On a recent trip to the coastal city of Alghero, Sardegna (Sardinia), I visited the Museo del Corallo, a small museum about the ancient local red coral trade. Corallium rubrum, some of the highest quality and perhaps most endangered coral of the Mediterranean, has been harvested around Alghero for centuries and has been an important artistic and economic resource.
The museum explains the history and significance of the use of this precious living organism, once abundant in the territory. The exhibit includes vintage photos, old tools and equipment used in the harvest, along with examples of jewelry and objects made from coral in the last few decades.
The Coral Museum is on 2 floors housed in the Villa Constantine, an Art Nouveau/Liberty style house with a garden built in 1927.
Museo del Corallo
Via XX Settembre, 8
Alghero, Sardegna – ITALY
T +39 079 989 7502
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30am-1pm | 5:30-7pm – Closed on Monday
Entry fee: 2 euros
How can you determine if your coral jewelry is real or fake?
There are a lot of convincing imitations out there on the market made from plastic, shell, fossil ivory, bone, howlite, onyx, and low-quality coral enhanced with epoxy and dies. Did you know that coral comes in a variety of colors: dark red, pink, white, orange, violet, blue, black, and brown? Real coral usually weighs more than fake coral, but there are a few ways to test coral:
- Because coral is made from calcium carbonate, nitric acid (or lemon juice) will react with the substance. In an inconspicuous area of a piece of coral, try dropping a small amount of lemon juice on the surface. If it is real coral, small effervescent bubbles will form on the surface. Rinse immediately with water to prevent damage.
- Another test is to swab a small amount of acetone on the surface with a white cotton cloth or Q-tip. The color will come off if the coral is fake.
- The third test is to submerge the coral in a small bowl of regular cow’s milk. It the coral is real, the milk will turn a slight pink within a couple of hours. If not, then it is fake.
Be Kind to Coral
When you buy coral jewelry in the U.S., ask the retailer if the coral is imported with the required CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) permit. If you buy it overseas, find out if you need a CITES permit to take the jewelry out of the country.
Remember that coral reefs around the globe are in danger. If you want to own coral, buy a used or antique piece. Find out how you can donate to the Coral Reef Alliance: http://coral.org/