How Pearls are Made: Faux, Fake, Imitation, Simulated or Man-made

Learn about how pearls are made...different methods of making imitation pearls.

As the lust for pearls and the money that could be made from finding and selling them grew…..

the supply dwindled

...leaving many of the world’s pearl-bearing oyster and mussel beds nearly extinct.

So…where could people get pearls?

Well…how about making them?....

or at least ones that come close to the real thing.


MORE IMITATION PEARL PAGES
How are Shell Pearls Made?
Faux Pearl Jewelry
Making Shell Pearls - Details
Fake Black Pearls
Pearl Misnomers--Beware!


Faux Pearls

Faux Pearls (Click on faux pearls for unique pearl photographs.)



In reference to how pearls are made...faux pearls...China is early on the scene…really early, like…say, the first century!

Wang Chhung wrote this in book called, Lun Heng, in the year A.D. 83: “By following the proper timing (i.e. when to begin heating and how long to go on) pearls can be made from chemicals, just as brilliant as genuine ones. This is the climax of Taoist learning and a triumph of their skill.”

Apparently, not much was recorded for centuries about “How pearls are made”…fake ones, that is…until the 16th century when the Venetians learned to create iridescent glass.

You’ve probably seen some ancient “rainbow colored glass” bottles in museums.

But the Venetians didn’t just make bottles…they also blew bubbles of this glass and filled them with wax to create false pearls.

How Pearls are Made: Beginnings of “Pearlessence”

Continued experimentation in how pearls are made resulted in a French Parisian rosary maker named, Jacquin, developing a substance called “essence d’orient or pearlessence.

He realized that when fish scales were in water, they gave off a “pearly substance” which floated on the water’s surface.

By mixing this iridescence with varnish, he created essence d’orient which he would eventually use to coat the insides of glass beads and fill them with wax. That is one way how pearls are made...simulated ones.


Wax "Pearls"


Wax Pearl with Essence Coating and Fragile Glass
Photos thanks to Diane Volkmann

Others caught on to this method of how pearls are made and demand for the right kind of fish scales…bleak, shad, herring and salmon…was high.

2,000 fish produced one liter of concentrated essence, which actually was quanine, an organic waste similar to uric acid.

Before we get on with imitation pearls , you may want to know some early theories of how people thought pearls came about?

Or, how pearls are made: cultured pearls.

Today’s Methods for making Shell Pearls

Man made pearls are often made out of shells. See steps of the shell pearl making process here.

How are pearls made Today…Simulated Pearls

One method how pearls are made is Jacquin’s...coating the insides of hollow glass beads and filling them with wax.

A second popular way how pearls are made is to coat the outside of solid glass or plastic beads with essence d’orient or pearl powder.

The plastic beads, before being coated, are tumbled in a wet powdered pumice (volcanic glass) to remove grinding marks.

Beads are then dipped into various solutions of pearl film. Each dipping increases the value of the faux pearl.

After the dipping, and a final polishing, the fake pearls are ready for stringing.

That is how pearls are made...faux pearls.

How are pearls made? Federal Trade Commission Guidelines

Which brings me to mention the strict laws of the Federal Trade Commission Guidelines for pearls.

The guidelines state that the terms “real” and “genuine” can only be used for natural pearls unless followed immediately by the term “cultured,” and the term “cultured” immediately preceding the word pearl, “and with equal conspicuity.”

Ads for pearls in the 1920’s were often misleading and unclear…as today…sometimes the meaning of how are pearls made, is unclear.

Since I give away thousands of free pearl baby bracelets on my website, I often search for new suppliers.

One new supplier sent me 1,000 of the most beautiful and varied colors of baby bracelets I’d ever seen!

In fact...they were a little too perfect...they were faux pearls!

I wasn’t too happy…and since I’d loose too much money just returning them, I kept them...but am still trying to decide how to market them...as I intended to only sell real cultured or natural pearls on my website.

I did feel somewhat relieved to find out they were at least coated with pearl powder which is a very expensive powder and made from real pearls.

But, misnomers are something to beware of...the entire time of our negotiating we were using the term; "pearl baby bracelets."

Never was there mention of imitation pearls...interesting situation...and I learned something about misnomers.

Majorica Pearls History

Find out how pearls are made: Majorica pearls.

I first discovered these lovely imitation pearls (they are considered the world’s finest faux pearls) in a local department store.

The clerk really didn’t know too much about them, only that they were made of the same substance as pearls. It was dazzling to see so many large quality simulated pearls in one place.

Majorica pearls from Spain, founded in 1890 by a German immigrant Eduardo Hugo Heusch, are made with formulas that are closely guarded secrets.

Included in the Majorica or Mallorca pearls history is the fact that first trained experts make carefully designed nuclei with special machinery and also hand work.

These nuclei are dipped in high quality essence d’orient and polished between dippings. A special final coating is applied and to prevent in deterioration, the Majorica pearls are put under ultraviolet radiation.

That's how pearls are made at the Majorica factory...at least a very simplified version of the process.

Marjorica pearls history has proven itself to be strict in not letting inferior faux pearls leave the factory.

But, 2.5 million impeccable strands of faux pearls enter the market each year, including no doubt, 20 mm faux pearls, fake black pearls and faux graduated pearls.

Faux Pearls Showing Off



I do not know if Majorica sells pearls imitation loose, but I plan on doing more research on these great fake pearls and will add information as I learn about them.

Here is a list of misnomers…names used to describe fake pearls, but often mistaken to mean real cultured or genuine natural pearls.

Fake black pearls can add pizazz!

Faux pearls are supposed to be clearly identified as fake pearls, but as we all know…not everyone follows the guidelines

...so enjoy those fake pearls

...just don’t be tricked into thinking they are real cultured or genuine natural pearls.

After all former American First Lady Barbara Bush wears faux pearls with a flair…there’s nothing wrong with that!

I saw one of her donated faux pearl necklaces at the "Pearls--A Natural History" exhibit in Toyko.

Underneath the necklace was a letter from Mrs. Bush, explaining that now, "her secret was out...these aren't real pearls." She also said in the letter that one day in the grocery store she heard a couple talking loudly.

One said, "Yes, that is Barbara Bush."

The other said, "No, it can't be, she isn't wearing pearls."

Of course, it was her, but she was in golfing clothes.

Mrs. Bush also explained in her letter that she doesn't "always" wear pearls. In the shower, while golfing and when sleeping she doesn't wear them.

I saw one of her donated faux pearl necklaces at the "Pearls--A Natural History" exhibit in Toyko.

Underneath the necklace was a letter from Mrs. Bush, explaining that now, "her secret was out...these aren't real pearls." She also said in the letter that one day in the grocery store she heard a couple talking loudly.

One said, "Yes, that is Barbara Bush."

The other said, "No, it can't be, she isn't wearing pearls."

Of course, it was her, but she was in golfing clothes. Mrs. Bush also explained in her letter that she doesn't "always" wear pearls. In the shower, while golfing and when sleeping she doesn't wear them.

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