Coral Beads

Morning all, Where can I buy some coral beads? 10 cylindrical about a
1/4 inch in diameter and a 1/4 inch long. 15 round also about 1/4
inch in diameter.

Bill in Vista,
where the city council has turned off our street lights.
Do you suppose they want to keep us in the dark?

Bill, I just read your post as I just returned home from a weeks

What kind of coral beads are you looking for? I make black coral
beads and have a few on hand of various sizes. Otherwise, if you
want red coral…Fire Mountain Gems will have them (usually dyed)
or some other stone/bead suppliers.

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

I bought some large roughly faceted coral beads at a recent show.
The customer who bought the necklace made from them wants to know
more about the coral. Knowing just a little about coral, I can’t
get by with just “red”.

As I said, each bead is large, about 35 mm x 25 mm. Their base
color is a soft coral and many of them have off-white spots which,
on close inspection, look like sunbursts. They also have random
rough black markings. They do not appear to have been dyed or
highly polished.

I will be so grateful to anyone who can help.

Joyce – way up in the Rockies


Judging from the size of the beads you purchased, my guess is they
are beads made of bamboo coral and my bet is that they ARE dyed.

True red beads of that size are virtually unheard of these days,
having been depleted in the great red coral rush of the mid 70’s.
Cost of a true red coral bead that size would be in the several
hundreds of dollars.

The so-called Tibeten red coral beads on the market today are for
the most part bamboo coral that was been dyed. The sunburst pattern
you see is the outline of the many animals that originally made up
the coral colony. The black markings are simply imperfections.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2

Joyce: Unfortunately most if not all coral beads that size would be
dyed black coral or possibly white, Traditionally Red coral comes
from the warm Mediterranean sea, Beads the size you describe would be
worth upwards of 25.00 per carat, and would have to be very old
indeed. Most of the coral that has been on the market in the past few
years has been dyed, especially the larger pieces such as you
describe I have bought several quite large carvings that unless one
is familiar with coral would not be noticed as dyed material, in the
mid 1970s Mediterranean red Coral, was available that had base
diameters in excess of 3/4 inch and then the branches would be nice
cutting also, I have seen a piece of Red Coral that has not been dyed
and the entire branch (Actually more like a giant redwood tree) is
over 24 inches tall and the base is over an inch in diameter, and
weights in at 3.5 LBs. With the currently harvested coral (good red
coral is now nearly extinct) the largest I have been able to get hold
of is 3/8ths inch or there about and sometimes as long as 3 inches of
which 60% is really useable and this material is between 1,100.00 and
1,600.00 per pound Nice huge dyed pieces (which do look very nice and
does have white and black spots in places) at .25 per gram or 120.00
a pound, should be several tons at Tucson

Kenneth Ferrell

Most of the coral that has been on the market in the past few years
has been dyed, especially the larger pieces such as you describe 

Most of what I’ve seen on the market in recent years sold as red
coral, or by the reputable ones, dyed red coral, isn’t really even a
true coral, but stuff called “sea bamboo”. Once dyed, it can be
quite visually convincing.


Dear Don and Kenneth,

Thanks for your reply regarding my coral beads. I count a day lost
if I don’t learn something new. You guys made my day.

What surprised me most was the prices you mentioned. I purchased
this string for less than $10 at a bead show in Denver. It was in a
box of “show specials”. Does this make you think twice regarding
what I have or was I just lucky?

How can I learn more about coral? I have some black, blue, and
additional red and would like to know more before I cut into them.
I bought them all in a single lot quite a while back. Anyone?

Thanks guys. I hadn’t even heard the name bamboo coral before your


Joyce, Thanks for the thanks! I doubt you were just lucky. I say
again…true red coral (not the ‘angle skin’ or orange stuff but
true red) is now so rare as to be prohibitively expensive. Now and
then you can find a piece of it on E-bay or even on the market but it
is probably old stock and will cost a lot. Certainly, if it is true
red coral, you would not want to cut into it unless youn have
something specific in mind…a carving, a certain stone, etc. I cut
a piece of what they call ox blood red coral a couple of years ago
into a 20x30 mm cab and it went for $400!

Look at the ‘red coral’ very carefully. It should be an even
red…even with swirls of color it will be even. If you see
blotches of darker color around any cracks or pits…that is
indicative of dye. Also, true coral will be a bit heavier than
bamboo coral or sea bamboo…actually they are different. Sea
bamboo is a heavy grass like plant that grows off Madagascar while
bamboo coral is found along many reefs around the world. Bamboo
coral can become pretty large whilst sea bamboo stays pretty small in

Read my LJ article of August 2000 to learn more about black coral.

You may occassionally come across a piece of true blue coral which
is actually a member of the Gorgonian soft coral family even though
it is more stony in nature then most Gorgonian corals. So too are
the red Organ-pipe coral and the red or pink Precious Coral.
Otherwise, most of the blue coral on the market made into beads etc
is actually stony (hard) coral that has been dyed.

For lots more on coral, check Barnes and Noble or other
good bood stores for Peterson Field Guides, Coral Reefs by Eugene H.
Kaplan, 1982 (a bit out of date actually), Houghton Mifflin Company,
Boston and New York.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry. @coralnut2