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The History of Coral Jewelry

The History of Coral Jewelry

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The History of Coral Jewelry

There is nothing like a day at the beach. The salty ocean air, warm sand, sunshine, and glittering waves are beloved by so many. One of the reasons coral jewelry is so beloved is because it evokes these lovely images of the beach. The colorful invertebrates are frequently used in a variety of jewelry and are more popular than ever.

What Is Coral?

Coral is known as an organic gemstone because it is made up of living matter, like plants and animals, and not minerals like other gemstones. It is made of soft-bodied, microscopic organisms known as coral polyps. Coral polyps are closely related to anemones and jellyfish. 

A reef first starts to grow when a coral polyp attaches itself to a rock on the ocean floor. The polyp then buds, creating thousands of clones over time. As the polyps die, they become a part of the structure of the reef. Each new generation of polyps continues the cycle, growing the reef. 

Coral comes in a variety of colors, ranging from bright orange-pink and crimson, to black, white, and blue. 

History of Coral Jewelry

Wearing coral as jewelry is an ancient practice. One of the first instances of coral jewelry being written about comes from one of the earliest encyclopedias, the Naturalis Historia from 77 AD. 

The Ancient Greeks believed that coral came from mythological origins, believing that it had been caused when Perseus defeated the gorgon Medusa. 

For a long time, people believed that the red gemstone could ward off any danger, while some used it for medicinal purposes. As a gem, coral was used as ornamentation in swords, shields, and helmets. Across cultures, coral was used to design intricate pieces of art in jewelry. Pieces were polished and carved into shapes and scenes alongside other beautiful and rare gemstones. 

During the early 20th century, coral was a popular choice for pieces of Art Deco-style jewelry. The brilliant hues matched the geometric shapes they were cut into. The stone remained popular through the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s. 

Controversial Gem

Today the world’s coral reefs are under threat. Climate change, pollution, and overharvesting have led to multiple species of coral being declared endangered. The popularity of the stone hasn’t waned much, despite these dire circumstances, leading it to become a more controversial stone.

There are some jewelers who still use newly harvested coral in their designs, but there are many who have gone a different route. These designers are instead repurposing vintage pieces of coral jewelry to create something new and unique. Many coral jewelry fans are also opting to purchase vintage pieces to get their coral fix. 

Are you considering selling your jewelry? Ralph Mueller and Associates has been servicing the Sun Valley since 1983. To learn how we can help contact us at (480) 949-9299.