Information on Pink and White Corals

by Manisha G

Not often seen on the market a few decades ago, pink coral is now widely available; large quantities of it come from the Orient.

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The Mediterranean type (a special variety of the more common red coral) is very compact and, like red coral, takes a good polish, with barely visible organic structures, sometimes emphasized by the presence of a white center or concentric colour zoning. It is often very pale, with shaded areas or patches of pink or orange pink. On other occasions it has concentric zones of colour from very bright pink to light pink or whitish; but it may be a beautiful uniform pink, very similar to Mediterranean coral. Sometimes, the rings of the trunk are genuine discontinuities or cracks and there may be other extensive radial or variously oriented cracks, making the whole structure more brittle and therefore less valuable. Costliest of all are the most compact, easily polished varieties, without cracks or cavities, of a perfectly uniform soft pink colour, without any trace of orange. When pink coral has all these characteristics, com­bined with an antique pink colour and with the merest hint of violet, it is known as “pelle d’angelo” or “angel’s skin.” It is meaningless to describe patchily coloured coral as “pelle d’angelo” type as the very existence of patch or disconti­nuities rules out such a definition. The inferior varieties often has poor polish, cracks and as a rule, some artificial colour. Objects manufactured from pink coral include polished, spherical necklace beads, roughly carved but rarely faceted pieces, necklaces, pendants, cabochons, and other items of jewellery and figurines.

DISTINCTIVE FEATURES

As with red coral, the most important distinctive fea­tures are the typical organic structures (clearly visible in evenly coloured corals, but much less apparent in the others) and reaction to hydrochloric acid. Minute examination is necessary to distinguish it from the pink shell used for the same purpose. The structure of the latter is different consisting of almost flat or slightly curved parallel layers, never concentric rings; but the reaction to hydrochlo­ric acid is identical. With pink coral, it is very important to establish whether the colour in natural.

Traces of dye may be visible in small, superficial cavities, or one may be able to see, by splitting one bead of a necklace, that the outer surface and that of pre-existing cracks are more deeply coloured than the newly fractured one. These are the main methods of detecting the presence of artificial color­ants.

VALUE

Good quality pink coral of a uniform and attractive colour is worth at least as much as red coral. Most of the pink coral on the market is, however, of inferior quality and has been artificially coloured. It is therefore much less valuable and is worth perhaps a quarter of the red variety, white coral also has quite a low value.

SIMULANTS

As already mentioned, pink coral can be imitated by similarly coloured shells, which apart from having a different structure, have a slightly higher density of about 2.85g/cm3 (compared with 2.63-2.70g/cm3 for pink coral). But the main problem with this type of coral is the common practise of using dyes to improve coral that is mainly white, contains a few streaks of pale color, or is distinctly patchy, in some cases it is difficult and costly to detect this type of fraud, perhaps for this reason, pink coral has fallen sadly into disrepute, except for the better varieties obtained from reliable sources.

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