Coral Jewelry, Past and Present

Beth GilmoreCustom Jewelry, Gems


Coral Jewelry

Coral is one of the most beautiful naturally occurring substances on our planet. All types of coral have been used in making jewelry for thousands of years and by many cultures worldwide.


Types of Coral

The wide range of corals are found in different areas of the oceans and the location where the coral is grown determines the color and type. Each type of coral creates a unique structure which helps in identifying the different types.

“Precious Noble Coral” is a hard, dense coral that is free of pores and can be polished to a high shine. “ Sponge Coral” is a lighter, porous material that cannot be polished and is more likely to be covered in a lacquer coating to add shine and protection.

The variety of colors, from deep red “Oxblood” to a light pink “Angel Skin,” denim blue, black, lavender, dark purple, white to the very rare varieties like “Tiger Sponge Coral” and “Apple Coral,” make coral a natural choice of materials for jewelry designers to work with.


Coral Formations

Giant coral reefs are built by thousands of tiny organisms called coral polyps. The outside layer of a reef is alive. The coral polyp creates a cup shaped skeleton around itself. The inside layers of a coral reef is composed of calcareous skeletons of dead coral that lived millions of years ago.

Coral reefs grow in warm, shallow sunlit waters because the algae that grows with them needs light for photosynthesis. The reefs help improve the water around them and help to solidify the sea bed for seaweed, seagrass and other marine plants to survive.

Only one percent of the world’s oceans contain coral reefs. They grow slowly and are one of the most important and diverse ecosystems on our planet.


Endangered Coral

Today coral reefs are being threatened by pollution, bacteria, warming waters and fishing practices. Many have been over harvested and are now endangered. There are trade and harvesting regulations that are in place to help protect the future of coral reefs worldwide. Individuals can help in this effort by buying older pieces of coral jewelry and specimens from reputable dealers.


Coral Jewelry, Past and Present

Coral is often used in its natural branch form but it is easy to carve into beads, cameos and ornate flowers. Every period of jewelry from ancient to Victorian, Turn of the Century, Art Nouveau to Art Deco, Mid-Century Modern to Native Americans to Southwestern have many examples of the use of all types and colors of this wonderful natural gem.

We have always loved coral and its significance in the history of jewelry. Some of Gary’s first constructed pieces of jewelry used coral and turquoise in sterling silver. Several years ago we were lucky to come upon a stash of very old Angel Skin and White coral beads and have been using them to create several beautiful and unusual necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

We have multiple size ranges and also some carved beads and tubes. We also have a strand of red Mediterranean branch coral with extremely long, graceful branches and some darker red coral chunk beads that we have mixed with onyx, lapis and turquoise to create a few one of a kind pieces. We are certain of the provenance of the material we are using to create these modern day heirlooms.


Custom Coral Jewelry By Gilmore Family Jewelers

We’d love to show you our custom coral jewelry collection in person. Please schedule a private appointment to view our coral jewelry or any of our collections, or to discuss your custom jewelry project.

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