Man came across coral in ancient times, since then he has
always been fascinated by it, maybe because of its color, as red as blood and a symbol of life and a form protection
against death. Its mythical origins are narrated in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. He
tells that Perseus, after cutting off
Medusa’s head, puts it on some water twigs, which once absorbed the red
blood, got hard. In fact, once in the air, the coral hardens, although before it was alive and sinuous.
Its rarity and its ambiguous nature have contributed to increase its value. What is coral indeed? A flower blossomed from the water, a precious mineral or something alive? Over the centuries, coral has been linked to each natural kingdom: animal, mineral and plant. Yet,scientists, men of culture and naturalists have been unable to determine its soul so far.
Coral is a hard substance that forms in the sea from the skeletons of some octocorals anthozoan coelenterates, belonging to the order of gorgonari. Coral grows in relatively hot and non-polluted waters, at average depth, even if these are not the only natural conditions for its life. This very particular sea animal has inhabited seabeds and oceans since life had not spred on the mainland yet. Typically coral lives in colonies which look like tree-shaped limestone .The particular “aspect” in which it grows has reinforced the belief of its link with life and its magical value for many peoples. There are different varieties of coral, some coming from from the Mediterranean, as well as the ones coming from oriental seas.
Let's see some:
Red coral - Corallium rubrum
The Red Coral, also called Mediterranean Coral, has a colour ranging from orange to dark red. As you might guess from its name, it is gathered around the Mediterranean basin. It lives at a depth that varies from 30/40 up to 150/200 meters and, generally presents itself in tree-shaped tufts of 15-20 cm high and 10-15 cm wide. There is a particular variety of this coral, known as Sciacca, it derives its name from three coral deposits found not far from Sciacca (Sicily) in 1875, providing tons of coral till the end of the century. It is a sub fossil coral, datable back 18-20 thousand years ago. Today it is still possible to find some of this variety of coral in raw form , jealously kept in the vaults of the oldest factories, keeping it safe like a relic.
Pink Coral - "Boke" or "Angel Skin"
This coral lives mainly in Japan, at a depth of 200-300 meters. White limestone flows in its core, carefully hidden during the manifacturing to increase the value of the item. The more uniform in colour pink is, the rareru the product is. It is absolutely the most precious coral.
Momo coral or "Cerasuolo"
Its scientific name is Corallium Elatius. It is harvested in Japan and Philippines. Its colouur changes from pink to bright red depending on the quality. The peculiarity of this coral is the white vein called “Soul” which runs twig. This might seem a flaw, but indeed it is valuable feature as it helps to determine the authenticity and provenance of the coral.
Deep Sea coral
The Deep Sea coral can take all shades, from pale pink to light red. Particularly vitreous, it is very bright. It comes from Hawaii Islands and lives at depths between 1000 and 2000 meters, which has modified some theories about the coral life habits.
Aka Coral (or "Moro", or "Ox Blood")
Its scientific name, Corallium Japonicum, reveals its geographical origin. Its color can vary from bright red to very dark red. Usually it has many imperfections, and when you manage to get a piece without imperfections, you are facing a masterpiece of rare beauty.
The Midway is a coral whose color varies from white to pink, speckled with red. Its name comes from the Midway archipelago, where it is usually fished.