Organic in nature, the finest material comes from the Italian Mediterranean. Some of the finest craftsman in the world fashion and carve coral in Torre del Greco, a seaport in Naples. The most valuable is the “blood” red variety.
Mythologists in Greece and Rome theorized that the coral was first formed from the dripping blood of Medusa’s decapitated head! A very fine quality 18-inch strand of 8 to 9mm beads can be as much as $6,000. The next most sought after is the “Angel Skin” variety that possesses a beautiful pastel hue. Highly prized in ancient India, Persia and Rome, it has been used in jewelry for over 8,000 years.
Beware, however, like many other gems and gem materials, white coral is being dyed in Hong Kong and Taiwan to imitate the ox-blood variety. Also, because coral is pure calcium carbonate, it is sensitive to detergents and cosmetics; even body acid can have a negative effect on it. You should clean them periodically in a mild soapy solution.
Cos Altobelli is a third generation jeweler and president of Altobelli Jewelers in Burbank, previously located in North Hollywood for 60 years. His specialty is appraising for all functions and acting as an expert witness. He holds a graduate degree from the Gemological Institute of America and the title of Certified Gemologist Appraiser from the American Gem Society. He is the author of three appraisal books and has appeared on ABC-TV’s “Prime Time Live.” Altobelli can be reached at (818) 763-5151.