Precious or red coral is the common name given to a variety of marine coral. The distinguishing characteristic of red coral is their durable and intensely colored red or pink skeleton which is used for making jewelry. Nowadays, genuine coral is rare due to overharvesting. Most of the coral you will find on the market today is bamboo coral which comes from the Philippines or not real coral at all. Bamboo coral’s color is grey, so most of the red coral available today has been dyed. If you want to know if you have an genuine piece, there are several tests you can conduct at home. Genuine coral is made of calcium carbonate, therefore it will dissolve in acid. You can break off an inconspicuous piece and rub it with a cotton ball soaked in lemon juice. If it causes the area to form tiny bubbles, it is the real deal. Also, you can discern if the piece has been dyed, by rubbing the area with a cotton ball coated with acetone. If the color rubs off eventually, clearly you don’t have the rarer variety. You can also put the piece of jewelry in a bowl of milk and leave it for several hours. If the coral jewelry is real, it will color the milk. If not, the milk will remain unchanged.
There are several ways to discern with the naked eye if coral jewelry is genuine or not without having to run acid tests. Take a close look and examine the piece. Real coral will have distinct parallel lines running through it, and the transparency and color will not be the same the entire way through. Real coral is also weightier than imitations. Ultimately, the best thing to do would be to take your piece to a jeweler to be certain what you are purchasing is worth the investment. Coral is stunning and worth it, as it does make for show stopping effect.
“Ice ages have come and gone. Coral reefs have persisted.”
Courtesy of Art Tattler, Sorab & Roshi, 1st Dibs