Coral is one of several so-called “organic gemstones,” the other main ones being pearls and amber. Made out of calcium carbonate (as are pearls) that’s secreted by organisms known as polyps, coral is mostly found in tropical oceans, where colonies of polyps are jammed together to create reefs.

The coral of most interest to jewelers is called precious or noble coral, Corallium rubrum, which ranges in color from dark red to pale rose and “grows” in branched deposits. Precious coral is harvested almost exclusively in the Mediterranean off the coasts of Italy, France, Spain, Algeria, and Tunisia. Other types or coral are pulled from the waters off Malaysia and Japan, Australia and Africa, and numerous Pacific isles.

Thought by the Romans to protect children, today many people are wondering if coral itself needs to be protected. Coral reefs are among the most threatened ecosystems on the planet, dying off at an alarming rate. Pollution along the coast caused by run-off into the world’s oceans is the biggest killer of coral, followed by damage caused by the fisherman.

Still, the perception that the jewelry industry may also be contributing to the problem makes coral an unpopular material for many people. Indeed, Hawaiian black coral, which is not made of calcium carbonate, is already protected, and movements are afoot to ban the harvesting of red and pink varieties, the ones most common to fine jewelry.

What’s made coral attractive to jewelers for so many centuries has been its seemingly inexhaustible supply; its relative softness, which lends itself to elaborate carvings such as intricate cameos; and the way it can be polished to a glossy, lustrous finish. Coral is often fashioned into round, barrel-shaped, or oblong beads, as well as show-stopping cabochons in necklaces and rings. Sometimes coral is left in its natural state, as when tiny branches are strung together to form a bracelet or pair of earrings.

Like turquoise, coral is a staple of Native American jewelry. Though there’s obviously no coral in the Southwestern United States where the Hopi and Zuni have historically lived, coral was introduced to indigenous peoples by 16th-century Spaniards, who imported the material for sale and trade.

Like turquoise, much of the coral on the market today is artificial, and not just in Naive American jewelry. To spot the real thing, look for white flecks and patches on and inside the gem’s surface. If a blood-red piece of coral has no such irregularities and its price seems too good to be true, then it’s probably synthetic.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

All About Jewels Dictionary

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from Enchantedlearning.com, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]

Jewel History

Jewel History

Since March of 2007, readers of Lori Ettlinger Gross’s JewelHistory blog have been treated to her weekly (sometim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Victorian 14k Gold High-relief Pink Angel Skin Coral Cameo Pin Superb Antique 14k Filigree Gold Orange Coral & Pearl Cameo Bangle BraceletHeavy Jumbo Vintage 14k Gold .40ct Vs Diamond/pink Coral Cocktail Ring Size 9.25Antique Victorian 14k Gold Rich Natural Orange Coral Lady God Deity Form BroochAntique C 1830 Georgian Victorian 14k Gold Salmon Coral Chinese Tulip Pin Brooch93.88 Gr. Old Coral Beads To 15.67mm Antique Genuine Natural Coral Necklace *rare* Victorian 18k/14k Enamel Coiled Snake & Coral Melon Stick Pin C. 1860Estate Coral 18k Gold Large Oval Cocktail Ring 13.4 Grams NrVtg 1940's - 50's Spezzati Coral Glass Baroque Pearl Dangle Fringe Bib Necklace82.4 Gr. Old Coral Beads 6.6-9.3mm Antique Genuine Natural Coral Necklace Vintage Graduated Strand Of Angle Skin Coral Beads 6.1 Mm To 9.7 Mm 16" 136.7gram Large Antique Natural Salmon Coral Necklace 14k Gold Clasp Lander Blue Turquoise Coral Navajo Vintage Old Pawn Squash Blossom NecklaceAntique Victorian Carved Coral Cherub Angel Cameo Brooch Pin Antique Georgian Victorian Gold Filled Carved Salmon Coral Buttercup Earrings!59.5 Gram Antique Genuine Natural Undyed Red Coral Beads Coral Necklace Vtg Zuni Effie Calavaza Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Snake Belt Buckle |g LiHuge! 122g Vtg Sterling Old Pawn Vtg Turquoise Coral 24 Ring Lot! Sm615Vintage Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Kachina Pendant Signed "mk" | J EVintage Coral Bead Necklace With 9ct Gold ClaspVintage Navajo Turquoise Coral Sterling Silver Bracelet Old Pawn Natural MorenciSuperb Estate Lot Chinese Imitation Cherry Amber Coral Pearl Necklaces Bakelite18 Vintage Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Ring Lot Southwestern Native WesternStunning Pair Of Art Deco Design 18k Gold Diamond & Coral Drop EarringsVintage Antique Salmon Coral Bead Necklace 10k Gold Clasp - Needs TlcVintage Dutch 14k Gold Ring With Pink Coral, Must See, No Reserve!2 Vintage Navajo Sterling Silver Red Coral Ring Lot Southwestern WesternAntique Real Salmon Undyed Natural Coral Beads Triple Row Necklace 57.7gBeautiful~vintage~navajo~sterling Silver~natural Turquoise~coral~pendantAntique C. 1920 Deco 14k Gold Salmon Angelskin Coral Chinese Charm Necklace!Vintage Sterling Silver Jewelry Lot Turquoise Coral Signed Bangle Bracelet Ring Fine Navajo Pueblo Turquoise& Coral Vtg Necklace Old Pawn Sterling Silver BeadsVintage Georg Jensen .925 Sterling Silver Coral Flower Cufflinks Cuff Links #23Vintage Coral Necklace Necklace 2.5-3 Mm 16" 18k Gold Clasp Estate~solid 18k Gold Salmon Coral Pierced Lever Back Earrings~big Cabochon GemsVictorian Sterling Silver Genuine Salmon Coral Beads Seed Pearl Brooch With BoxStrong Vtg Navajo Signed Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Lighter Holder Cover │gVtg Navajo Juan Singer Hand Wrought Sterling Turquoise Coral Cuff Bracelet 82 GmVintage 1920-30's Art Deco "czech" Coral Peking Glass Pearl Gilded NecklaceModern Large Sapphire Cabochon Coral Black Sterling Silver Pendant 19.2 Grams Nr4 Antique & Collectible Womens Hand Carved Cameos Inc Rare CoralEstate Coral 18k Yellow Gold Small Round Pendant NrVintage Georg Jensen .925 Sterling Silver And Red Coral Cufflinks Cuff Links #22Part Lot. Antique/vintage 7 Necklaces.coral,amber,bakelite,lapis,agate,turquoiseVintage 14k Yellow Gold Angel Skin Coral 9.5mm Bead Strand NecklaceModern Secondhand 9ct Gold Coral And Real Pearl EarringsVintage Starnd Of Red Coral Beads 5-5.5 Mm 16" Long Silver Clasp 16.6 GramsEstate Rose Cut Diamond 5.62ct Coral Gold Ring 7.0 Grams NrVintage Zuni Effie Calavaza Sterling Silver Turquoise & Coral Snake Bolo Tie |gVintage Old Pawn Southwest Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Rattle Snake Bolo TieAntique Early 20thc Nagaland India Coral Beaded Tribal Ceremonial NecklaceVintage Peyote Water Bird Squash Blossom Type Necklace Sterling Turquoise CoralVintage Kenneth Lane Massive Gripoix Pearls Faux Coral NecklaceVintage Orange Blush Coral Bead Necklace - 14k Gold Clasp - Chinese InterestAntique C 1920 Art Deco 14k Yellow Gold 10 Mm Angelskin Coral Bead Necklace!Vintage Genuine Angel Skin Coral Necklace CarvedFine Vintage Signed Carolyn Pollack 925 Silver Coral Turquoise Flower EarringsRare Large Vintage Effie C. Zuni Signed All Coral Cast Silver Belt BuckleVtg Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise & Coral Slave Cuff Bracelet Ring | G RSchiaparelli Rare Coral Red Vintage Bracelet Earring Set