Coral is the skeletal remains of a marine animal, the polyp corallum, and is mainly composed of calcium carbonate. The most valuable type of coral is the noble red, Corallicum rubrum. Since Corals are calcified skeletons of sea creatures, they grow in formations resembling the branches of a tree. Most coral used for the jewelry comes from the Mediterranean Sea or from the Pacific Ocean near Japan and Taiwan. Precious gem corals are formed deep undersea. A distinctive feature of the precious corals is that they take a perfect polish. In their natural state, corals have a tree-like appearance, which allows the maximum number of polyps to be fed by nutrients in the water surrounding the colony.
The colour of coral ranges from white to red. It grows in branches that look like underwater trees. Beautiful coral jewelry is made and worn in many parts of the world. Coral in the form of coral stone and gold jewelry is among the most ancient of gem materials; coral jewelry has been made in many parts of the world and used for adornment since prehistoric times. Coral inlays and coral jewelry have been found from the Iron Age. Coral has a history of religious significance.
Located at a depth of between three and three hundred meters coral can be found along the shores of the western Mediterranean, Japan, Hawaii, Australia, Bay of Biscay, Canary Islands, and Malaysian Archipelago.
Tibetan Lamas use coral rosaries. It is one of the seven treasures mentioned in the Buddhist scriptures, coral jewelry like coral bangles, coral necklaces, coral rings, worn against the skin, touching it, was long thought to be a powerful talisman that could stop bleeding, protect from evil spirits, and ward of hurricanes.
The traditional center for the fashioning of coral is Torre del Greco, near Naples. It was Napoleon’s Italian campaign, with its associated taste for all things Italian that heralded the fashion for carved coral jewelry. The rose pink variety became at this time the most sought after.
During the 1860’s coral beads and ovoids were set into gold brooches, much like turquoise had been. In the 1870s coral was combined in bloomed gold brooches with diamonds and emeralds.
Corals are delicate gems and should be taken proper care of. To clean Coral jewelry, wipe it gently with a moist soft cloth, as Coral is much softer than other gem materials with a hardness of only 3.5. As a result, it should be stored carefully to avoid scratches. Coral is also porous so care should be taken to see that coral jewelry does not come in contact with any chemicals.
Precious coral jewelry is the oldest form of gemstone jewelry with pieces as old as 25,000 years in museums. It predates the later use of pearls. Each coral gemstone color has its own distinct quality. Black coral is exotic and dramatic and has long been considered to guard against misfortune. Pink coral is delicate and is said to bring good health. Red coral is best described as rich and romantic and can never go out of fashion.