Information on Red coral

by Manisha G

The oldest known findings of red coral date from the Mesopotamian civilization. i.e. from about 3000 B.C. for centuries, this was the coral par excellence and at the time of Pliny the Elder it was apparently much appreciated in India even more than in Europe. The name is derived from the Latin corallium, related to the Greek korallion.



Appearance of red coral:

The red coral from the Mediterranean (Corallium rubrum) has very faint concentric rings. It is easier to see the longitudinal structures. The type from the seas near Japan has more clearly visible organic structures. The thin branches are polished, pierced and threaded, unaltered, into necklaces. Larger pieces are cut into spherical or faceted necklace beads, pear shapes for pendant jewellery, or cabochons. This coral is very compact and easily acquires a good polish, although this may deteriorate in time as the material is not very durable. It is also used for carved pieces and small figurines in both oriental and western art styles.

The most highly prized varieties of coral are those that a uniform, strong and bright red. Specimens that are too light or too dark, or have an orange tinge or unevenly distributed color, are less valuable. Some basically red Japanese corals have a white axial portion. This is of course regarded as a defect, where it is not eliminated in the cutting process.

Distinctive features:

Two basic factors must be remembered in distinguishing coral from its imitations:

1)             The specimen should have the organic structure characteristic of coral;

2)            On contact with a drop of hydrochloric acid (the readily available muriatic acid) the     piece should display the strong effervescence characteristic of calcite.

The most frequent imitations are of glass. These have longitudinal striations similar to those of coral, but do not react to hydrochloric acid. Another common stimulant is made from a compact artificial agglomerate mainly of calcite.

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