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Coral Beads - why does the color run?


#1

I recently purchased an expensive string of very large natural round
coral nuggets at a trade show. I loved the beauty of the natural
indentations and imperfections in the stones, so I made a necklace
out of them. Unfortunately, when I took off the necklace after
wearing it all day, I saw that it stained my neck red/orange. Has
anyone else had a similar experience with coral? Or have I been led
astray in believing they are coral? I would appreciate any input and
education on this. Teresa Lin lint@ballardspahr.com mailto:lint@ballardspahr.com


#2
Has anyone else had a similar experience with coral?  Or have I
been led astray in believing they are coral? 

they quite likely are indeed coral. but they are almost certainly
dyed. the original color is likely no where near as intense as what
you now see, which is due to the dye. If you were not told they were
dyed, then the sale was fraudulent at some level. Before assuming
the dealer ripped you off, also allow for the possibility that the
dealer is only inept or ignorant, not realizing that he/she had
bought dyed coral, and not having bothered to check… While some gem
treatments are quite permanent and not obvious to users, dyes have a
nasty habit of sometimes fading, or as you’ve noted, leaching out.
As such, there’s absolutely no real excuse for not disclosing that
treatment to a buyer. This is mostly true for many treatments, though
the argument can be made (questionably) that some treatments are so
universal that it’s safe to assume that in the absence of any
mention, the treatment has been used. Fracture filling (oil or
resin) of emeralds, heat treatment of sapphires, dark citrines and
many others, heat/irradiation of blue topaz, dye on commercial
grades of lapis, are just few that come to mind where I’ve seen
dealers sell the stuff just assuming you knew the stuff was treated
rather than making mention of it. when in doubt, always ask. And get
it in writing if a stone is presented as natural and not treated or
enhanced.

Peter Rowe


#3

Sounds like you have dyed coral. You can test it by putting it into
a jar of water and see if the color runs. I got this suggestion
from the latest issue of Lapiday Journal. According to them almost
all of the new coral is dyed. Alma


#4

Teresa - Three or four years ago a huge amount of (apparently)
precious coral material began appearing at gem shows. After reading
literally volumes about the extinction of that coral, and watching
the prices for even small precious coral cabs climb
stratospherically, I concluded that the new material was dyed common
coral. Since then I have read a number of different sidebar news
briefs about the trend to dyed material. It appears you were misled
when you purchased the beads, and it sounds as if you should get
back to the seller for some form of satisfaction.

Jim Small
Small Wonders


#5

Teresa, Sorry to say but it looks as though you bought some stained
coral, if they are coral. It is very common for coral to be stained
due to its porous nature and ability to absorb substances.

I would suggest you take it to a local gemmologist and ask for
confirmation. If they agree, try to get a laboratory certificate to
back-up the findings and then go back to the vendors (if possible)
you purchased them from and ask for a refund. If nothing about
treatments was mentioned on the sales receipt you should have a
strong case.

Good luck.
Regards - Nick


#6
I recently purchased an expensive string of very large natural
round coral nuggets at a trade show. 

Hi Teresa, Based on your staining experience, I would venture a guess
that they are not natural coral beads. Natural, by accepted
definition, means that they have not been treated in any way, other
than cutting and polishing. I sounds to me that these beads have been
dyed in order to enhance their appearance, and that the dye has bled
out of the coral. Natural red coral does not bleed color, and the
coloration is permanent.

All the best,
Dave
Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)
dave@sebaste.com


#7

If your coral beads were that really pretty deep shade of red, your
vendor should have told you they were dyed coral.

Betty


#8

Ah Teresa Lin, you have been caught as have thousands of other
unsuspecting souls. All that “Tibeten red coral” out there is
nothing more than white coral from somewhere that has been dyed!

That doesn’t mean there is not REAL red coral out there…just that
there is not that much of it any longer and it is as expensive as
hen’s teeth! In the 1970’s or so, tons of true red coral (ox blood
red it was called) was dredged from the trenches around Okinawa and
carved in Taiwan for world export. It is, by all accounts, about
gone and there is a prohibition against its indiscriminate harvest.
Of course, the original beds in the Med and Red Sea are also
expended. Result of all this is there is very very little available
any longer.

Correct me someone if I am wrong, but I believe 'Tibeten red coral’
does not mean it comes from the high mountains of Tibet. It means
the Tibetens like the red coral (same as Native Americans) and use it
in their jewelry but the coral actually came from somewhere else!

Everyone, stay away from that fake stuff…remember, you don’t get
something for nothing and if it was ‘expensive’ you were taken for a
ride!

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut1


#9

Does your coral look anything like what is sold heRe:
http://www.earthstone.com/Info/Corals/Dyed%20Coral.htm


#10

I appreciate the educational responses from so many of you. I feel
like my learning curve has gone from 0 to 100 in three days about the
coral beads I purchased. I’d like to share with you what happened
when I confronted the vendor about these “natural” corals. When I
first discovered the color staining problem, I called the vendor and
asked how these corals have been treated. She said the color is
irradiated red and that it’s “permanent.” I went home and submerged
the beads in a waterbath like many of you suggested and sure enough,
woke up the next morning to find that the water had turned deep red.
It turns out the dye is water-based and poorly done. I called the
vendor back and told her the color is not “irradiated” like she said
because irradiated color doesn’t leak out when submerged in water.
Her response is she doesn’t understand what irradiation is and she
just tells buyers what she has been told by her supplier. I told her
that it was irresponsible practice to pass on false to
buyers and then simply pass the buck to some invisible "supplier"
when a customer has been misled. Her response was she has never had
any complaints (hard to believe). She was very clear in conveying to
me that she has no intention of refunding my money or compensating me
for my loss in any way. I informed her that I will never do business
with her again and will spread the word about her total lack of
professionalism and integrity, to which she replied, “That’s your
problem.”

Unfortunately it turns out the vendor I’m dealing with came straight
out of the handbook of irreputable dealers. For your
the name of the vendor is “Ancient Moon” based out of Watertown, MA.
They are at most of the major bead shows in the Northeast, like Bead
Fest in Philadelphia and they are a regular at the Whole Bead Show.
I’m sharing this in the hope of preventing others from experiencing
what I have with this dishonest, willingly ignorant and irresponsible
vendor.

Teresa Lin ( lint@ballardspahr.com )


#11

Dear Teresa,

Well, I’ll tell you, it’s now theirs, too. The situation you
described to me with this vendor is inexcusable. They lied, they’re
surly, and they’re stupid. And, I’m guessing that they overcharged
you for the stuff, bleeding dye or no.

No matter the price, instinct has to tell you that the colour is
"creatively" manipulated, and not organic. Sea Bamboo is usually sold
by weight, literally for pennies/gram. How many pennies will depend,
in part, on where a particular vendor is on the food chain.Wholesale
is relative. If something is sold by the strand which is also sold by
weight, I try to get them to weigh it out so I have a means of
comparison. (It can be helpful to bring your own pocket scale and
calculator with you to the shows, too, when the vendors are busy
with customers.) Bead vendors are not going to self- censor dyed or
manufactured material if there is a market for it (We had that thread
on glass “cherry quartz” a few weeks ago, e.g.) but they have an
ethical responsibility to represent it as such. Then it’s your
decision (and your responsibility to represent it honestly to your
customer).You don’t say how long you have been making jewelry, or how
seriously, but if you keep going to gem shows you will become
familiar with -and to - the vendors, building your relationships.
Comparison shop, ask questions, make notes, and “teach your eyes”.
Experience will inform instinct. The old adage “If it looks too good
to be true, it is…” is, sadly, a fundamental law of the universe.

I don’t usually work with material like that, it’s so obviously
dyed, but I do a lot of custom design and this is what the client
wanted at the time.It’s become very popular with the exploding
population of ‘beaders’ because the colour is seductive, and, for
relatively little money, it gives you a lot of “look”. But it should
be identified and priced accordingly. It’s all over the place, and I
cringe when I see it being sold as “red coral” with weighty price
tags in stores like Saks and Neiman’s. One of my clients showed me a
photo from an issue of Town and Country magazine of a necklace
composed of alternating branches of red sea bamboo and “shards” of
rock crystal. It was, of course, described as red coral, along with
its metaphysical, healing properties. Price: $1100. - Get outa
town!
(or Town and Country as the case may be…!)

I got my problem beads from a vendor I’ve dealt with for many years.
Vendors aren’t always the source of production (some are) and I felt
it was important to show them the problem, not just describe it. As a
result, I got an uncontested refund, and they got a loyal customer’s
continued business. I suggest you take the beads, plus the
dye-stained towel (as I did) to the next busy show that they do, and
politely but firmly insist that they refund your money. Do not back
down. If they are stupid enough to give you an attitude and risk a
scene in front of a table-full of customers, simply take it to the
show management. A little dramatic, perhaps, but if they’re stupid
enough to treat you this badly, it may be worth seeing if they’re
stupid enough to risk public embarassment.

(In fact, here’s an idea: It may be more efficient, and effective,
to take it directly to the show management first, and ask them to
assist you to “settle” the situation. They should either summon the
vendor to the show office or accompany you to the booth.)

And, frankly, I would seriously consider contacting the management
of those shows you mentioned and alert them to the situation you
described.Why take the trouble?, you may ask: We are no longer
talking about a defective lot of dyed beads, we are now dealing with
a self confessed liar and sleaze. Bad enough that they sold you
unusable goods, but they handed you a ridiculous story when you
complained the first time, then became hostile and insulting when
confronted a second time -snearingly refusing to rectify the
situation. They are a liabilty to their clientele and to the
industry, and they’re behavior diminishes the credibility of the
events who represent them. All for a stupid string of beads.(There’s
that word again. Redundant, but accurate.)

Times are tough, and so is the competition. I don’t think the shows
you mention are hurting for (reputable) participants. Perhaps it’s
time for this vendor to consider a career change, perhaps in the
field of long-distance telephone service.

Who needs this?

You go, girl.

Margery

ps: Orchid is about the exchange of ideas, advice, and -
and sometimes that includes watching out for each other’s back. I
don’t recall seeing this vendor in my part of the country, or maybe
they just didn’t impress, but I, for one, am grateful for the
heads-up…


#12
   Correct me someone if I am wrong, but I believe 'Tibeten red
coral' does not mean it comes from the high mountains of Tibet.  It
means the Tibetens like the red coral (same as Native Americans)
and use it in their jewelry but the coral actually came from
somewhere else! 

Supposedly, some of it is fossil coral which was dug up (don’t know
where) and dyed. But apparently the Tibetans are ethnically related
to the Burmese, so presumably there was a trade in coral from there
(I believe there used to be coral fisheries off the Burma coastline).
As for the present-day coral, I imagine most of it comes from China
somewhere (Tibet is occupied by China). A lot of cheap coral is
dyed.

?:sunglasses:
-Michael.


#13
 She was very clear in conveying to me that she has no intention of
refunding my money or compensating me for my loss in any way.  I
informed her that I will never do business with her again and will
spread the word about her total lack of professionalism and
integrity, to which she replied, "That's your problem. 

It could, and should, also be hers. You’ve clearly got a winnable
court case here, as her behavior is in violation of standard
disclosure rules. I’d bet the court would quite willingly include
more than just your costs for the merchandize in a settlement. I
suspect that all that’s really required to get your money back would
be a letter from a lawyer, rather than just a phone call from you.
Though she sounds like a real jerk, most folks like that don’t have
the stomach for a legal fight, especially if you make it clear that
you’ll be making the situation quite public… letters to the
organizers of the shows she does would be perhaps effective too,
since some shows will take a clear interest in knowing that a dealer
is unscrupulous…

Peter


#14

Oh Teresa, talk about a textbook case of those horror stories we
hear about vendors! Sorry you have had such a bad experience. I
appreciate your sharing the vendor name and info and will be sure to
steer clear of them (and perhaps even shoot some dirty looks their
way) when I’m shopping the shows. I guess I’ve been fortunate; I’ve
bought a small amount of coral in the last two years (at Tucson and
at my home base of Atlanta) and have not had any problems, even
after running it through the tumbler. I wish you better luck and
more honest suppliers in the future! Jill


#15

Teresa, Thanks for letting know who this dealer is. I’m sorry you had
to go through that experience. I just happened to notice that they
are referenced as a source in one of the online Lapidary Journal
articles. I wonder if LJ is aware of this? Let’s hope LJ is not
lacking complete integrity also by referencing this supplier.

Dee Dee