SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION: CaCo3, or calcium carbonate in the form of calcite, is the main constituent of calcareous corals; minor constituents are MgCo3, or magnesium carbonate and proteinaceous organic substances, which act as binding agents. At 2.5 to 4, the hardness is slightly higher than that of calcite. The skeletons of corals vary in color: from bright to dark red, slightly orange-red, pink and white.
ENVIRONMENT: In all cases, coral consists of the branching skeletons of animals which live in colonies planted on the seabed at depths varying from tens to hundreds of meters. They are typical of warmish to very warm seas.
OCCURRENCE: The most famous of these organisms is Corallium rubrum, which lives in the waters of the Mediterranean and, despite its name, provides not only red, but orange, pink, and white coral. Similar to this are Corallium elatius, C. japonicum, and C. secundum, which mainly live off the coasts of Japan, China, Indochina, the Philippines, and other archipelagos of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Coral colonies occupy large areas especially in the Pacific, but also near the coast of South Africa, in the Red Sea, and to the east of Australia. These latter colonies, however, consist of madrepore, which has little in common with the corals used as ornaments.
GEMSTONE INFORMATION: Most of the coral used since antiquity as an ornamental material comes from the calcareous skeletons of colonies of marine organisms of the phylum Cnidaria, order Corgonacea, genus Corallium. Corals take a good polish. They also have a certain degree of elasticity and can be heated and bent into bangles. Thin branches were and still are polished, pierced, and threaded, unaltered, into necklaces. Larger pieces are cut into spherical or faceted necklace beads, pear shapes for pendant jewelry, or cabochons. It is also used for carved pieces and small figurines, in both oriental and western art styles. The most highly prized varieties of coral are those that are a uniform, strong bright red.
NAME: The name is derived from the Latin [corallium,] related to the Greek [korallion].
LEGEND and LORE: The oldest known findings of red coral date from the Mesopotamian civilization, i.e. from about 3000 BC. For centuries, this was the coral par excellence, and at the time of Pliny the Elder it was apparently much appreciated in India, even more than in Europe. Red coral has traditionally been used as a protection from the “evil eye” and as a cure for sterility. One of the Greek names for Coral was Gorgeia, from the tradition that blood dripped from the Head of Medea, which Perseus had deposited on some branches near the sea-shore; which blood, becoming hard, was taken by the Sea Nymphs, and planted in the sea.
MAGICAL PROPERTIES: Coral is associated with Venus, Isis and Water. It has been used as a form of protective magic for children for hundreds of years. Cunningham recommends it as a luck-attractor for living areas. Sailors use it as a protection from bad weather while at sea. Red-orange coral is one of the four element gemstones of the Pueblo Indians. It is one of the four colors used for the directions in the Hopi/Zuni Road of Life. Coral is considered a representative of the warm energy of the Sun, and the southern direction.
HEALING: Coral’s healing properties are mostly associated with Women, young children and the elderly. For women it is said to increase fertility and regulate menstruation. For young children, it is recommended to ease teething and to prevent epilepsy. For the elderly, it is used as a cure for arthritis.