Throughout history coral is a material that has been used in making jewelry and sculptures. Many antique coral carvings are incredibly detailed. Lately it has become very difficult to acquire antique coral. Most of the coral used for antiques grows very deep in the sea. Sometimes, as deep as 2000 meters below sea level. Another factor that makes coral so rare is the growth rate. The rarest of coral can grow slower than a millimeter per year. That means that a 3 inch coral figure could have taken 75 years to grow. Many types of coral are now considered to be endangered.
The antique coral market is booming. This is largely due to the fact that the Chinese market is very strong. Coral is very popular to Chinese buyers. In todays antique market, Asian buyers want the best. The rarest coral items are in high demand. Buyers are willing to pay top dollar for the hard to find pieces.
The coral value depends on multiple factors. The color of the coral is extremely important. The coral that we often see used in jewelry and carvings comes in 3 colors. The most common and least valued coral is white. White coral color also may be called “angel skin”. Pink is less common and can have some considerable value. The name given to the color of pink coral is “salmon skin”. The most expensive coral color is of course red. The popular name for the red coral is “ox blood”. The deep red coral color can be worth a great deal of money. Some red coral necklaces are worth over $10,000. Some hard to find figures can even reach 6 figures.
Another important factor when determining the value of coral is size and/or weight. As stated earlier, coral takes a long time to grow. Good colored coral is very hard to find in large sizes. Figures may only be a few inches tall and still priced in the thousands. Coral beads start getting expensive when you find sizes over 12 millimeters.
Coral carvings need to have great detail to be considered high quality. A big piece of coral is nice, but if the carver was not skilled, it will hurt the value. Most carvings are done by Chinese artists. However, sometimes you may run into a European coral carving. In most cases, beaded necklaces are more valuable when the beads are perfectly round.
Be careful when dealing with coral. Make sure you buy from a reputable source. A lot of coral is fake or dyed. Many tests are out there to check, but most are not perfect. Also, some types of coral are not considered precious and have little value.
It can be tricky with the antique coral market. The laws make it difficult to buy and sell coral Internationally. If importing and exporting rules get too strict, the value could start to go down. Right now it seems as if the coral market has hit its peak. It is a good time to sell.
We work with high-end coral buyers in the New York City area. If you have a piece you would like to get an offer on, let us know. We will be happy to put you in contact with them. You may also visit Syl-Lee Antiques for more information on asian antiques.