Catherine read up on my blog post, Pearl Processing Versus Pearl Treatments and now she is concerned about why her pearl is so smooth. She emailed me and asked, “What type of “processing” makes a pearl smooth???” This was the continuation of a previous question where she mentioned, “The pearl is smooth, not gritty to the tooth.”
So, Catherine has a Golden South Sea Pearl Ring that she bought from JTV and she is concerned about it. Why was it so cheap? and now, Why is my pearl so smooth?
First, I want to say that I fully believe that if JTV is selling a pearl and calling it a South Sea Pearl, I believe it is a genuine South Sea Pearl. Next, all pearls, if they are real, will feel gritty to the teeth. So, we are in a bit of a conundrum. How can this be a genuine pearl and not feel gritty to the teeth?
The Tooth Test
Let's review the tooth test! I learned about the tooth test long before I had my first strand of pearls. The principle of the test is if you rub your pearls along the bottom of your teeth they will feel gritty, if they are genuine pearls. If they are imitation pearls they will simply feel smooth. The principle behind this is that pearls are made very small interlocking crystals and these crystals make the surface of pearls gritty. When I first studied pearls in early 2000s, I sometimes couldn't "get" if they were gritty or not! So, the tooth test did not make sense until I did two things.
India's Pearl Tooth Test
First, I do not just rub the pearls along my teeth, I give them a little nibble. You must be very gentle when you do this! But, when I get both the bottom and top teeth involved, I can really feel the grit. Next, get a known imitation strand and try it with those! Sometimes when a pearl does not seem very gritty, and you compare it to an imitation pearl, the "grit" difference becomes very noticeable. Imitation pearls will slide right through your teeth!
This is what I am advising Catherine to do. Because I do not believe JTV would knowingly deceive their customers, I am wondering if Catherine just needs to retry the tooth test!
Also, know that the tooth test will not work with dentures or capped teeth.
Pearl So Smooth Treatments
There is a rarely used treatment called pearl peeling. The thought is, if the outer layer of a pearl is dull or damaged, if you peel off that top layer off, it will look much better on the pearl layer below! Pearls form similar to onions, so it is impossible to buff one bad spot on a pearl because it will be noticeable in that layer. To try and improve the entire pearl, you peel the entire layer top layer.
The only the about peeling pearls is that the pearl layer beneath the top layer will still be gritty to the teeth! So, that does not explain our problem of a smooth pearl!
Remember, genuine pearls can have a clean surface so your pearl can easily look smooth and be a real pearl. However, real pearls always feel gritty when they are given the tooth test. And, imitation pearls are noticeably smooth! Sometimes I have been confused about the authenticity of shell pearls, imitation pearls made with epoxy and pearl powder. These can be dyed yellow to look like South Sea Pearls. And, they are smooth to the teeth. So, one quick tooth test clears up any potential confusion. Again, I do not believe JTV would sell a shell pearl and call it a South Sea Pearl but look out for other pearls in the market that may be posing as a South Sea Pearl!