Coral Jewelry - History & Usage of Coral in Jewelry

Coral Jewelry Guide

The pairing of red coral with blue turquoise is among the most beautiful contrasting gem combinations in the jewelry world, though coral can certainly carry jewelry pieces on its own. Coral is a very common accompaniment gem in turquoise jewelry, and its different hues of red can dramatically highlight the green and blue tones of turquoise. Pacific coral, sponge coral, bamboo coral, and apple coral jewelry pieces show off a stunning range of red, orange and pink stones, and combine well with turquoise to achieve a timeless and fashion-forward color combination.

Coral Jewelry in History

Civilizations throughout time located near shallow waters or those with established trade routes have utilized coral in their jewelry. In ancient times coral jewelry was particularly prized for its believed supernatural benefits, including as a ward against accidents and a protective amulet against magic. Coral is also a symbol for the Life Force Energy, and is believed to help bring harmony to your heart. Coral is a soft gem, making it easy to shape and work with, attributes that allowed prehistoric peoples to utilize it for personal ornamentation in various forms of jewelry. The use of coral in early jewelry evolved from mere adornment to charms with talisman properties. Coral jewelry was worn often as a talisman to ward off evil spirits, witchcraft, and the devil. Coral is also attributed with providing vitality, physical strength, strengthened marital relationships, wealth, increased sensuality, and provided protection while out to sea. Ancient peoples also used coral for medicinal purposes to treat ailments of the blood and head, and to strengthen the immune system by supporting the lymph nodes.

Coral in Nature

Coral grows and is found in salt water depths from 25 to 1000 feet. Increased demand for coral has led to the near depletion of shallow-water occurring coral. Though coral found in shallow waters sees more harvesting, that which occurs in deeper water is of better color and quality. The most desired specimens of the Mediterranean Sea and Sea of Japan are among the nearly depleted supplies. It naturally occurs in many colors including white, black, blue, lavender, pink, and many shades of red. While each color has been used in jewelry, it is red coral (Corallium rubrum and Corallium japonicum) that has flourished aesthetically in jewelry and charms. Because the demand outweighs the supply, jewelers have resorted to alternatives; namely dyed sea bamboo coral (Keratoisis profunda) and sponge coral (Eunicella verrucosa).

Coral Types Used in Jewelry

Bamboo and sponge coral are more readily available and lessen not only the stress on the dwindling red coral supply, but also the cost of materials. The majority of coral jewelry on the market today is bamboo or sponge coral that provide the attractive look of coral without the heavy price. These are attractive substitutions, but there are some notable differences between them and red coral. Sponge coral is very porous and is known to have brown patches. It can be stabilized to have a smooth surface, but brown swirls can still be visible. Bamboo coral is smoother than sponge coral, but occurs white in nature. It is dyed to achieve the red color. Poor quality bamboo coral jewelry can lack uniform color, and may appear streaky. Also visible can be black spots a natural occurrence in bamboo coral. The use of bamboo or sponge coral in jewelry is widely accepted, though it is important the coral be labeled as such.