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Coral is an organic gemstone which is cut from a mass of skeletons, secreted by polyps as a calcareous habitat. These corals usually grow at a depth of no more than about 50 feet (15 to 20 meters) in tropical to sub-tropical waters in a belt between 30 degrees above and below the equator. It comes in a wide variety of colors which are caused by both the water temperature, the food and the level of pollution. The highest valued corals are those with a dark red (ox blood) or pinkish (peau d’ange) color. Corals are usually cut as beads or en cabochon. The larger the stones and the more even the color distribution, the higher the price will be. Cameos and sculptures were also carved from this gem. There is an emphasis on were, as most coral reefs are now, rightfully, protected globally due to their invaluable ecological role. Much like the trade in ivory, the trade in old coral is still acceptable and many coral artifacts are of historic value.

French Coral Demi-Parure.

Many cultures have used coral as adornments or for medicinal purposes. Especially the Mediterranean countries as Italy, Morocco, Corsica, Algiers as well as northern European countries used them as talismans and in folklore jewelry. In ancient Rome, coral pendants were hung on the necks of infants to warrant them from danger and sickness and when worn on the neck of a woman it could protect against infertility. Other credits given to this gemstone were described by Pliny the Elder and involved the protection against being struck by lightning as well as to still temptresses.

In Chinese cultures, coral was credited with prolonging life expectancy, while in ancient Greece coral was attributed with the ability to counteract evil spells, storms, poisons, and robbery. The Navajo Indians considered coral as one of the 18 sacred objects and many Native American objects are decorated with this gem.

Pair of Art Deco Coral Earrings.

Art Deco Coral Diamond Ring.

Red is the color of passion and red coral is a symbol of love and prosperity. It induces creativity, optimism, and inner peace. In a metaphysical sense, it is used for healing with the concentration on the circulatory system.

The Italian town Torre del Greco at the foot of Mount Vesuvius – the volcano that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum – has for centuries been the main center of coral trade and coral cutting.

18th Century Italian Coral Colors

Pelle d’Angelo, Rosa Pallido, Rosa VivoPink
Rosso, Rosso Scuro, ArciscuroRed

Gemological Information for Coral

Color:Red, Orange, Pink, Peach, Black, Brown, Gold
Crystal Structure:Amorphous (organic)
Refractive Index:1.48-1.56
Durability:Soft and Fragile
Similar Stones:Coral may be Mimicked by Glass, Plastics and Ceramics
Country of Origin:Generally Between 30 Degrees Below and Above the Equator, Tropical to Sub-Tropical Waters

Coral Care

Ultrasonic Cleaning:Not Safe
Steam Cleaning:Not Safe
Warm Soapy Water:Not Safe, Use a Damp Cloth
Chemical Attack:Not Safe
Light Sensitivity:Sensitive
Heat Sensitivity:Not Safe

Gems & Gemology: The Quarterly Journal of the Gemological Institute of America


  • Spring 1950, Coral, the Forgotten Gem, by Copeland, p. 282, 6pp.
  • Fall 1959, Black Coral of Hawaii, p. 337, 1p.
  • Fall 1960, Black Coral of Hawaii, p. 72, 3pp.
  • Summer 1962, A White Coral Substitute, p. 304, 2pp.
  • Spring 1967, Black Coral Characteristics, p. 146, 1p.
  • Fall 1967, Dyed Angel-Skin Coral, p. 209, 1p.
  • Summer 1973, A Partly Silicified Coral, p. 182, 2pp.
  • Fall 1973, Hawaiian Black Coral, by Webster, p. 196, 3pp.
  • Fall 1973, Silicified Coral, p. 206, 2pp.
  • Fall 1973, Lapidary of Black Hawaiian Coral, p. 232, 1p.
  • Winter 1974, Blue Coral, p. 369, 2pp.
  • Winter 1974, Hawaiian Black Coral, but with a Golden Sheen, p. 369, 3pp.
  • Summer 1979, An Examination of the New Gilson “Coral,” by K. Nassau, p. 179, 7pp.
  • Winter 1979, Gold Corals – Some Thoughts on Their Discrimination, by Grahame Brown, p. 240, 5pp.