From the bottom of the ocean a gemstone that has been at the height of fashion for thousands of years.
Coral is believed to be one of the oldest forms of gemstone jewellery, with some pieces dating back as far as 23,000BC.
Found in many different colours, throughout history each variant signified different metaphysical properties: for instance, Black Coral is said to guard against misfortune, while Pink Coral is said to bring good health.
The Romans believed that Coral had magical and medicinal properties and many Roman children would wear Coral around their neck to protect them from danger.
Victorian babies born into wealthy families were given Coral teething rings.
Black Coral is the rarest colour, and when polished it shines with such a radiant lustre that you can almost see your own reflection.
There are several thoughts of where the word Coral originated: the ICA (International Coloured Gemstone Association) website says, “that it comes from the Greek ‘korallion’, which denotes the hard, calcareous skeleton of the coral animals, or from ‘kura-halos’, for ‘mermaid’, as the fine branches of the coral sometimes look like small figures, others think it more likely that the word is derived from the Hebrew ‘goral’, (a small stone used in the drawing of lots), for coral branches used to be used in oracles in Palestine, Asia Minor and around the Mediterranean”.
It is important to realise that the Coral used in jewellery does not come from the beautiful and protected coral reefs in the Southern Ocean or near the Australian coast line. Coral used in jewellery is actually a bland matt colour until it is polished and treated and whilst in the past they use to be harvested by trawlers who would dredge the bottom of the sea with big nets, causing untold damage to the environment, today most coral is extracted by divers.
Essentially, Coral is calcified skeletons of sea creatures that grow in tree-like formations. Most Coral used for the production of jewellery is from the Mediterranean Sea or from the Pacific Ocean near Japan and Taiwan.
Pink Coral is a very dense and hard gemstone. Its colour runs through the entire pink spectrum, from almost white to a deep salmon shade. ‘Coral’ is also used as a colour, describing pinky orange hues.
Red Coral has a history pre-dating Rome, and has been highly regarded since early civilizations for its colour, lustre and texture. Red Coral and Pink Coral are usually from the coasts of France, Italy, Africa and Japan (which also has White Coral).
Golden Coral is found off the coast of Hawaii and the West Indies. Other locations for Coral include: The Red Sea, Algeria, Tunisia and Malaysia.
Sponge Coral is quite a popular form of Coral used for beaded jewellery. It is often dyed and is very porous in comparison to other forms of Coral.
As with many gemstones that are of an organic nature, Coral jewellery needs to be handled with a little more care than normal. To maintain its beauty, it is important to realize that as gems go, Coral is fairly soft, so try to avoid wearing it along side harder pieces of jewellery. It’s also porous, so if you spray your perfume on it there is a chance it might be absorbed, causing discolouration to the gem.