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    

Vintage 14k Gold Elegant 3.4mm Ox-blood Red Coral Bead Multi-strand NecklaceA "gorgious" Late C19th Century 'quality' Natural Ox Blood Coral Necklace.Vintage 14kt Yellow Gold Chinese Carved Coral Lapis Bracelet Elephant Charm 9grVtg 1930's French Art Deco Machine Age Coral Pink Glass Necklace Bracelet SetHeavy Vintage 14k Gold Beautiful Pink Coral Bird's Nest Cocktail Ring Size 104 Vintage Native Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Onyx Kachina Ladybug Ring LotVintage Miriam Haskell Turquoise, Coral & Wood Bead Necklace With Huge PendantVintage Natural Coral And Silver RingVtg Antique Chinese Silver Filigree Flower Natural Coral BraceletVery Large Bead Vintage Carved Real Coral Chinese? Necklace 37gRich Old Pawn Vintage Navajo Well Made Solid Coral & Sterling Mens Ring Sz 12Antique Victorian 10k Gold Petite Seed Pearl Genuine Coral Lavalier PendantMuseum Vintage Navajo ""huge Coral"" Silver BraceletVintage Fancy 8.15 To 17.9mm Pink Coral & Onyx Bead Graduated Strand NecklaceAntique Mid-19thc Gold Mourning Brooch Pins Hair Jewelry W/ Onyx & Coral NrVintage Gucci 18k White/yellow Gold With Coral RingA Georgian / Early Victorian Natural Coral Carved Hand Necklace Pendant / Charm.Vintage 14k Gold Beautiful 6.75mm Pink Coral/caged 6.5mm Pearl Link BraceletStunning Georgian 9ct Gold & Coral Locket BroochHuge 218 Grams Rare Coral Vintage Navajo Coral Sterling Squash Blossom NecklaceVintage Gilt Over Silver 800 Genuine Natural Salmon Coral Flower Brooch PinVintage Jumbo 14k Gold Lovely Floral Carved Pink Coral/.30ct Ruby Cocktail RingFine Pair Of Victorian Natural Coral And Seed Pearl Gold EarringsAntique Victorian 14k Gold Carved Coral Cameo Brooch PinGood Very Fine Antique Chinese Carved Pink Coral Bead Necklace Signed ClaspBig Bold Vintage Old Pawn Navajo Turquosie Coral Sterling Men's Ring Sz 12Old Vintage Antique Navajo 5 Strand Natural Coral Necklace W Silver Center BeadAuthentic Tambetti New York Art Modern 18k Gold & Coral Designer RingAntique Victorian 14k Gold Black Enameled Nubian Diamond Pink Coral Stick Pin Nr Vintage Georg Jensen Sterling Earrings Style #55 W 4 Round Red Coral Cabochons*Vintage 2 Row Carved Angel Skin Pink Coral 14k Gold Chinese Bracelet~19.4 GAntique Art Deco Carved Red Angel Skin Coral Floral Sunburst Pin Brooch Nph Nr38,5 Gr. Very Fine Genuine Natural Undyed Salmon Red Coral Necklace 3 X StrandBeautiful Vintage Carved Angel Skin Coral Necklace Gold Beads Unusual DesiPatterson Vintage Navajo Turquoise Coral Chip Inlay Sterling Segment NecklaceSuper Cool Unique Vintage Carved Coral Ring With 14k GoldA Superb Pair Antique Edwardian Genuine Coral Solid Silver Mounted Shirt StudsVintage Sterling Silver And Turquoise And Coral Earrings Navajo Signed PVintage Antique 14k Gold Natural Undyed Mediterranean Red Coral Drop EarringsVintage Old Pawn Navajo Signed Sterling Turquoise Coral Watch Cuff BraceletMuseum Vintage Navajo Mediterranean Coral Silver BraceletAntique 9ct Gold Mounted Angel Skin Coral Cameo BroochArt Deco Vintage Black Ring & Coral Link Bracelet Pearl Spacers Silver-tone14k Yellow Gold Natural Light Coral Victorian EarringsVintage Handmade Sterling Silver Coral & Turquoise Navajo Indian BraceletStunning Edwardian Natural Faceted Citrine & Coral Bead NecklaceAntique Solid 18ct Gold Carved Coral Cameo Pin - 4gmAntique Victorian Huge Lot Jewelry For Restore Parts Coral Gold Fill Sterling +Antique Italian 28 Grams Real Angel Skin Coral Necklace W/ Solid Silver BeadsStunning Huge Vtg Modernist Sterling Silver Coral Necklace! Rw327Long Vintage Navajo Pawn Natural Branch Coral & Heishi Bead Sterling NecklaceLuxury Vintage German Made Schott 18k Gold Diamond Coral Cultured Pearl NecklaceVintage Coral Bead Necklace Circa 1950/60Antique Coral Cluster Brooch & Earrings 8k Signed 333 Hidden Locket (50.2 G.)Fine Vintage 14k Gold Red Coral Sand Glass Vial Pendant Necklace & ChainVintage Natural Coral Earrings Vintage Pink Sponge Coral Beaded Organic Specimen Choker 15 Inch Necklace Antique Victorian Silver Gilt Real Salmon Coral Grape Pendant EarringsVintage Signed Platero Native Silver Red Coral Squash Blossom NecklaceVintage Miriam Haskell Floral Black & Coral Dangle Screw Back Earrings, Signed