April is the pearlest month day twenty-one: Real vs. fake vs. intentional weddings vs. unintentional cocaine

In which Judie Ziemke Björling sifts and finds the real. A guest post.

Judie and Samantha. Photo by the groom.

Judie and Samantha. Groom beaming somewhere off-camera.

Do you know how to tell real pearls from fake? A co-worker told me this many years ago.  Faye (her real name since I can’t remember her last) was formerly employed in the world’s oldest profession (we weren’t co-workers then), but when I met her she was in Phoenix, Arizona, selling carpet by the square foot in an establishment owned by New Jersey transplants.  I was the receptionist. The transplants combined carpet selling with cocaine-and-gun selling (those wild ’80’s, you know) and, last I heard, were in a federal prison selling nothing. But that is a tale for another day.  There is a dildo story also but I will spare you that as well. I can truthfully state that I played no intentional receptionist role in the selling of guns or cocaine. I didn’t have anything to do with dildos either but whether you find that reassuring or not will be dependent on your view of such things.

[Just so you know, I have two strands of pearls and a pair of pearl earrings. Strand number one is a set of pearls in gradually increasing sizes, part of a double strand my mother split up so each of her daughters could have a string of pearls for their wedding day. Or in my case, my first wedding day. I got the earrings that day too. My second (and final) wedding day featured a strand of baroque pearls given in the ubiquitous velvet bag. A gift from the wonderful man I married.]

Back to the story: Sifting fake pearls from real was easy, Faye said, rub the pearls against your teeth, if the pearls rubbed smoothly they were fake.  If they felt gritty, then they were real.  The point of her advice was for me to test any pearls I may get from male admirers. You want to know, she said, how to tell real pearls (admirers?) from fake.

[If you’re curious, my baroque pearls and pearl earrings are genuine but the strand from my mother is not. I would say it doesn’t matter, except it does somehow. Perhaps it is the outrage I feel on my mother’s behalf if she was given pearls by a fake admirer. But it must matter in other ways because I have only worn the real pearls since. I can’t, it seems, un-know the pearl test. And once I knew, the pearls from my mother have reminded of deception and knowledge of deception. Kind of like Adam and Eve and the whole apple eating thing.]

Pearls are sensual things. Cool and heavy against my neck and sternum, they remind me of their existence at every move. I think of them paired with silk, processed and raw, with texture and smooth, in neutrals with a spot of color from a hand painted scarf. Like this, perhaps.

scarf by pat

The real-deal pearls. With hand-painted scarf by Patricia Freiert.

Perhaps, because of my uneasy acquisition of pearl testing techniques (and for the uneasy reminders they leave), I have so far saved my (real) pearl wearing for “occasions” when the focus, for me, is on the event. I have worn pearls to both of my weddings, and I wore pearls at my son’s graduation from college. I have a wonderful jacket– cream silk and rayon twill with satin lining and shell buttons in my favorite, no-collar style. I wore that jacket and my real pearls at my son’s graduation and had our picture taken.

Judie and David, graduation day.

Judie and David. Graduation day. Photo by Lori Ruthenbeck.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, this photograph has been on Facebook quite often lately. Anyone seeing it may think that I’m pearl-confident. Alas, that would be incorrect. Although I dress on the classic side, I have a little wedge of contrariness that makes me avoid complete submission to a style. However, after all the pearl talk this month, perhaps I’ll change to classic pearls and a more bohemian clothing style.

[Apparently the tooth test isn’t the only measure of genuineness. For those willing to take a bite of the apple, here’s the wiki that tells more.]


If you’re following the story of Judie’s son’s recovery from a recent motorcycle accident in Thailand, you already know that Judie Ziemke Björling is not only pearl-confident but lots of other kinds of strong. David is now home in Minnesota, making progress in a rehabilitation program. Judie shares the story here.

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