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 Chinese Silver Enamel Beaded Natural Salmon Coral Dragon BraceletVintage Designer 50.00ct Natural Red Coral 18k Yellow Gold Large Cocktail Ring Vintage Coral Necklace 16" 7.5-8.3 Mm 14k Gold Clasp18k Vintage 16.4mm X 11mm Angel Skin Coral Cocktail Ring Size 8.25Lovely Antique 9ct Gold Coral Drop EarringsA Rare Chinese Cantonese Necklace, Genuine Red Coral W Itricate Canton PendantVictorian Art Nouveau 14kt Yellow Gold Carved Coral Peacock Bird Ring Antique Large Vintage 18k Yellow Gold Coral Ring 27 By 14 Mm 6.7 GramsLot 72 Sterling Silver Turquoise, Coral Vintage Rings Rare Antique Chinese Silver Amulet Lock Natural Samon Red Coral Bead NecklaceAntique Chinese Silver And Large Coral Cabochon RingAntique Victorian Double Strand Natural Genuine Salmon Coral Bead BraceletVintage 9ct Gold Coral & Pearl Ring Size M Us 6 , 3gramsNice Antique Georgian Or Victorian 9 Ct. 9k Gold Carved Coral Drop Bead EarringsGenuine Old Antique Carved Coral Bead Necklace 38 Grams Gold ClaspVintage Signed Zuni Silver Tan Matrix Turquoise Red Coral Cuff Row BraceletStunning Vintage Carved Coral Leaves BroochAntique Coral Bracelet - Italian 'sciacca' Hand CarvedHuge Vtg Lot Zuni Butterfly Ring Sterling Silver Inlay Coral Turquoise Nice53,8 Gr. Very Fine Genuine Natural Undyed Salmon Red Coral Necklace 2 X StrandA Pair Of Antique Coral Earrings, Early 20th CenturyRed Coral Rare Ruond Natural Perfect Antique Pendent Bead Necklace 3.7 GVintage Jade, Carnelian, Coral And Silver Neckalce W/nephrite Jade PendantVintage 14k Coral And Pearl Earring Screw BacksAn Antique Coral Bead Necklace, Late 19th CenturyAntique Victorian Gold Filled Coral Art Glass Dog Tooth Pearl Festoon NecklaceStunning Vintage Salmon Coral Cabochon And Sterling Silver RingAn Antique Pink Coral Pendant With 14k Gold Mounting.Vintage Carved Coral Berries And Leaves BroochAn Antique Coral Bead Bracelet, Early 20th CenturyAntique Victorian Carved Salmon Coral Cameos 14k Gold EarringsAmazing Vintage 2-3/4" Carved Angle Skin Coral Flowers And Bugs Very Cool Pc Antique Single Row Hand Knotted Genuine Coral Necklace 16 InchesVictorian Coral Carved Necklace, Rich Salmon Color, Ex Condition, C.1900Red Coral Necklace Beads .very Antique Natural Color Highe Quality Beads. 196 G An Antique Coral Bead Necklace, Late 19th CenturyAntique Coral 14k Gold Rose Floral Arrangement Large Pin 22.0 Grams NrAn Antique Coral Flower Necklace, Late 19th CenturyOld Pawn 1970s Vintage Navajo Handmade Turquoise Coral Sterling Bic Lighter CaseStunning Vintage Victorian 10k Gold And Coral Drops Festoon NecklaceStunning Victorian Coral BroochVtg Lot Old Pawn Zuni Turtle Ring Lot Inlay Coral Onyx Turquoise NiceLoose Antique Natural Dark Salmon Coral Beads Unusual Dumbbell ShapedAmazing Vintage Navajo ""deep Red Coral"" Silver BraceletAntique Victorian 42" Long Natural Hand Carved Salmon Coral Bead NecklaceVintage 750 18k Gold Carved Coral High Relief Goddess Pendant NecklaceVtg Antique Edwardian Genuine Natural Salmon Pink Coral Grape Drop Earrings14k Solid Yellow Gold Vintage Antique Blood Red Cabochon Coral Hat Stick PinVintage Chinese Export Silver Enamel Filigree Quartz Cabochon Bracelet 58.6 Gr Beautiful Natural Vintage Coral BroochAntique Vintage Natural Undyed Salmon Coral Beads Necklace 59.9gRed Coral Necklace Ruond Bead Pendent .very Antique Natural Color Perfect 3.8grBig Bold Vintage Old Pawn Navajo Turquoise Coral Sterling Men's Ring Sz 10.532,3 Gr Fine Genuine Antique Natural Undyed Salmon Red Coral Necklace Ca. 1880 A Pair Of Antique Coral Earrings, Early 20th CenturyFantastic Vintage Navajo ""stepping Coral Stone"" Silver BraceletHuge Vintage Navajo Coral Silver Ketoh BraceletVintage 14k. Solid Yellow Gold Pink Coral Stud EarringsLot Vintage Chinese Silver Filigree Coral, Turquoise, Green Jade Earrings RingVictorian Coral Pearl Earrings, 14k, C.1900 Sardinian Coral Cabochons, Stunning!