The fashion industry chooses every year the ‘color of the year’ and this year ‘coral’ is the happy color. You might wonder ‘how on earth can you choose the color of the year’ and what are the criteria? Are there a few old men who have nothing to do with choosing a certain color from a color chart and they choose coral because it looks so lovely on the wife? Maybe, this was the case ages ago, but nowadays there is an idea behind ‘the color of the year’.
And this brings us to the value of the coral. Not only the value in money, because this gem cost a fortune. But also the ecological value of the material. This gem builds complete islands, breaks the sea waves, grows, and is protecting Australia, and a lot of sea life depends on this material.
This blog post is not only about coral as the color of the year, but also about how to protect this gem, necessary to save the earth ánd the coral.
The color coral
The color of the coral is pinkish to orange-red. It is a color that can be matched easily with other colors. It can be worn as a single statement piece of jewelry or as a great accent to other colors. And it goes great with (precious) metals, like silver, gold, and bronze.
And the great advantage is that this color has warm hues so the fashion industry is happy with this choice as a color of the year too.
Eco and nature are the trends
Choosing a color or a theme for next year’s fashion shows or jewelry exhibitions is a serious thing. A committee looks for trending themes, subjects that people talk about and which are ‘hot’, and the reactions to the last ‘colors of the year’.
One topic that is very trending in nature, is the climate, and biological food. Everyone has an opinion on those subjects and it’s everybody’s business. So the choice for a natural color that represents a living creature, like color, is not surprising.
What is this material?
Coral is of organic origin and formed by living organisms. Those organisms not only form beautiful shapes and structures but have also beautiful colors. When the organism dies it forms a kind of skeleton and jewelers use this material as a ‘gemstone’.
The coral skeleton of the red branches is usually red, and matte. Most of the time the matte coral will be polished to a glassy shine coral surface.
Most of the coral has a white color. But nature creates also pinkish, reddish, and orange ones. And especially that pinkish to orange-reddish color is very popular.
Coral jewelry was very popular since they started in Ancient Times to harvest this precious material. We know that since archeologists have found coral jewelry in Egyptian graves, dated in the Pharaoh Time and also in prehistoric European graves.
In the Victorian Age, this red gem was very popular too, and actually, you hardly can find a time that its popularity went down.
Coral is a soft material. It has a hardness of 3.5 on the scale of Moh. Due to this softness, it is easy to work with, but also to damage. So the jewelry designers cut the coral pieces in a cabochon shape (round top with a flat back, no facets) or they make beads with it.
For what it is worth: the origin of this red gem can be found in a Greek mythological story of Perseus. Perseus wanted to defeat the Gorgon Medusa and cut her snake-haired head off. He put Medusa’s head in a magical bag and returned to his home in North Africa.
On the way, he heard the crying of princess Andromeda from Ethiopia, who was tied up as a sacrifice to a sea monster. He could not let this Princess down and also slayed this monster.
Tired from all these exercises he wanted to have a rest on the shores of the Red Sea. He put the magical bag with Medusa’s head down near the water. The blood of Medusa run into the seawater and turned the rather soft and green seaweed into hard red coral, which got the shape of its snake-haired ‘mother’.
The season is also important
Besides the trendy topics in society choosing the color of the year is also about the season, where the items like fashion and jewelry are used. The color coral is a great color for the spring season when the flowers start blooming. But on a summer dress or top, this color looks great too. And even the ‘normal’ autumn and winter match great with this color.
Wearing a piece of jewelry that has the color ‘coral’ is generally accepted. But wearing a coral necklace or earrings is something different according to a lot of people I know. I worked in Yemen in the 1990s and I received quite a lot of necklaces made of this gem from people that liked me. And also in Egypt, Tibet, and Spain, I bought quite a few old beads of this beautiful gem in the 1980s. But to be honest, nowadays I feel awkward when I see coral jewelry for sale, knowing what happens when it is harvested the wrong way.
In the ages, before the first millennium, the red gem was used as a gift or as a local trade item. After this period an important trade in this material was operating between India and the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Indian people paid high prices for this exclusive gem that was believed to be gifted with sacred properties.
Europe started some coral fisheries just off the African coast in the Middle Ages. Many fights were fought to keep the ownership of those fisheries.
Not only in India people believed in the sacred properties of this red material. Also, the Romans believed in this power. Roman children wore coral branches as a necklace to protect them from danger.
Or they used it in a pulverized shape to enlarge someone’s potency. This type of medicine was available from the Roman Time until the Middle Ages and even in Italy not more than one century ago it was used as a protection from the evil eye. Or by women as a way to cure infertility.
A few years back we visited Sardinia/Italy and this wonderful island in the Mediterranean Sea is famous for its ‘red gold’. But I was not interested in buying because of ecological reasons. One day we were sitting on a terrace and got acquainted with a nice civil servant and we started talking. The subject of coral came up and he told us that the government has a great program for protecting the gem.
Sardinia employs quite a few people to protect the banks made of this material. But Sardinia is a poor island and on certain days per month, the people that protect the coral may harvest a certain amount (very little). That material is sold in a few shops on the island and only those shops are allowed to sell it.
The high-quality gem may cost about €1000 per gram. The material is light but still, a coral necklace is very expensive. That civil servant asked us to buy some of it if we could afford it. It pays for the protection of the banks and in this way not only these gems are protected, but also the people have some income out of this material. The necklace above is made of Sardinian coral branches.
You don’t expect coral in Tibet. That country is far away from the sea. A few ages back Tibet was much larger than now. It occupied a greater part of China and the people were wealthy. They also had a large trade system, that provided them with coral, but also pearls. The Tibetan women wear large head decorations full of coral, pearls, and turquoise. This head decoration is passed from mother to daughter and the red beads used are very old.
Nowadays Tibet is very poor and cannot afford to buy it, now they sell their old coral. When I was in Tibet as a tour leader in the 1980s I helped some people out and as a present, they gave me the coral that is used in this ‘Tibetan’ necklace. Old copies!
So please be careful when you buy coral and always ask where it comes from and how it is harvested. Harvesting with a trawl net will damage and destroy the banks. And when the seller cannot say how it is harvested and where it comes from: don’t buy it!
More information in the gemstone color chart
I can imagine that you get a bit confused with all that color talk. And there are more gemstones that occur in the color of the year. Maybe you are looking for this color but then just a hue darker or lighter or a different shade?
FlorenceJewelshop designed a gemstone color chart, especially for you. You can find all the colors and gemstones that match these colors. And some information about the gemstones. It’s free, so go for the chart. Just let me know to whom I can send it.
Hug, Florence from FlorenceJewelshop.