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 Jewel History blog have been treated to her weekly (someti… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Lovely Antique Chinese Coral,14k Gold,jade & Seed Black Coral Tassel NecklaceBeautiful Vintage Estate 18k Yellow Gold, Diamond & Red Aka Coral Cabochon RingVintage Art Deco Graduated Natural 15mm Pink Angel Skin Coral Bead Necklace 55gVintage Heavy Jumbo 18k Gold Coral/ruby/jade/opal 2-sided Asian Scene PendantRare Antique Victorian Carved Coral Gold Brooch-3.5gVintage 18k Solid Yellow Gold Red Coral Earrings No ReserveEstate Italian Coral 18k Yellow Gold Bangle Bracelet 20.7 Grams Nr18ct/ 18k Gold Natural Coral Earrings, 750Vtg Old Navajo Pawn Sterling Silver Turquoise Red Coral Winged Kachina Bolo Tie Vintage Chinese Export Large 10mm Pink Salmon Coral Bead Matinee Necklace 98gJumbo Vintage 14k Gold Pink Coral Carved Rose Flower Cocktail Ring Size 5.25Vintage 14k Yellow Gold 0.24ct Diamond & Coral Bangle Bracelet - 13.37 GramsVintage Diamond 6.24ct Coral 9k Yellow Gold Filigree Ring NrAntique Vintage Deco 14k Gold Chinese High Relief Carved Salmon Coral Pendant!Vintage Retro Angel Skin Coral 18k Yellow Gold Pendant 20.3 Grams NrVintage Chinese Graduated Pink Salmon Coral Bead Cluster Necklace Earrings SetVintage 1960s 18k Gold 42 X 19.7mm Carved Pink Coral Bird Of Paradise PendantDiamond Onyx Coral 9k Yellow Gold Dangle Earrings 8.7 Grams NrVtg Mexico Hob Sterling Silver Red Coral Deco-mod Panel Link Bracelet 62 GramsAntique Vintage Nouveau 14k Gold Angelskin Coral Diamond Flower Design Ring S 5**estate 18k Yellow Gold Coral Necklace Beaded 4.9-7.9mm 26.1 Grams 19.5" Long Vintage 18k Solid Yellow Gold Portrait Carved Coral Cameo Pin No ReserveCoral Seed Pearl 9k Yellow Gold Pendant Nr84,8 Gr. Vintage Angel Skin Coral Necklace China Silver Clasp Wonderful QualityAntique Vintage Victorian 14k Gold Salmon Coral Grape Cluster Chased Earrings!Antique Gold Plated Clasp Natural Red Coral Beads Necklace Chinese Old Heavy -43Vintage Navajo Inlay Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Fine Inlaid Belt Buckle NrOld Vtg Navajo Bear Claw Feather Turquoise Coral Silver PendantVictorian Era Salmon Pink Coral Dangle Drop PendantAntique Vintage Georgian 18k Gold Seed Pearl Salmon Coral Wedding Pin Brooch!Vintage Heuer Black Coral Swiss Professional 1000 Diver 200 Metres Estate Coral 9k Yellow Gold Pineapple Charm Link Bracelet NrVictorian 14k Solid Yellow Gold Carved Coral Rose Pearl Dangle Lavaliere PendantVintage Antique Czech Max Neiger Chinese Coral Glass Enamel Brooch Pin GablonzAntique Vintage Victorian 14k Gold Salmon Coral Button Etruscan Estate Earrings!**estate 14k Yellow Gold Fresh Water Pearl Coral Earrings 1" 2.5 Grams Vintage Old Art Deco Czech Molded Coral Flower Glass Enamel Silver Link BraceletAntique Victorian Brooch Pin Coral Pink Graduated Beads Lucky Horseshoe T186Vintage Carved 800 Fine Silver Genuine Salmon Red Coral Corno Amulet PendantVintage Santo Domingo Old Pawn Bisbee Turquoise Coral Heishi Bead Necklace 76gAmazing 14k Yellow Gold Antique Carved Coral Drop Earrings 15.4 Grams 3" Long Vintage Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Ella Cowboy Men's Ring Turquoise Coral Sz 12Antique Rare Navajo Bench Bead Sterling Silver Bold Turquoise Coral Necklace NrAntique Vintage Art Nouveau 18k Gold Carved Salmon Coral Seed Pearl Earrings!Vintage Native American-mens Sterling Silver-turquoise & Coral Watch Band**estate 14k Yellow Gold 6 Strand Pearl Coral Necklace 78.5 Grams 20" Long Vintage Sterling Silver - Bezel-set Coral Trees Landscape 14.8g - Pendant BroochRare Hand Carved White Coral Cameo Vintage Brooch Pin Hi Relief Gold Plated T156Vintage Navajo Sterling Silver Huge Feather Turquoise And Coral Size 5 Ring**estate 14k Yellow Gold Diamond Coral Ring 4.7 Grams 11x6mm Size 9.25Big Vintage Native American Navajo Sterling Turquoise & Coral Cuff BraceletVtg 10k Yellow Gold Pink Coral Rose White Keshi Cultured Pearl Pendant 4.6g25# Old Antique Yemeni Necklace With Old Natural Coral Beads And Silver BeadsVintage Chinese Silver Gilt Filigree Flower Brooch, Coral, Jade, Carnelian, OnyxVintage Navajo Southwest Turquoise/coral Sterling Silver Rings Lot Of 12Vintage Sterling Silver, Coral & Turquoise Native American Belt Buckle - Signed!**estate Carved Coral Gold Filled Necklace Beaded 4-6mm 23.5 Grams 23" Long Antique Victorian 9ct Gold Stunning Coral Set Ladies EarringsVintage Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Onyx Southwestern Earring Estate LotOld Pawn Vtg Navajo Turquoise Coral Silver Wide Cuff Watch Bracelet Mens