For centuries, coral-- like pearl, a gift of the sea--
was classed among the precious gems valued by
man. Not strictly a mineral, coral is an organic
substance, composed of the skeletons of millions of
tiny marine animals. In its natural state, coral is
plantlike in appearance and grows in warm water at
depths of up to ninety feet. It must be harvested live
to retain its color. Though white coral is quite
common, and forms the great reefs of the world, the
rarer hues of red, orange, pink and black are much
sought after as jewelry and amulets. Pink coral is
particularly flattering to the complexion of the wearer
and is called "angel skin". According to ancient
sources, Assyrian glassmakers creating opaque
colored glass in imitation of precious gems, were
trying -to form red glass to resemble coral, rather
than ruby. Examples of coral set in precious metals
are known from the
Biblical, Egyptian and Classical cultures, and its
popularity has continued unbroken through the ages.
The native jewelry of the Arabian peninsula makes
excellent use of bright corals combined with silver.
The therapeutic effects of coral have long been
understood: it is used as a heart stimulant, an
antidote for fevers and toxins in the system, a cure
for colic and vomiting and a prevention for childhood
diseases. In addition, it is believed to avert sterility.
As with the pearl, coral's mysterious strength seems
to derive from its organic source material, the
accumulated energy of living things.