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    

9ct/ 9k Gold Carved Coral Flower Pendant On Chain, 375Antique Single Row 9ct Gold Coral NecklaceAntique Victorian Natural Coral Brooch And Earring Suite.Vintage Heavy 14k Gold Beautiful 29 X 17mm Red Coral Rose Flower Brooch/pendantAntique Victorian Austro Hungarian Silver Pink Coral Bead Seed Pearl BraceletAntique Victorian Edwardian C 1900 Pink Coral Bead Necklace BraceletVintage Chinese 14k Gold Carved Coral Quan Yin Figurine Pendant 16" NecklaceVintage Heavy 18k Gold .80ct Diamond Lapis Lazuli Opal & Coral Cameo BroochPair Of Victorian Yellow Gold And Coral Brooches96,4 Gr. Red Coral Necklace Round 11 Mm Beads Wunderful Solid Silver ClaspOld Pawn Vintage Signed Navajo Rare Signed Coral Sterling Belt Buckle Fine 9ct / 9k 375 Gold Victorian Carved Coral Chinese Pendant Rare Antique Angel Skin Coral 'memento Mori' Skull Beaded Necklace. Silver ClaspRare Vintage Hattie Carnegie Faux Coral Pearl Rhinestone Buddha Brooch10# Old Rare Antique Silver Yemenite Necklace With Bamboo Coral Beads, JewishGroup Of Coral Jewelry, Earrings, Charms, Branch, BroochCoral Onyx Pearl 9k Gold Long Drop Dangle Earrings 6.4 Grams Nr11# Old Antique Islamic Moroccan Berber Necklace W. Natural Coral Beads JewishVintage Navajo Old Pawn Natural Quality Coral Row Sterling Silver 92.5 BraceletAntique Georgian 9ct Gold Carved Natural Coral Brooch. Circa 1820.Vintage Art Deco 835 Silver Filigree Cannetille Coral 2” Wide Bracelet12# Old Islamic Moroccan Berber Silver Head Ornament Fibula, Tribal, With CoralOld Victorian 14 Kt Gold 8.2 Grams Carved Pink Coral Cameo Filigree Ring Sz 6.5Antique Vintage Pink Angel Skin Coral Beads Necklace Long 30.4gAntique Vintage 1920 Art Deco 10k Gold Angelskin Coral Cameo Filigree Ring! Sz 5Beautiful Old Ring Set With Large Pink Coral - Beautiful Design - Rare - L@@kEstate Diamond Coral Pearl 9k Yellow Gold Pendant 17" Necklace Nr9# Old Islamic Moroccan Berber Silver Head Ornament Fibula Tribal, Natural Coral19 Vintage Navajo Zuni Pueblo Maisel Bell Sterling Turquoise Coral Charms Nr Georgian Carved Coral X 3 Small Cameos For Rings Etc+odd Beads+gold-chain BeadsAntique Vintage C 1920 Deco 10k Gold Carved Chinese Salmon Coral Ring! Sz 5.5Nice Vintage 17 Pc Bracelet Lot Rhinestone Coral Figural Stone Signed & UnsignedVictorian Coral Shell Cameo And 9 Carat Gold BroochAntique Coral 3 RowsAntique Austro-hungarian Red & Salmon Coral Ruby Pearl Silver BraceletNatural Undyed Red Coral Necklace Round Up To 12 Mm Beads With 14 K. Gold ClaspVintage Native American Coral Navajo Squash BlossomVintage Sterling Silver - Navajo Shadow Box Coral Cuff 55g - Bracelet (6")Vintage Navajo Signed Tom Ahasteen Sterling Silver Turquoise & Coral Watch TipsVintage Salmon Pink Coral Necklace With 9ct Push ClaspMagnificent Heavy 14 Kt Yellow Gold 27ct Coral .5ct Diamond Ring Size 7 No Lot#Estate 2.95ctw Natural Coral And Diamond Earrings 14k Solid White GoldVtg Navajo Charlie Singer Sterling Silver Turquoise Coral Wide Cuff Bracelet NrFab Vintage Zuni Sterling Silver Red Branch Coral & Turquoise Cluster Ring Sz 6Vtg Art Deco Egyptian Revival Coral Turquoise Faience Bib Necklace Earrings SetVery Large Chunky Old Antique 9ct Gold Coral Necklace Large Natural Coral BeadsAntique Early Chinese Export Silver Coral Carved Buddha Hinged Panel BraceletAntique Vintage C. 1920 Art Deco 18k Gold Chinese Angelskin Coral Ring! Sz 6.5Vintage Navajo Designer Carma Harvey Sterling Silver & Coral Earrings Vintage Zuni Sterling Turquoise Coral Inlay Bird 1.5" Pendant 18" Chain 21 Grams43,4 Gr. Dark Red Coral Necklace 2 Strand Ca 1900 Top Quality Wonderful Group Of Coral And Gold Shirt Studs - Some With European Touch MarksOutstanding Victorian Coral Beaded BroochVtg Native American Sterling Silver Red "coral Stone" Squash Blossom Necklace Vintage Native American Peyote Bird Squash Blossom Inlay Turquoise And Coral Vintage Chinese Silver Turquoise Coral Tigers Eye Bug Insect Pendant BroochBeautiful Antique Victorian Silver And Coral Love Token Coral Brooch (c10)Antique Victorian Chunky Genuine Branch Coral Gold Brooch C1880'sVintage Heavy Silver Squash Blossom Necklace W. Turquoise & Coral Accents (and)Vintage Art Deco 18k Gold & Natural Salmon Coral Dangle Drop Earrings~italy