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    

Fine Pair Of Victorian Natural Coral And Seed Pearl 18ct Gold EarringsUnusual Georgian Gold & Carved Coral Earrings Circa 1800'sAntique Chinese Indian Silver Gold Ruby Coral Turquoise Bangle Bracelet C1890Carl Gumpert Natural 18.63ctw Red Coral Large 14k Yellow Gold Cocktail RingVintage Navajo Zuni Loaded Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral 20 Charm Bracelet J **rare & Beautiful Victorian 18ct Gold Rock Crystal Pearl Coral Pendant C1880**53.3gram  antique Natural Salmon Red Coral Necklace 14k Gold Clasp Rare Antique Victorian 9ct Gold Coral Bead Necklace 18 Inches Circa 1860Estate Vintage Designer Natural Red Coral Diamond 14k Solid Gold Statement Ring 45.16 Gram Very Old Coral Beads 100% Undyed Antique Natural Coral Necklace Fine Victorian 18k Gold Coral & Paste Stone Ring,chester 1896Vintage Navajo Zuni Loaded Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral 29 Charm Bracelet J Vtg 50s Old Pawn Zuni Sterling Silver Concho Belt Turquoise Red Coral Lot PatinaVintage Navajo Zuni Loaded Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral 26 Charm Bracelet J 82.8gr. Antique Genuine Natural Deep Salmon Coral Necklace Old Coral BeadsVintage Navajo Zuni Loaded Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral 23 Charm Bracelet J Vintage Oscar De La Renta Early 70s Pearl & Carved Coral Branch Runway EarringsVintage 18k Gold Coral RingNavajo Vintage Sterling Turquoise & Coral Reversible Squash Blossom Necklace SetEstate Italian Coral Cabachon 18k Yellow Gold Pierced Earrings 18.1 Grams NrAntique C. 1880 Victorian 14k Gold Salmon Coral Bead Chinese Export Necklace!112.8gram  antique Natural Salmon Red Coral Necklace Coral Jewelry CollectionAntique C. 1920 Deco 14k Yellow Gold Carved Pink Angelskin Coral Flower Pendant!Vtg Handmade Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Belt Buckle Signed "g"| J TxMuseum Rare Tons Of Coral Vintage Zuni Coral Inlay Sterling Dangle EarringsAntique C. 1880 Victorian Carved Salmon Coral Chinese Export Estate Bracelet!Vintage Zuni Sterling Silver Coral Turquoise Owl Pendant Pin Necklace & Ring LotAntique C 1920 Deco 18k Gold Carved Salmon Coral Chinese Buddha Necklace PendantVintage 14k Pearl Clasp Pale White Salmon Natural Coral Bead Necklace 22" LengthAntique Victorian Sterling Silver Pink Coral Cluster PendantVintage Chinese Honey Amber Beads, Charm Necklace Red Coral, Jade, Quartz NrAntique C. 1880 Victorian Carved Salmon Coral Chinese Export Estate Necklace!Antique C. 1920 Deco 14k Yellow Gold Carved Pink Angelskin Coral Flower Pendant!Vintage Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Indian Chief Ring Sz 10Beautiful Vintage 1970's Large Oval Red Coral Gemstone Set Yellow Gold RingVintage 14k Yellow Gold Coral Ring 11 By 9 Mm 2.9 GramsVintage Salmon Coral Beaded Graduated Necklace W/ 14k Gold Clasp No ReserveVintage Coral Cocktail Ring In 10k Yellow Gold Size 8 No ReserveVintage 10k Coral RingOld Pawn Vintage Ss Genuine Coral Bracelet Cuff Zuni Signed J. Simplicio ~ 33gVtg Chinese Export Carved Pink Angelskin Coral 4.5mm Round 16" Beaded NecklaceVintage Jade And Coral Butterfly Brooch And PendantSuperb Antique Victorian Coral Oval Bead Necklace - 26 Grams - 9ct Gold ClaspVictorian Antique Vintage Red Salmon Coral Bangle BraceletAntique Vintage 14kt Yellow Gold 5mm Red Coral Grapes Cluster Ring 2.3gr Antique C. 1880 Sterling Silver Graduated Angelskin Coral Mikimoto Necklace!Antique C. 1880 Victorian Carved Salmon Coral Chinese Export Bead Earrings!Vintage Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise & Coral Badger Claw Bolo Tie | Rs LxFine Old Chinese Carved Red Coral & 14k Gold Pin Scholar Work Of Art2 Vintage Navajo Sterling Silver Red Coral Ring Lot Southwestern WesternVintage 14k Yellow Gold Coral Ring 20.5 By 10.1 By 7 Mm 5.9 Mm14kt Yellow Gold Dainty Angel Skin Coral Cultured Pearl Pendant SignedBeautiful 800 Silver Vintage Coral Heavy Bangle 27.1 GramsAntique C. 1880 Victorian Salmon Coral Bead Chinese Arts And Crafts Necklace!Vtg Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Ring By Retlaw Of Phoenix 6.25 | J MAntique Real Salmon Undyed Coral Beads Necklace 12.3gVtg Handmade Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Cuff Bracelet Signed "lw" JVintage 32" Strand Genuine Natural Angel Skin Coral 6mm Beads Necklace 39 GramsLarge Rare Stunning Vintage Navajo Pink Coral Lapis Inlay Sterling EarringsAntique C. 1860 Victorian 14k Yellow Gold Carved Salmon Coral Cameo Ring!