Types of coral used in jewelry

In a previous post, I discussed the colors of coral; in this post I will discuss the types of coral used in jewelry. Most fine coral jewelry is made from ‘precious coral’ (‘Corallium rubrum’ or ‘Corallium Secundum’).

There are three basic kinds of precious coral that are commonly used.  These are:

Branch Coral

This is when the coral is left in it’s natural state.

Coral cabochon or beads

Antique Coral Gold Earrings 8 karat k Salmon 333 Austrian Antique Vintage Pierced Classic Simple Drop


Carved or faceted coral

Non-precious coral jewelry

Because of the rightful protection of coral in contemporary times, the vast majority of modern coral jewelry is not made from ‘precious coral’. These are different kinds of coral altogether and have only been in use in recent times (with the exception of ‘synthetic coral’ and ‘reconstituted coral’ which both appear to have been around for longer.)  Although they are not relevant to the study of antique jewelry, it is worthwhile becoming familiar with these other corals for the sake of identification.  In a future post, I will discuss ways to test coral for dyes and treatment.

Sponge coral

Can be treated and dyed in a variety of ways.

Bamboo Coral

Usually dyed red, in natural state it is marbled green and brown.

Reconstituted coral

This is made from small pieces of coral or coral powder soaked in binding agents then pressed into a solid piece and then re-cut to form beads and shapes. It is usually dyed red and has a uniform appearance.

Synthetic coral

This can be made from wood, plastic, resin, bone, glass, crushed stone with resin or ceramic.

Coral Dyed Synthetic Stone Rhombus Beads

Sources / further reading:








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