As for more people aim to add coral to their aquarium setups, the demand for more exotic species – and especially more exotic and unique colors – has skyrocketed dramatically.
It may sound crazy on the surface, but there’s even an entire underground market of “counterfeit” coral being sold these days.
Yes, you read that right. People are going to extreme lengths to dye coral different colors all in hopes of getting a higher payout for coral that are being misrepresented.
The last thing anybody wants to have to worry about is ponying up extra money for coral that is not 100% legitimate, or (even worse) coral that may die off as soon as it settles into your tank just because it has been treated improperly with coloring agents that don’t belong.
Luckily, though, there are some things you can do to figure out whether or not a coral has been dyed.
We cover all of that (and more) below!
How to Tell If Coral is Dyed?
There are all bunch of different things you can do to conclusively determine whether or not your coral has been altered, but the most common methods are the:
- Milk Test
- Imperfection Test
- Tapping Test
- Turmeric Test
- Bubble Test
- Dip Test
The Milk Test is probably the simplest of all the options available to you. All you have to do is gently (and quickly) dip your coral into a glass of milk – you don’t even have to fully submerge – and then look to see if any of the red from the coral has stained the milk itself.
If the milk runs red (or even just gets a bit of a pink tint) you can be sure that coral has been dyed.
The Imperfection Test is another quick way to tell. Simply observe your coral under a magnifying glass to look for subtle – but unmistakable – differentiations in the color of your coral itself. Any obvious signs of tampering are going to be pretty easy to spot under magnification.
The Tapping Test is a little bit more “pseudoscience” than the tests we highlighted above, but it’s still a valuable option. Simply tap the coral against your fingernail and listen for a specific sound. If it sounds like you are tapping on a glass object, rather than a stone object, the odds are pretty good that your coral is counterfeit.
The Turmeric Test involves rubbing a piece of turmeric (not very big) against the surface of your coral. If there are any red marks whatsoever on the turmeric then you’re dealing with something that’s been artificially colored.
With the Bubble Test you’re going to want to bust out that magnifying glass again and really take a close look at the structure of your coral. Do you see any bubbles of discoloration? Does everything looks smooth and uniform? Are there any signs or spots of artificiality that you are noticing under magnification?
Finally Dip Test is a good approach not only for assessing artificially colored coral, but also for helping to guarantee that bad bacteria, molds, and other dangerous contaminants are going to work their way into your already established tank.
Get your hands on legitimate coral dip (available commercially) and then splash your coral in the mixture according to the directions. If the color of your coral doesn’t run you have nothing to worry about.
If it stains the water the same way that it would have stained milk during the Milk Test you’re dealing with a phony
How to Identify Antique Coral
If you are on the hunt for antique jewelry or accessories it’s important to be able to tell the real stuff from fakes and phonies.
For starters, look specifically for tiny little bits of white on the inside and the outside of the antique coral in question. If you see these obvious signs of wear and tear the odds are pretty good you’re dealing with an older piece of coral. Maybe not an antique – other factors will determine that – definitely something with a bit of age on it.
If, on the other hand, you’re dealing with a piece of coral that looks like it was pulled fresh from a museum or a fashion show (and it’s said to be 50 years old or older) the chances are pretty good you’re dealing with a phony.
Maybe the piece was kept in impeccable condition. Maybe.
But the odds are stacked against that.
You’ll also want to look at the style of the antique coral, matching it up against similar contemporary pieces of that time. It’s not a bad idea to look at the kind of materials used with the antique coral as well, verifying that those are timeframe accurate as well.
How to Identify Genuine Red Coral
Red coral gemstones are stunning – but finding legitimate pieces can be a bit of a tall task.
All of the tests that we highlighted above to confirm the legitimacy of a piece of colored coral can be used to test for genuine red coral articles, too.
The milk test, the bubble test, and the turmeric tests in specific are all going to give you a great idea of whether or not the red coral your inspecting is the “real deal” or a counterfeit/knockoff.
Acetone tests can work as well as lemon juice tests, checking to see if any of the red runs off when exposed to these acidic chemicals, but you don’t usually want to run the risk of damaging a legitimate piece with chemicals like this.
At the end of the day, it’s not hard to figure out what you’re dealing with.
Is Red Coal Natural or Dyed?
Red coral is a natural coral – though it is incredibly rare.
Formed from the calcified remains of marine animals that turn into almost a root system structure on coral, this stuff is always in high demand (particularly antique and vintage examples of authentic red coral).
Because of the rarity (and the value) it’s not at all uncommon to come across dyed red coral options that mimic the look but are nowhere near as beautiful and certainly not authentic.