Tips for Buying Vintage and Antique Coral Jewelry

Antique and vintage coral jewelry is truly desirable. A flash of color at the ear or on a finger makes a gorgeous statement. Tactile, sensual, and unique, it is no wonder early coral jewelry is so sought after and collected.

It is worthwhile knowing the different types of coral in jewelry so you can make informed buying choices.

Precious Coral

Nearly all fine historic coral jewelry is made from ‘precious coral’ (‘Corallium rubrum’ or ‘Corallium Secundum’).

There are three basic kinds of precious coral that are commonly used in antique and vintage jewelry.

These are:

Branch Coral

This is when the coral is left in its 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 so they can be avoided.

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

If you want to be certain you are buying high-quality antique or vintage precious coral, it is recommended you shop with a reputable dealer. 

%d bloggers like this: