Coral – The Animal

Many people think that corals are plants.  They are not plants, they are animals!  If something is an animal then you should see signs of growth.  Can you see signs of growth in these dyed specimens?
Dyed Corallium Specimens

Photo by J. McKercher

These specimens are dyed, but they show growth ridges.  Often concentric growth rings can be seen as signs of growth.   These ridges are seen in the corallium corals which grow in the shape of small trees and come in white, pinks to a deep red.  The light pink is often called “angel skin” and the deep red is called “ox blood”.
As well pinks to reds, corals can also be blue (a soft grey blue), black and golden.  There is a brown coral called bamboo coral which is usually dyed red.  If something is dyed look for colour concentrations in surface reaching cracks and deep colour that is on the surface but not in the centre of beads.
Coral can be carved if it is a variety that is not soft or porous.
Coral ring

Photo by J. McKercher

There will always be imitations of anything that is of value.  Shell is often used as an imitation of coral.  Shell will also show growth lines, but they are much finer than the ridges found in corallium coral. Reconstituted coral is ground up coral that is plasticized, moulded into a shape and then polished.  The colour will be very even.  Glass and plastic are common imitations of coral, these too will not show any growth structure and with have an even solid colour such as the imitation of coral seen below.

Fake Coral

Photo by J .McKercher

Some species of coral are protected and can not be bought and sold.  Corals are very sensitive to environmental changes.  It is a pity that all coral cannot be protected because changes in water temperature, pollution, over-fishing and weather conditions are reducing the world’s supply.  I am sure that the Romans who hung branches of coral around the necks of children to protect the children from danger never imagined the dangers that are damaging our supply of coral!

Your Input (Join our poll or scroll down and leave a comment)

I plan to introduce different gemstones alphabetically.  I will start with “A” (Ammolite) and see where it leads me.  Leave a comment and let me know if you have a favourite gemstone that starts with the letter “D”.  Take the poll!  Can you name a reference to a gemstone in a song, movie or book?


About Jen McKercher

Jennifer McKercher teaches gemmology at the Canadian Gemmological Association. A passion for gemstones drives Jen to learn as much as she can about the wonders of gemstones and how they enhance our lives.

Posted on June 23, 2011, in Individual Gemstones, Organic Gemstones and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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