The Tibetans believed it was a healing stone, the ancient Chinese viewed it as a symbol of longevity and the Victorians were convinced that it warded off evil spirits. But why is coral so very precious? Elmwood’s Daisy Raichura, traces the journey of a legendary gemstone
The use of coral as a gemstone is an ancient practice dating back some 25,000 years. Coral distinguishes itself as a superior stone due to its organic qualities and complexity of composition.
Principally, coral is composed of a mass of skeletons of tiny marine invertebrates that lived on ocean beds, but it is ‘precious’ or ‘deep water’ coral that attracts the interest of jewellers and mystics alike.
The ancient Chinese viewed coral as a symbol of longevity and official promotion. Pliny, the Roman philosopher and author, noted how coral was used to quiet tempests and ensure that the wearer would never be struck by lightning. The Tibetans believed that deep red coral was a healing stone. Evolution of these mythologies have led the more modern belief that coral represents passion, attraction and prosperity.
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Pictured above: A coral and diamond bracelet in 18ct yellow and white gold (auction estimate: £8,000-£12,000) and a pair of coral and diamond Rose de Noël clip earrings in 18ct yellow gold, in the manner of Van Cleef & Arpels Rose de Noël (auction estimate: £3,000-£5,000). Both are up for auction at Elmwood’s next fine jewellery auction on 1 July
For Europeans, coral has been known as haute joaillerie (the finest jewellery), as it can be sculpted into various forms, engravings and cameos; rounded or squared into beads, loops and chains; and smoothed into cabochons. Wearable, comfortable, and so perfectly understated.
Not only is it incredibly difficult to harvest, thanks to its deep ocean habitat and incredibly slow growth rate of around a millimetre a year, the legendary properties of coral, together with environmental concerns surrounding over-fishing that led many modern jewellers to stop selling coral, make it an incredibly precious gemstone.
All of this helps to explain why vintage coral jewellery is in such high demand, especially pieces produced during the 1940s, 50s and 60.
But although such pieces have become harder to find, London-based online auctioneers Elmwood’s will be featuring some beautifully crafted coral and diamond pieces in its next auction, which takes place on Wednesday 1 July 2020 at 2pm.
Find out more at elmwoods.co.uk
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