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Protection of the seas

Can jewelry with coral be worn without a bad conscience?


Copyright: Aldo Ferrucci 

The harvesting of corals is strictly regulated. The control bodies are different depending on the place of discovery:

Pacific Corals

The mining and trade of coral species from the Pacific region is regulated and monitored by CITES. The "Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora" is a worldwide association for the protection of endangered animal and plant species.

Mediterranean corals

The mining is strictly regulated by the agency "General Fisheries Commission for the

Mediterranean", a sub-organization of the "Food and Agriculture Organization of the United

Nations". Due to the strictly controlled regulations, Mediterranean corals are not threatened

with extinction.

Reef and precious corals

The coral occurrences are diverse. They are found at depths ranging from a few meters to little less than 1'000 meters. Typical localities are the coastal regions of the Pacific Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the northeast of Japan and the Midway Islands.

The well over 1000 known species of corals must basically be divided into two main categories:

  • The reef corals

  • The precious corals

The reef corals are colony-forming cnidarians. As the name suggests, they are responsible for the formation and persistence of coral reefs. They live in shallow water, are soft and fragile, serve as a dwelling for small fish. Unfortunately, this category of corals is endangered in its continued existence due to pollution and warming of the oceans. But reef corals are useless for jewelry making due to their low hardness, delicate branching and monotonous coloration.

A piece of jewelry with processed coral never consists of this endangered species.

The precious corals are stony corals. They form calcium carbonate skeletons by intercalation inside their amoeboid colonies, which can grow into large and hard branch-like formations. The branches can reach a thickness of up to 15 cm in diameter and a height of 150 cm.

Their habitat is mainly at depths of 200 to over 1'000 meters. At the ends of the branches are often colorful polyps, which give the impression that the coral stick is a plant blooming under water.

After an indeterminate time, the calcium carbonate skeletons are abandoned by the amoeba colonies and subsequently decay again - the perfect time for harvesting.

It takes at least 10 years for the settlement of an amoeba colony to produce a skeleton strong enough to be considered for harvesting.

The noble coral is not threatened in its continuance and develops, strictly observed and controlled, as in the last decades equally well.

Species used for jewelry making and their names

Coral jewelry consists exclusively of precious coral, which is not endangered in its continued existence.

In Europe, Mediterranean coral, also known as Sardinian coral, is the only species mined for jewelry. Its scientific name is Corallium rubrum; the coloration ranges from very dark red, to orange, to lighter shades of red, never white or light pink.

The skeleton of Corallium rubrum is colored throughout and has no white vein in its core; i.e., white dots or lines can never appear during grinding.


All other coral species can be grouped under the name Pacific coral. They are also called Momo corals in the trade. The coloration of this species is very diverse, from white and rosé to orange and deep red tones. Inside these coral skeletons a white core is always formed - a good and sure characteristic to distinguish them from Mediterranean corals.


In trade it is necessary to distinguish four approved varieties:

  • Corallium elatius (red-orange)

  • Corallium secundum (orange-pink, light rosé)

  • Corallium konojoy (white, possibly red dots)

  • Corallium japonicum (dark red, very strong luster, the noblest and most precious species).


There are countless other (color) names, which can be assigned to one of these varieties, such as "Angel Skin", "Bouke", "AKA", "Moro" or "Midway".

All corals that have other colors, such as black, blue, or gold tones, are protected species and are not allowed to be harvested and traded for jewelry purposes.

A great tradition

Coral has been made into jewelry for around 9'500 years. The oldest piece of coral jewelry was found in the Stone Age city of Çatalhöyük in what is now Turkey; this find is dated around 7'500 BC.

In ancient Egypt, coral jewelry was common as a burial gift to protect the dead.

If you believe the Greek mythology, corals were created from the blood that escaped from the head of Gorgo after it was cut off by Perseus.

Fibulae, helmets, bracelets and horse harnesses decorated with coral were also found in the tombs of the La Tène period (400 - 58 BC).

The Romans traded heavily in coral with the countries of the Near East. They were used both as a component of remedies and for amulets. They were supposed to take diseases off the body or protect against the "evil eye".

Marco Polo reported that the Tibetans used precious coral as currency in the 13th century.

In the Middle Ages, figures of saints were often carved from coral. However, coral jewelrybecame widespread in Europe only in the 15th century.

Until the 19th century, people used powdered coral against all kinds of diseases.


Due to their location in the depths of the sea, corals are sometimes regarded as religious lucky charms. In Buddhism, coral is one of the "seven treasures". It stands in a row with gold, silver, lapis lazuli, amber, agate and shells.

It is said that coral gives luck, wisdom, healing power and protection from the devil. Widespread is also the use of coral in religious ceremonies, for example, monks in Tibet use coral prayer chains. In the European Middle Ages, coral was used as a talisman against witchcraft.

Since ancient times, coral has been known as a healing stone and a very special protective stone. Even today, small children are given coral necklaces and bracelets to protect them from all evil and negative energy. It is also said that coral gives new energy, joy and vitality and strengthens friendship, partnership and love. It is said to act on both the crown chakra and the root chakra, e.g. during meditations corals give new energy and dissolve blockages.

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