Breathtaking in its many colors, ocean coral has inspired jewelry in many forms. Red coral is one of the rarer types and is therefore considered precious in the jewelry industry. Bamboo coral, however, is not the same — naturally creamy white or gray, it is more prevalent than red coral and considered only semiprecious. When bamboo coral is dyed red to mimic the more precious red coral, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two.
Named “bamboo” because its skeleton is made up of deeply calcified gorgonin — or horny — nodes, red-dyed bamboo coral has replaced red coral in jewelry design due to red coral’s depletion. Bamboo coral is either dipped in red dye or injected with dye to saturate it throughout. The dyeing process happens just after the bamboo coral has been hand cut into the desired shape — usually a bead — and is sanded. Once dyed, the coral bead is then coated with a resin base and polished to achieve the high gloss finish found in jewelry. Because bamboo coral is naturally soft and porous, keep your coral jewelry away from perfumes and hairsprays to avoid damage.
References and ResourcesIntroduction to Gemology: Coral
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Coral
Kashgar: The Story Of Coral
Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review: The Exploitation and Conservation of Precious Corals
New York Times: Jewelers Divided Over Use of Coral
Jinja Jewelry: How Coral Jewelry is Made