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 Bracelet*rare* Victorian 18k/14k Enamel Coiled Snake & Coral Melon Stick Pin C. 1860Antique Victorian 14k Gold Rich Natural Orange Coral Lady God Deity Form BroochHeavy Jumbo Vintage 14k Gold .40ct Vs Diamond/pink Coral Cocktail Ring Size 9.25Antique Victorian 10k Soft Rose Gold Coral & Tiny Pearl Drop Earrings Hinge Post82.4 Gr. Old Coral Beads 6.6-9.3mm Antique Genuine Natural Coral Necklace Estate Coral 18k Gold Large Oval Cocktail Ring 13.4 Grams NrVintage Graduated Strand Of Angle Skin Coral Beads 6.1 Mm To 9.7 Mm 16" 93.88 Gr. Old Coral Beads To 15.67mm Antique Genuine Natural Coral Necklace 136.7gram Large Antique Natural Salmon Coral Necklace 14k Gold Clasp Antique Victorian Carved Natural Salmon Coral Flower BroochVtg 1940's - 50's Spezzati Coral Glass Baroque Pearl Dangle Fringe Bib NecklaceVintage Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Kachina Pendant Signed "mk" | J E59.5 Gram Antique Genuine Natural Undyed Red Coral Beads Coral Necklace Huge! 122g Vtg Sterling Old Pawn Vtg Turquoise Coral 24 Ring Lot! Sm615Vintage 1970's Peyote Thunderbird Inlay Coral & Turquoise Sterling Belt BuckleVtg Zuni Effie Calavaza Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Snake Belt Buckle |g LiLander Blue Turquoise Coral Navajo Vintage Old Pawn Squash Blossom NecklaceUnisex Signed Lap Old Pawn Overlay Old Pawn Natural Coral Vintage Cuff Bracelet18 Vintage Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Ring Lot Southwestern Native WesternBeautiful~vintage~navajo~sterling Silver~natural Turquoise~coral~pendantAntique Victorian Carved Coral Cherub Angel Cameo Brooch Pin Fine Victorian Large 18k Gold Coral BroochSuperb Estate Lot Chinese Imitation Cherry Amber Coral Pearl Necklaces BakeliteVintage Coral Bead Necklace With 9ct Gold ClaspVintage Navajo Turquoise Coral Sterling Silver Bracelet Old Pawn Natural Morenci2 Vintage Navajo Sterling Silver Red Coral Ring Lot Southwestern WesternVintage Antique Salmon Coral Bead Necklace 10k Gold Clasp - Needs TlcAntique C 1830 Georgian Victorian 14k Gold Salmon Coral Chinese Tulip Pin BroochAntique Georgian Victorian Gold Filled Carved Salmon Coral Buttercup Earrings!Sterling Silver - Antique Red Coral Filigree Flower 23g - Bracelet (7") Vn2851Stunning Pair Of Art Deco Design 18k Gold Diamond & Coral Drop EarringsOld Pawn Vintage Navajo Apachito Amazing Turquoise Coral Blossom Belt BuckleEstate~solid 18k Gold Salmon Coral Pierced Lever Back Earrings~big Cabochon GemsVictorian Sterling Silver Genuine Salmon Coral Beads Seed Pearl Brooch With BoxVintage Georg Jensen .925 Sterling Silver Coral Flower Cufflinks Cuff Links #23Vintage Dutch 14k Gold Ring With Pink Coral, Must See, No Reserve!Fine Navajo Pueblo Turquoise& Coral Vtg Necklace Old Pawn Sterling Silver BeadsVintage Sterling Silver Jewelry Lot Turquoise Coral Signed Bangle Bracelet Ring Vintage 1920-30's Art Deco "czech" Coral Peking Glass Pearl Gilded NecklaceModern Large Sapphire Cabochon Coral Black Sterling Silver Pendant 19.2 Grams NrVtg Navajo Juan Singer Hand Wrought Sterling Turquoise Coral Cuff Bracelet 82 GmPart Lot. Antique/vintage 7 Necklaces.coral,amber,bakelite,lapis,agate,turquoiseA Good Long Antique Natural Coral Bead Necklace 21" Weighs 23.2 GramsVintage Georg Jensen .925 Sterling Silver And Red Coral Cufflinks Cuff Links #22Vintage Coral Necklace Necklace 2.5-3 Mm 16" 18k Gold Clasp Strong Vtg Navajo Signed Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Lighter Holder Cover │gVintage Starnd Of Red Coral Beads 5-5.5 Mm 16" Long Silver Clasp 16.6 GramsEstate Coral 18k Yellow Gold Small Round Pendant NrElaborate Antique Chinese Coral Gilt Silver RingVintage Old Pawn Turquoise And Coral Bracelet By Raymond Yazzie RyFine Vintage Signed Carolyn Pollack 925 Silver Coral Turquoise Flower EarringsVintage Zuni Effie Calavaza Sterling Silver Turquoise & Coral Snake Bolo Tie |gVintage Peyote Water Bird Squash Blossom Type Necklace Sterling Turquoise CoralFine Genuine Natural Undyed Dark Red Coral Necklace Round Beads Wunderful 42,5cmVintage Old Pawn Southwest Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Rattle Snake Bolo TieEstate Rose Cut Diamond 5.62ct Coral Gold Ring 7.0 Grams NrModern Secondhand 9ct Gold Coral And Real Pearl EarringsRare Large Vintage Effie C. Zuni Signed All Coral Cast Silver Belt Buckle