Frequently Asked Questions

I bought / inherited / was given some pearls are they real?
The best way to tell is to gently rub them on your teeth. If they feel slick and smooth, they’re not real. If they feel ever-so-slightly gritty and rough, they’re real.

Are all your pearls real?
Yes. We only sell natural pearls and cultured pearls. We do not sell pearl ‘simulants’ such as shell pearl or crystal or plastic imitations.

What is the difference between "natural" pearls and cultured pearls?
Think of cultured pearls as “farmed” pearls while natural pearls occur spontaneously in the “wild”. They grow the same way, but in the case of cultured pearls, they occur because a human ‘planted a seed’ in that particular oyster. Natural pearls occur without any intervention by humans. They tend to form more organic and unusual shapes. Less than 2 percent are perfect spheres or symmetrical. Cultured pearls are the result of humans inserting seeds, called nuclei or a nucleus for singular, inside a mollusk; they grow in farms.

Is a cultured pearl a “real” pearl?
Again, think of cultured pearls as “farm-raised” versus their wild-caught brethren. Some may enjoy farm-raised Salmon, others may prefer (and be willing to pay extra for) wild-caught Salmon. But the farm-raised Salmon is still a “real” fish! According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are two classifications of pearls; Natural and Cultured. Generally, when the question is asked as to whether a pearl is real or not, one is asking if it is fake or imitation. Both natural and cultured pearls are “real” pearls.

Does farming pearls hurt the oyster? Does the oyster die when the pearls are removed?
No. All the pearl farms Imperial pearls come from are VERY careful not to harm their mollusks. Oysters & Mussels tend to produce better-and-better quality pearls as they age, so no sensible pearl farmer would want to harm his ‘flock’. In fact, pearls are typically removed in extremely clean conditions using surgical-type equipment to ensure their safety.

Is pearl farming bad for the environment?
Quite the contrary. Mollusks will only produce pearls when in pristine, totally-pure water. For this reason, most pearl farms are very remote and in only the most undeveloped areas. In fact, many pearl farmers are strong advocates of the ‘green’ movement, since preserving the harmony and purity of the Earth’s environment is critical to their success.

Might I find a pearl in an oyster I eat?
You could, but it is unlikely. The tropical, warm-water oysters that generally produce most pearls are not “good eats” in our opinion (yes, we’ve tried them). The cold-water oysters we generally eat do not typically produce pearls. They ARE capable of producing pearls, but it is very unusual for them to do so.

What about an oyster-in-a-can? Is it a real pearl?
It could be real, it could be fake. But most ‘oyster-in-a-can’ setups aren’t “legit” in the sense that at best a low-grade freshwater pearl has been inserted into the ‘canned’ oyster for you to find. Or maybe it’s an imitation pearl. But whatever you find there, it was put there for you to find. Oyster-in-a-can is fun and entertaining, but not the way to get a good quality pearl.

Can I come see the product before I buy it?
Imperial does not have a retail location. However, be sure to check the nearest retailer. You can use our "Find a Jeweler" page to find a store near you. If there is a product you see on our website, be sure to add it to your wish list, and either contact the jewelry store directly, or print your wish list and visit your nearest location.

Does your Tahitian pearls come from Tahiti?
“Tahitian” pearls are created by a type of oyster called Pinctada Margaritifera: the “black-lip oyster.” The vast majority do come from French Polynesia, an archipelago of which the island of Tahiti is the capital, and the whole area is often called “Tahiti”… Other famous islands in French Polynesia are Moorea and Bora-Bora. Visit them if you ever have the chance, they are amazing! However the Pinctada Margaritifera oyster does thrive in other tropical waters – such as the Philippines or Vietnam, and the pearls they produce are still considered “Tahitian” Pearls. One important note: when we say “Tahitian” pearls, we do mean pearls farmed in the ocean, from saltwater oysters of the Pinctada Margaritifera variety only: We do NOT use the term “Tahitian” to refer to the -color- of the pearls – e.g. in some outlets you may find freshwater pearls and dyed black called “Tahitian” or “Tahitian-Color” pearls. We do sell pearls like that (and they’re very nice!), but we call them “dyed freshwater pearls.”