Natural vs. Dyed Coral Beads: How to Spot the Difference
Coral beads and jewelry are perfect statement pieces that complement every wardrobe, especially during the warmer months. Warm corals evoke summer memories as well as thoughts about the ocean and vibrant underwater ecosystems. And with reason, organic coral thrives off the coasts of sunny destinations like Italy or the Canary Islands. Coral gemstones occur as a result of the natural coral structures that grow underwater.
As one of the most versatile vibrant gemstones, coral often appears in bead form on different pieces including bracelets, necklaces or earrings. Unfortunately, many consumers are hesitant about purchasing the gemstone because there are so many imitations on the market, and it can be hard to determine which products are naturally occurring gems.
Whether you just received or are looking to gift a coral piece of jewelry, there are multiple ways to determine whether it is as valuable as it seems.
How is coral formed?
Coral is developed deep in the ocean and originates from living organisms, called coral polyps. As the coral polyps die, their skeletons harden into branch-like structures that range up to 15 inches tall. These structures are then removed from the ocean and polished into the gemstone we know as coral.
Coral polyps come in many colors, so naturally the gemstone does, too. Although red and orange corals are the most well-known and sought after, coral can also appear in other hues like black, brown or blue.
Testing your coral beads for authenticity
If you already own coral beads, you can send them to a gem expert and let them test your piece. But this can come with a high price tag and leave you without your favorite piece for weeks. Several DIY tests can give you peace of mind regarding the authenticity of your favorite coral beads.
- The milk test
All you will need for this test is your red coral bead and a glass of milk. As you drop the bead in the glass, the milk should transform into a shade of red. The reaction between the milk and chemical makeup of red corals causes this visible change.
- The imperfection test
First, place your coral bead on a white cloth or neutral background with a quality light source. Next, take a magnifying glass to get a closer look at the bead’s surface. If the surface is uneven and covered in bumps or granules, it is not the real gem. Real coral beads have a smooth surface, even under strong magnification. The same applies to corals with visible dents or holes on the surface. When holding your beads, you should notice they are smooth to the touch.
- The tapping test
Take your bead in your hand and tap on it with your fingernail. As you tap, pay attention to the kind of sound it makes. If it sounds like you are tapping on a glass object, you most likely are holding a fake since many imitation corals are made with dyed glass.
- The turmeric test
Purchase a piece of fresh, raw turmeric and rub it against the coral’s surface. If you notice any red marks on the turmeric, it is an imitation gemstone. True coral stones will not alter turmeric’s surface.
- The acetone test
To test whether your coral bead was dyed, take a small cotton swab dipped in acetone and rub it across the gem’s surface. If, after swabbing, the acetone-soaked tip has lifted some of the coral’s color, the bead is artificial and has been dyed.
- The bubble test
Take a closer look at your coral and determine if there are any visible bubbles on the surface. If so, it is probably an imitation bead made of glass or plastic. During the cooling process, the surface of plastic and glass beads is susceptible to develop bubbles.
Knowing the authenticity of your coral bead is important to determine an appropriate price point and worth before your purchase. However, both artificial and naturally occurring coral beads make beautiful jewelry. If you do want to save money, artificial or dyed corals could be a great alternative.
Problems or worries about authenticity are very common among precious gemstones like coral. But they shouldn’t be a reason to back out of your purchase. Conducting proper research about different reputable sellers and their catalog of products ensures you are less likely to be misled.
The Bead Traders offer real coral beads with detailed listings, so no testing is necessary. If the coral is artificial and has been dyed or was man-made, it will be clearly marked on our website. So, go ahead and pick your favorite coral bead, without having any second thoughts about its origin.