Gemstone of the Month: Coral

Gemstone of the Month: Coral

Coral Pendants

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A favorite summer gemstone, Coral evokes feelings of tropical vacations & family beach trips.  As one of the only bold, red gemstones, it gives us that pop of color that we often crave in the warmer months.  Gorgeous red coral has captured the imagination of people in nearly every nation for thousands of years. Inlays of coral have even been found in Celtic tombs from the Iron Age.

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Coral is one of the very few organic gemstones, as it originates as the skeleton of a living sea creature. As such, some of the most popular corals have become highly protected and regulated, and are less available on the market. Since 1972, harvesting and importation of Mediterranean red coral (corallium rubrum) has been regulated by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna, an international treaty signed by over 200 countries. This coral grows very slowly and cannot be farmed. Due to over-harvesting, traditional Mediterranean red corals have become endangered and are more rare and costly than ever. One can expect to pay $100.00 or more for a strand of natural red coral. Bead World does not carry endangered coral beads. Luckily, there are some really fun alternative corals that can still bring that sassy kick to your beaded designs.

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One option is to purchase corals that have been dyed to resemble traditional red corals. Most of this dyed coral is originally the abundant gray coral, but it may also be an imperfect selection of pink or red coral that was dyed to deepen the color. There’s nothing wrong with buying dyed coral, as long as you know it’s dyed and pay the appropriate amount. In fact, 90-95% of new corals on the market are now color enhanced in some way.

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Sponge corals are a natural red coral that grows very quickly. They are very porous, which is where they get the name, so they are almost always stabilized with resin, wax or polymer. The stabilizing agent is usually color enhanced to match the natural color of the coral. Once stabilized, sponge coral can be polished to a high shine. Sponge corals are relatively inexpensive and come in a wide variety of shapes.

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Reconstituted Sponge Coral

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Certain varieties of red sponge corals are actually yellow at the edges. Sometimes this coral is carefully cut to highlight both the red and yellow portions and is sold as “apple coral.” As a variety of sponge coral, apple coral is almost always stabilized and may be color enhanced. There are also inexpensive “limestone apple corals,” which are actually deep sea stone that has been hand painted to resemble traditional apple coral. At Bead World, we try to keep our labeling very specific and clear.

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Stop in to your local Bead World to see the varieties of coral we have available. Your beading projects will thank you!

Happy Beading!!

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