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Jewelry, Gems, & Minerals/Repair of antique coral necklaces


QUESTION: I have been contacted by some clients to repair their antique coral necklaces, multi-strands.  I'm not sure whether it's necessary to use a knotting technique (pearl-knotting) for coral, and if not, then should I use a small guage wire (will the metal affect the coral?) or a specialty beading thread (i.e. Fireline).  We want the coral to 'float' and be flexible, so wire seems too stiff.
Thank you for your advice.

ANSWER: Dear Raynelle,

There are generally  three major "cord related" problems I have seen with stone, crystal and metal beads. 1.The first is stone or bead edges cutting through the cord or fraying woven cords. 2.Secondly, metallic cords easily are abraded by beads and the fine "sanded off" particles leave discoloration  on beads or discoloration is transferred to clothing or skin. (Much of the so-called smudge from gold items is in fact fine particles of gold too small to show color that make a dark smudge on skin or cloth. Abrasives in makeup re a prime culprit with gold necklaces.) 3.Sturdy but stiff cord types are known not to lay neatly.

Raynelle, in all honesty there are a few brands and sorts of beading cord with which I am not experienced.   I would choose the Fireline thread in the strongest type with a diameter to work well with the coral and finish off neatly. Avoid wire for sure.

God Bless and Peace.  Thomas.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Another question, what are the differences between coral and sea bamboo coral?  Both are described as 'dyed' by distributors like Fire Mountain.

One very positive attribute of Fire Mountain Gems is their honest descriptions of items they sell. I have not needed to use that supplier very many times but have been quite happy with Fire Mountain when I have ordered.

The coral is dyed to improve color, making red  coral a deeper red or taking white and bamboo coral and coloring it red or in another way.  I have not seen their bamboo variety.  When taken from the deeper places where bamboo coral generally lives, then cleaned up, the coral appears an off-white with darker "joints" where sections join. The visual jointed look gives it the name bamboo.  Red coral is often from comparatively shallow waters.

Red coral is also is called precious coral. Good red coral is tougher and more uniform in structure than other corals and well suited to carving and taking a high polish suitable for jewelry use.  Unfortunately, better grades are not as easily obtained as in years past but the red is still a very desirable color, therefore, dyes are applied.  Dying should be disclosed but not all sellers do that. Pink, called angel skin coral is popular and quite lovely.  White is not as popular and may be dyed to simulate red and angel skin.

You may search "google images" for coral and see many photos of different colors as found in the sea and after cleaning up.  There is also black coral, formed from a species similar to anemones; the structure of black coral is almost treelike with a ringed structure showing on the end of a cut cut branch.

The concern with dyed gem material of any type, whether coral, turquoise or lapis lazuli is the possibility of some cleaning methods or solutions taking out the color, even if slightly. There is also the problem of deception when selling dyed gems.

Raynelle, essentially you are looking at different families of coral. The dye is used as it has been in jewelry since antiquity to fool the customer or  make the item more sell-able.

This should answer you question. Blessings and Peace.  Thomas.  

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Have a question about jewelry repair or working with precious metal jewelry and gemstones? For many years up to December 31, 2010, I was a working professional bench jeweler, involved everyday with setting stones in mountings, designing and making jewelry, repairing and limited custom manufacture. If you work with jewelry as a hobby or as a profession, I might be able to help. I deal with the retail business, not mass production. Ask privately if you wish. See the box for that: It keeps your question between us. Please DO NOT ask MAKER'S MARKS, but metal quality marks are fine to ask. Please DO NOT ask diamond prices. See a gemologist for that.


I have extensive experience in design, service and making of jewelry. I deal mostly with precious metals and gemstones but work with many materials as needed and usable to create an artistic design. My experience also includes freelance photography and photographer of jewelry and similar items for a former employer and individuals. Design of custom items requires reading the desires of the client and being clear on what can be done within that framework...then fulfilling the transition of idea to reality. Effective communications is essential in a working designer/producer and customer relationship.

Education is English/Physics! Started in human resources, to advertising, to, what a road. I have had formal training in jewelry work and many shared experiences with top grade jewelers. We just never know were we will go or be. Follow your best, your dreams, with some discretion! Don't let the work tear up your body along the way as it has mine.

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