Since Paleolithic man roamed the earth he has been adorning himself with treasures from the earth and the sea. Mother Nature has produced some incredible organic gemstones with the help of plants and animals that have been easy for man to find before the advent of mining techniques. Ancient trees oozed the sap that became the solidified resin we call amber. Millions of polyp bearing marine animals living in colonies created the gemstone we know as coral. Ancient man admired the value of these earthy treasures and used them as currency and items of adornment.
When we think of coral the famous red coral from the Mediterranean Sea is what springs to mind. It's scientific name is Corallium Rubrum, and this form of precious coral is derived from the solid calcitic axis and branches of several species of corallium coral. About twenty-five species of the corallium coral have been identified and was harvested from sunlit protected reefs in the relatively shallow waters off the coasts of Italy, Sardinia, southern France and Spain and Africa (Mediterranean Sea). The corals are very slow growing and the polyps live on the exterior of the endoskeleton of the rigid coral branches. The branches themselves are very delicate and fan-like or bush shaped. Their distinctive reddish through to salmon or pink colour is courtesy of a carentoid pigment. The corals can live up to 75 years and can reach heights of one metre.
The most prized precious corals are deep blood reds and pinks. Corallium corals have few pin point holes on polished external surfaces except where the central canal of the branch was located. The main identifying feature of precious coral are longitudinal striations which run horizontally across the piece. Paler corals are dyed to enhance colour so the gemmologist must be vigilant in detecting evidence of dye.
Precious coral is very rare and is now farmed selectively by SCUBA divers at depths of around 90-100m. The corals used to be harvested from small boats with wooden dredges however this style of fishing was too destructive and was banned in the 1980s. The Mediterranean coral fishing is now managed locally and harvests are now steadily on the increase which is good news after the devastating fishing techniques from before the 1980's.
At BUNDA we venerate precious coral due to its rarity, beauty and the fact that it's taken so long for the polyps to create the branches. It's an inspiration for fantastic design and it's rich red colour marries so well with gold, platinum, diamonds and pearls. We hope that you come to love this treasure of the sea as much as we do.