I will be covering many aspects of collecting antique rosaries in my blogs. Symbology, materials, origins, and other issues the antique rosary lover may be curious about will all be discussed. Each blog will feature a rosary from The Sacred Bead or a private collection. You can visit The Sacred Bead at www.thesacredbead.com
Nothing is more beautiful than a coral rosary with colorful beads from the sea. Long treasured for its health giving and mystical qualities, coral was highly prized during Victorian times and many lovely rosaries from this time, most of French origin, still exist today. Often one of the first gifts for an infant, coral was believed to protect the baby from harm. Although we seem to have lost this view of coral in the modern world, it is still strong in many cultures around the world. Protection from illness and the evil eye and other spiritual harms were its primary function. Now, we tend to love coral simply for its beauty. Shown below are two modern rosaries, using deep red dyed coral, and two lovely antique French rosaries with natural undyed coral.
The modern rosaries are made of sponge and bamboo corals, dyed to give the naturally white coral its color. There is nothing wrong with modern dyed coral, but it is important to be aware of the differences between antique natural coral and modern dyed coral.
Antique rosaries have natural Mediterranean coral beads, they are the natural color and are quite rare. The beauty of the coral is unsurpassed. Highly protected, natural red coral is expensive and precious today, even more so than in the past. Modern beadworkers and rosary makers generally use the dyed coral from the Pacific due to its availability and economy. The prices for modern dyed coral beads are just a fraction of what the price for authentic red coral would be. Because of its scarsity, natural red corals are both protected and products made from them regulated. Each country has laws regarding the importation of natural red coral and other natural corals.
Care should be taken when purchasing a coral rosary- be sure the seller knows if the beads are really coral. Many people are fooled by the glass and celluloid beads that were made to resemble coral. The colors were quite accurately reproduced, made specifically to look like the much more valuable coral. Looking at the beads with a hand lens lets you know if the beads are natural coral. Tiny growth lines are visible inside the coral, this is not visible in glass or celluloid. Many of the antique beads are also hand cut, especially the tiny ones common on rosaries. They will have a rounded, yet not perfect, shape.
The rosaries shown below are all available on The Sacred Bead. Look in the antique sections for authentic antique coral rosaries and in the designer section for modern coral.
The top two pictures are of a lovely modern, strung rosary using a deep red bamboo coral for the impressive beads.
The above two pictures are a modern rosary with beautifully dyed deep orange-red sponge coral.
This gorgeous rosary is a lovely Art Nouveau French rosary with natural Mediterranean coral beads in a lovely salmon color. Note the extra tiny medals on either side of the Pater beads, each has a profile of Jesus on one side and Mary on the other. This is a very rare and beautifully made rosary.
Below is an early 20th century Art Deco natural coral rosary.