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How to distinguish real coral from a fake?

Regular readers of our blog are already aware of how coral is mined, what jewelry is made from it, and how best to care for it. In this article we offer more detailed information about options for imitation of natural material and methods that allow you to identify fake coral in everyday conditions. The demand for jewelry made from this mineral is high, and so is the price—one bead, depending on the quality, can cost up to $50. Hence the desire of unscrupulous manufacturers and sellers to falsify goods. Our tips will help you avoid unnecessary expenses, even if the label does not reflect the artificial origin of the jewelry.

Possible options

Imitation coral is the chemical production of a material from artificial or natural raw materials that looks natural. The official technology for producing synthetic coral was developed in the 70s of the last century. It received its name from the surname of its author, the Swiss Pierre Gilson. The imitation is made from calcite powder mixed with silica and artificial additives. The color range of the material is similar to that of natural coral: hundreds of shades are possible from white to bright red. Synthetic coral is less dense and more porous than natural coral. It costs an order of magnitude cheaper. There is an imitation method using waste from jewelry production. The coral shavings obtained during the manufacture of jewelry are mixed with polymer resin and dye, and then pressed. The result is what is called restored coral. In addition, real white coral is often used for counterfeiting. Because it is valued lower than pink and red, manufacturers tint the material to increase its value. A fairly common way to falsify coral is by pressing the powder obtained by grinding the corozo nut (the fruit of a palm tree native to South America). The powder with an organic liquid in the composition hardens when mixed with the dye. The resulting beads are practically indistinguishable from those carved from coral. Sometimes tinted porcelain or bone is passed off as a sea mineral. The crudest imitations are cheap plastic beads, colored glass based on barium phosphate, colored plaster, polymer clay. If the manufacturer indicates on the label that the material is synthetic or reconstituted, then he sets a relatively low price. But often jewelry manufacturers and sellers hide the truth and sell imitations at the cost of jewelry with natural stones.

How to distinguish coral from a fake

  • the texture of a natural mineral looks like a pattern on a piece of wood, while an artificial one does not have a mesh pattern;
  • the counterfeit is revealed by tiny air bubbles – these are only possible in glass imitations;
  • The color of natural coral is heterogeneous, while that of artificial coral is even;
  • natural material is lighter than an imitation of similar size and warmer to the touch.

To ensure that the visual test gives the most accurate result, use a magnifying glass when examining the jewelry.

For complete reliability, you can combine the study of the appearance of the product with control procedures.

  1. Heat the sewing needle and touch the tip to the coral. Natural will not suffer from this. A black dot will appear on the plastic. At the same time, the characteristic unpleasant smell of burning plastic will tell you about the counterfeit.
  2. You can examine the material using acetic acid. There are two options: drop it from a pipette onto the product or place it in a container with a weak vinegar solution. If bubbles appear, the material is of natural origin. But there will be no certainty that this is coral, because a similar reaction will be given by any type of mineral raw material that contains calcite – shell, bone, etc.
  3. Clean, hot water will help reveal white coral that has been stained. After 10–15 minutes of “bathing,” he will turn pale and the water will turn pink. If the coloring is weak, then the fake leaves reddish marks even on the skin, especially in the heat.

  1. Warm the decoration slightly. Natural material will temporarily (until it cools) lose its gloss, while artificial material will remain shiny.
  2. Water helps to distinguish real coral even from a masterly fake. If the jewelry is made of natural coral and placed in it for 20–30 minutes, it will absorb moisture and become brighter. True, the previous shade will return after drying.

How to choose coral beads and distinguish natural material from fake

When choosing coral beads, in addition to the methods described above, carefully inspect the holes into which the thread is threaded:

  • microcracks near the hole are a sign of a natural mineral;
  • if the color inside the bead differs from the color outside, the material is counterfeit;
  • the thread turned pink – tinted.

Counterfeiting coral jewelry is a profitable business, and with the development of jewelry production technologies, it is becoming increasingly difficult to detect, especially at home. Therefore, do not forget that only a professional – a jeweler or gemologist – can give a 100% accurate conclusion about the authenticity of a product.

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Corals are considered one of the popular “stones” among jewelers. As popularity increases, so does the number of fakes.

There are a lot of imitations of coral:
1. Howlite – a gray mineral with dark veins. The natural shade of the stone is not very attractive, but it is easy to paint. When colored red, it looks a bit like coral. Imitations from howlite are found in Russia, but are not common abroad.

2. Neolithic is a mixture of aluminum hydroxide and copper phosphate. The result is uneven rounded blocks with veins. When painted red, it imitates red coral. It can be impregnated with wax to hide polishing defects. Massive colored beads very vaguely resemble coral.

3. Plastic dyeing – crude fakes of coral. It is quite easy to distinguish from natural coral – plastic imitations are immediately noticeable.

4. Pressed coral shavings with added plastics, painted. Sold in kiosks and jewelry stores. Does not last long and fades quickly.

5. The most successful imitation of coral was developed in France by P. Gilson. When creating, natural calcite and dye are used. Artificial coral is created under high pressure. This method can produce corals of the following colors: light pink, red, white, pale yellow, oxblood, champagne, pink-orange. Externally, the imitation is similar to natural stone, but has a lower density, is more porous, and contains impurities and artificial additives. The price of artificial coral is much cheaper than natural coral.

How to spot fake coral

Natural coral can be distinguished from imitation coral by its appearance: natural coral should have visible stripes, a little like annual rings on a tree cut.

rice. Parallel growth lines on the surface of a white coral bead

A fake Neolithic or howlite can be easily recognized by its high specific gravity when picked up. They are both cold stones, coral is warm.
You can recognize pressed coral if you look at it carefully: it is made up of many pieces.
It is very easy to distinguish a fake made of plastic by its appearance. In addition, you can touch it with a hot needle, and you will smell the smell of burnt plastic.
Synthetic Gilson coral does not have the subtle striped pattern seen on natural coral. Synthetics are smooth and homogeneous.
You can carefully examine the place where the hole for the thread is located: here the coral should have the same tone as the outside, and a fake stone may have a gray surface.

rice. Dyed Bamboo coralloid beads with lighter center

One of the easiest ways to distinguish the calcite that coral is made from from another stone is to drop a drop of hydrochloric or acetic acid. Calcite will fizz upon contact with acid. However, both natural coral, pressed coral, and Gilson coral are composed of calcite, and their reaction to acid will be the same.
To determine whether the color of the coral is of high quality, you need to immerse the jewelry in hot water. The water will be colored if it is a poor-quality imitation. It also leaves marks on the skin, especially if worn on hot days. If the fake is very cheap, the paint in water may come off completely.
If the imitation is done well, it will not be painted; jewelry with synthetic corals also looks impressive and is very inexpensive. But the quality of natural coral is many times superior to any imitations.
Most often, natural coral will have a noticeable texture on the surface that is not removed by staining and polishing.

Carefully inspect the coral before purchasing. This way you can distinguish natural samples from synthetic and pressed fakes.

It is worth noting that at the moment almost all natural corals on the market for jewelry materials are colored red, pinkish, orange and more exotic shades of blue, yellow, green or bleached to a milky white hue.

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