince the buyer that the offer is credible and he buys precious stones. In this way beads worth a dozen or so zlotys are often sold at prices as high as twenty times higher to people who have no knowledge of pearls. On the other hand, necklaces made of good quality irregularly shaped pearls can be purchased for as little as several dozen zlotys and it will definitely be a much better purchase.
Prices of high class pearls will be counted in thousands, tens or hundreds of thousands of zlotys. Prices are usually accompanied by unique beauty, which is not to be found in cheap stones, and even more so in imitations. Such expensive pearls are usually sold with a certificate.
Regardless of whether we like real gemstones or cheap fake gems, before shopping it is worth to do some research and find out about the range of prices applicable to gems with given parameters. It is also worth getting acquainted with the characteristics of both of them and knowing where such significant price differences come from, with sometimes small differences in appearance. The astronomical high price of the most beautiful pearls is justified by their rarity and dazzling beauty. If you decide on something cheap you get a product completely incomparable. But maybe the product for half the price of the most beautiful ones will still be attractive for us?