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How to stop the coral from bleeding?


Thank you for your responses. After speaking to the vendor from
whom I purchased the coral beads, I found out that they are called
bamboo coral, whose color is irradiated red, which means it is
subject to fading and/or bleeding. The vendor, unfortunately, has
never experienced the color bleeding problem, so she had very little
advice to give on the subject. Which leads me to ask the more
experience among you: is there anything I can do to prevent the
color from bleeding? Mr. Scott from Rio Grande suggested that I dip
them in OPTICON fracture sealer to reduce the bleeding of the
color/dye. Has anyone ever tried this? Any thoughts on this or
other bleeding prevention methods would be appreciated. Teresa Lin

I found out that they are called bamboo coral, whose color is
irradiated red, which means it is subject to fading and/or

Well, I could be wrong here. But if he/she says a radiation
treatment results in a color that can bleed, I’d be VERY suspicious.
radiation changes the color of existing components of a material. If
it bleeds now, then it could have bled out in whatever color it was
prior to irradiation. And that’s not normal behavior for any gem I’m
aware of. Again, I’d suggest to you that this is, in fact, a dye.
maybe dye plus irradiation…

the only other thought I have which might support that
irradiaton/bleeding claim is that if the irradiation is producing
significant damage to the material (usually by heating), it might
produce a dusty residue from breakdown of the material. That might
rub off leaving a stain of sorts. if that’s the case, then i’d think
a good cleaning in the ultrasonic should solve the problem. But
frankly, I rather doubt this is the answer. I don’t think
irradiation treatments are normally carried out at levels which
cause significant damage to a material… Certainly, I’ve never
seen any sort of "bleeding’ problems from the colors found in various
irradiated cultured pearls that are widespread on the market, and in
fact, even color bleeding from those that are also dyed isn’t common,
at least I’ve not seen it before. Treating coral shouldn’t be too
different from pearl, since they’re somewhat similar chemically.

About opticon: This is a two part epoxy resin. Normally one soaks
the stones in just one of the resins, letting it penetrate. Then one
coats the surfaces with a mix of the resin and a hardener, so that
this surface layer seals the still liquid resin inside and the
surface is then stable. You could do just the latter part, since you
don’t really need the resin to penetrate, I’d guess. The trouble with
opticon is that it’s a sticky mess to work with. You need to soak
the stones and then be able to wipe them clean. This will be hard
to do with your already strung necklace. At the least, you’ll have
to take the thing completely apart to use opticon. And cleaning the
surface traces of visible resin off the coral branches may be
difficult if they’re complex nobby shapes.

if it were me, I think I’d return the corals for a refund.

Peter Rowe

      " Thank you for your responses.  After speaking to the
vendor from whom I purchased the coral beads, I found out that they
are called bamboo coral, whose color is irradiated red, which means
it is subject to fading and/or bleeding.  The vendor,
unfortunately, has never experienced the color bleeding problem, so
she had very little advice to give on the subject." Teresa, 

Sounds to me like you got a real runaround from an unscrupulous
vendor. I’ll hedge my response by using the standard disclaimer
"I’ve been wrong before", but in my opinion irradiation isn’t about
to cause a change in coral that would result in it’s leaving a red
stain on your skin, but dye certainly will. For that matter I
seriously doubt radiation will cause coral to change to that color
in the first place. To test it, dip a Q Tip or piece of cloth in
acetone or fingernail polish remover and rub a bead with it. If it
comes away red or pink it’s dyed. Jerry in Kodiak


Terese Lin, I cannot believe your vendor does not understand what she
is selling. The coral is dyed plain and simple…not 'irridated’
though some Chinese companies are offering what they call 'irridated’
bamboo coral nuggets.

What it is can be complicated. It the pieces are small, it is
possibly sea bamboo which is a form of kelp that grows profusely off
the West Cape of South Africa. Some Chinese companies are now
offering dyed sea bamboo beads but I have not seen any of much size.
But your coral is probably bamboo coral (keratorsis sp) which is a
white/ivory color (in natural state) and quite beautiful. It looks
like ivory - sometimes it is used as an ivory substitute. Bamboo
coral can grow quite large - several feet in height and width. But
in either event, I content it IS dyed…though not sure the substance
used. Some dyes will not bleed but, if the specific substance used is
bleeding…it will continue to bleed. Putting it in opticon will
probably not help. Coral is porous but as the surface has been
polished before dying the opticon more than likely will not penetrate
and, besides, you still have dyed coral. The best thing to do is get
a refund and advise the vendor to be careful what she sells.

I used to haunt the coral carving shops in Taiwan when they were
carving the real stuff. I have seen statues up to 3 feet or more
with spreading limbs over a foot wide…all of natural blood red
coral. In the mid 70’s a statue like that would sell for over
$20,000. Imagine what it would go for today. I have also handled a
fair amount of very old natural red coral carved in China in the
1800’s. For one with no experience it is nearly impossible to tell
the difference between the real and the dyed unless they are next to
each other. Even then it can be difficult at times.

A word of warning. Stay away from this stuff unless (1) you are
purposely buying dyed coral for use in lower end beaded necklaces or
other ornamentation and expect that some of it will bleed or (2) you
know what you are buying and know the vendor from whom you are
purchasing. Get a certificate if it is the real stuff…coral is a
protected species all over the world under the CITES agreements and
any legal collection of this deep water animal should be handled by
licensed and certified suppliers. Red coral is not normally known to
wash up on the beaches like black coral and some of the other white
corals. So there is not a readily available supply…it has to be
harvested live in the trenches.

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


Hi gang -

A quick “thank you!” to all who wrote resopnses to my query on those
woven/channeled wedding bands. Thanks to you all, I at least have an
idea as to which direction to aim… again, “thanks”! Next up, in
response to Teresa Lin’sr postings of the past day or so:

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but, despite your supplier’s
claims and fancy footwork about irradiation, the truth of the matter
is that the Bamboo Coral you bought was dyed, not irradiated. (If it
were irradiated, the only way the coloring could affect a change in
your skin would be through a radiation burn and skin poisoning.) If
the problem you’re experiencing is one of color bleeding, the only
possible cause has to be dyeing – and most likely, with an
inexpensive, water-based dye like RIT. If you’d like to try
Opticoning the beads for color-retention, that MAY help, but caveat
emptor: it’s more likely to postpone the problem for a period of
time, rather than mask it permanently. The reason I say this is that
Hughes’ Opticon is a watery resin compound, similar to epoxy, which
may very well absorb into those beads, under the right
circumstances, but must then be treated evenly (and therin lies the
catch) with the hardener. If you’re able to harden the stuff
completely, the only part truly hardened will be the outer skin of
each bead – down to a depth of maybe a half-millimeter, or so. So,
what’s likely to happen to your customer’s favorite pastel-colored
blouse, after six months or a year of wearing the matching necklace
with it (and after that wear abrades the Opticon “skin” away)? In
the end, I think you’re asking for trouble, down the road… If I
were in your shoes, I think I’d ask the wholesaler for a refund of
exchange. If you paid good money for a supplier’s product that was
supposed to be wearable and was specifically offered in such a way
(i.e. by a bead merchant whose other products were sold for the same
purpose) as to lead you to think that it could and should be able to
be made into a wearable item, you should have received one; no
’ifs’, ‘ands’, ‘buts’, or funny stories.

All my best,

Douglas Turet, GJ
Another Bright Idea! / Turet Design
P.O. Box 162
Arlington, MA 02476
Tel. (617) 325-5328
eFax (928) 222-0815


All, I ran into a new treatment this year that I had not encountered
before. I bought about 50 pounds of Indonesian Coral rough. This is
a new rough to me so I thought that the brilliant colorful patterns I
had seen in everyone’s finished stones were inside the rough. Upon
slabbing the rough I was very disappointed as the colors got less
brilliant with each slab. Very disappointed, I had dealer come by in
Tucson who claimed he purchased and sold the Indonesian coral in
Indonesia. When I told him my story he said that all the brightly
colored coral you were buying has been heat treated. They heat it in
slab form or in finished product. The heated slabs he showed me had a
brilliant orange red crust on them that rubbed off on my hands. Could
your coral be heated and not rubbed off? Or does heated
non-fossilized coral change color with heating, but continue to rub
off? Interesting deception?

Gerry Galarneau
In hot, sunny Phoenix, Az, Maybe some chrysophrase today.