Pearl Necklace

Shanhu Lee


I have had this beautiful pearl necklace for more than 30 years. When I was a graduate student in Japan, someone presented this to me. Someone badly wanted to go out with me.

Japanese people dress like they just jumped out from the Vogue magazine. Every woman wears expensive designer clothes and several pieces of beautiful jewelry and carries the same Channel handbag. It was 1990. I just came from China. Back then, China was still very poor and I had only ugly cheap clothes. Then someone presented me with this pearl necklace out of nowhere on Christmas.

It came with a gorgeous gift box which had a lovely silver ribbon. It was wrapped in hundreds of layers of soft peach-colored papers and placed inside an outlandishly large shopping bag. The ivory-colored pearls were breathtakingly beautiful. They looked noble, very special. It was such an extraordinary piece of jewelry that I had never tried to wear it. Even when I went to friends’ weddings, I didn’t dare to wear the necklace. I was afraid I would lose it when I was drunk or dancing and I would not notice it.

When I moved from apartment to apartment, from country to country, from continent to continent, and even when traveling for conferences, I always carried the necklace in my purse. It was a nervous-breaking task to keep this valuable piece of jewelry with me wherever I was traveling.

Last year, during the Pandemic lockdown, I became very sentimental and started to look at my precious necklace and wondered what I would do with it if I caught COVID or I would die suddenly. I started to wear the pearl necklace in my house, with my pajama on, indulged myself in the reflection of the dazzling pearls in the mirror. I regretted having not worn it at all these years.

It occurred to me I would like to know how much it would be worth. I brought it to a jewelry store to ask about its market price. The guy, who was in his 60s, with a huge belly and big chest, studied the pearls with a microscopic magnifying glass and looked at me. Then he said, “They are not pearls. They are glasses.”

I was shocked, I felt I almost fainted out.

He asked me aloud, “Do you want to know why I say they are faked?” He placed the pearls in a glass of soap water, and quickly I saw some thin plastic foils peering out from each peal and floating in the water.

I came back home, and put the entire necklace into the soap water inside a large soup bowl, and waited until every pearl lost its plastic foils. I took the necklace out and gently rubbed it in a bath towel. Now each glass-pearl became completely nude and looked even brighter than before without plastic wrapping.

So all these years, I kept this faked glass-pearl necklace as the most valuable thing I owned in my life and did not wear even a single time.

The next day, I dressed up in crispy white shirts and a black skirt with black tights and went to another bigger jewelry store. I had my faked pearl necklace on me, I also had diamond earrings and a blue sapphire ring. A good-looking woman in the store instantly noticed me when I entered the store and smiled warmly towards me. I pulled out my necklace and handed it to her, “Could you tell me if they are real pearls or not?”

This blond middle-aged woman had many diamond rings on her fingers. She looked at my pearl necklace carefully and told me cheerfully: “Yes, they are real. They are gorgeous. They are really beautiful.”

I smiled back to her, “I had this for 30 years and this is the first time I am wearing it outside of my home.” As I walked out of the store, I still felt her brown eyes following my back.

Since then I have started to wear this precious faked pearl necklace. I always see someone admiring my necklace as if I was wearing some expensive real South Sea pearls.


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