Colored Pearls vs. Black Pearls - Imitation vs Authentic

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Colored Pearls vs. Black Pearls

Colored or cultured black pearls come in many varieties of colors and shades and overtones, but most of them are not colored naturally. There are many methods of altering the color of cultured pearls to make them black, as well as other colors. The following paragraphs will discuss some of the ways of altering white pearls to create black colored pearls.

One method of altering the color of white pearls to make colored pearls is by exposing them to a combination of chemicals and heat. Black pearls, and other colored pearls are commonly created by soaking cultured pearls in a weak solution of proper chemicals, directly followed by exposure to a determined amount of light. This process changes the color of the entire pearl, making it sometimes indistinguishable from natural colored pearls , even by experts. Almost all black colored pearls were created this way until the late 1970's, when other methods were discovered.

Another method of changing the color of white cultured pearls to black is by dying them. The disadvantages of dying white pearls to create black colored pearls are few. Firstly, black colored pearls that are dyed can be easily distinguished from natural black pearls with a light or a magnifying glass. Color distribution will often be uneven in dyed black colored pearls, as opposed to being even in natural colored ones.

The processes which were used to produce black pearls from Japanese cultured pearls by using gamma rays were patented in 1960 and 1963. In contrast to the dying processes, exposure to cobalt gamma radiation changed only the color of the freshwater bead nucleus, and never effects the color of the nacre. Drilled black colored pearls that have been colored this way can be detected by looking into the drill hole to see if the nacre is black or white.

Black colored pearls are available in a wide variety of shades and colors, but rarely are they colored naturally. It's worth mentioning that almost all Tahitian black pearls are in fact authentic. There are many different methods of changing the color of pearls, and to the naked eye, it is impossible to detect between colored pearls and natural ones.

How Do Imitation Pearls Differ from Cultured?

Natural pearls and cultured pearls are produced in rivers, lakes, and a by living mollusks and can be very similar in appearance. Imitation pearls -- also called "faux," "stimulated," and most recently "semi-cultured" are not created by any living creature. They should not be referred to in any way as a genuine or cultured. Imitation pearls have never seen the inside of a mollusk. They are entirely artificial, made firm round glass, plastic, or shell beads dipped in a bath of ground fish scales and lacquer (called pearlessence), or one of the new plastic substances. The difference can usually be seen right away when compared side-by-side. One of the most obvious differences is in the luster. Give it the Luster Test: the cultured Pearl will have a depth of luster that the fake cannot duplicate. The fake usually has a surface "shine" but no inner "glow." Look at a fine cultured Pearl and on imitation pearl side-by-side (away from direct light) and notice the difference.

Use the "Tooth Test" to Spot the Fake

There are some fine imitations today that can be very convincing. Some have actually been mistaken for fine cultured pearls. An easy, reliable test in most cases is that "test." Run the Pearl gently along the edge of your teeth (the upper teeth are more sensitive, and also be aware that this test won't work with false teeth). The genuine Pearl will have eight mildly abrasive or gritty feel (think of the gritty feeling of sand at the seaside -- real pearls come from the sea), while the imitation will be slippery smooth (like the con artist, slippery smooth signifies a fake!). Try this test on pearls you know are genuine, and then on known imitation to get a feel for the difference. You will never forget!

The two tests may be unreliable for amateurs when applied to the imitation "Majorica" Pearl, however. Although to the trained eye they have a very different look from cultured pearls, this is an imitation pearl which might be mistaken for genuine. Close examination of the surface under magnification will reveal a fine" employee" surface that is very different from the smooth surface of a cultured or natural Pearl. An experienced jeweler or gemologist can quickly and easily identified a Majorica for you.

How Long Does It Take to Make a Beautiful "Pearl"?

In the case of natural pearls, as we mentioned, it can take many years to create a beautiful Pearl. With a cultured pearls, cultivation. -- the amount of time in nucleus remains in the mollusk after the implant procedure -- normally ranges from about two years to six months, or less. The shorter the cultivation period, the thinner the nacre; the longer the cultivation period the thicker the nacre. If the cultivation period is too short, pearls will not last. Buyers must be careful not to buy pearls with nacre that is too thin. Many inexpensive pearls sold and special promotions have such thin nacre that it is already chipped in starting to peel. Be sure to look very carefully near the drill hole by the knots for any sign of chipping. If you see this, don't buy them; then nacre will soon come off and you will have worthless shell beats, not pearls.

The link of the cultivation period is a matter of serious debate today. At one time pearls remained in the oyster for much longer periods, up to five years; in the 1920s to 1940s, the cultivation period was much longer that it is today some most cultured pearls had very thick nacre. However, surfaces were more spotted. For culture Pearl growers today, escalating production costs and ever present natural risks to the oyster crop are reducing by shortening the cultivation., as are deviations in shape and imperfections across the surface of the Pearl. Each of Pearl producer must decide how to best to balance all the factors involved so that a lovely Pearl is produced, at an affordable price, without unnecessary risk, or nacre that is too thin.

How Much of the Pearl Is Really "Pearl"?

Primary physical differences between natural and cultured pearls are related to the thickness of the actual "Pearl" substance, the nacre. The thickness of the nacre FX size, shape, beauty, and how long the Pearl will last.

In cultured pearls, the size of the nucleus dictates the size of the Pearl; in cultured Pearl production, larger pearls are produced by inserting a larger nucleus, smaller pearls by implant in a smaller nucleus. The time required to produce a large culture Pearl is essentially the same as that required to produce a smaller cultured Pearl.

In planting normally begins in January/February with harvesting in November. The largest nuclei are implanted first, to give them the advantage of a slightly longer cultivation.; the smallest are implanted last, sometimes several months later, and usually have a shorter cultivation period, but since the nucleus is smaller than the ratio of nacre is normally still comparable to larger pearls.

While it takes several years to raise the mollusk and produce a find culture Pearl, natural pearls take many years, even for very small pearls. With natural pearls, the Pearl is an essentially all nacre, with no nucleus at its core. The process that creates the natural Pearl is usually started by a very small intruder, so the size of the Pearl is an indication of the number of years the Pearl has been in the mollusk rather then the size of an implant. Small natural pearls have normally been in the mollusk for a shorter time; larger pearls a much longer time. The Process that creates the cultured Pearl starts with a nucleus; smaller pearls have a smaller nucleus, larger pearls have a larger nucleus.