Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Too Precious to Wear : Red and Pink Coral May Soon Be Trade Protected

By on Tuesday, March 09, 2010 12 Comments

We are all aware of the international trade restrictions on vulnerable wild animals and plants to ensure their survival. While ivory easily comes to our minds as a material we shouldn't use, precious red (and pink) coral may not.

These deep water and slow growing corals fished for centuries as a jewelry component and for home decor are now facing enormous threats from pollution, rising sea temperatures and from overfishing.

Later this month, 170+  member nations of CITES (Convention on  International Trade in Endangered Species) will decide on the joint US and European Union proposal to place at least six kinds of red and pink coral species under Appendix II. Species in this category are those in serious trouble.  If successful, there will then be restricted harvests and controlled trade. If not, unregulated trade will decimate these living creatures.

Corallium rubrum (red coral) colonies were once 50 cm tall. Now 90% of the Mediterranean colonies are barely 5 cm tall and less than 50% are sexually mature.  The Pacific catches used to be in the 100-400 tons a year range. Now less than 5 tons are landed. You can read more about the Too Precious to Wear campaign. Do also watch this video by SeaWeb.

David Federman, Editor-in-Chief of Colored Stone.com wrote an article, Coralling Coral, highlighting this campaign. He also touched on the alternatives involving unrestricted corals. These can be dyed to look like the highly desirable kinds. Dyed bamboo coral and stabilized sponge coral are known pretenders. Real red coral fetches high prices so buyers ought to be beware.

Coral reefs are generally "on the brink of collapse". Millions of people depend on reefs for the fish - the main source of protein in many parts of the world, for tourism dollars and storm surge protection. So according to New Scientist, "We will be billions of dollars poorer when coral dies."

It's shocking the way we plunder the oceans and foul them. It's sad a hermit crab found a bottle top for a home rather than another shell. (picture source)

So what can we do? Well, we can certainly avoid buying threatened species of coral. We have some red coral for our workshops but Debbie and I are agreed we will use them up and not purchase any more. Nor are we keen on getting any coral of any kind.

The other way to celebrate coral is to evoke the beauty without using the material. One lovely tutorial I highlighted in my past post Learn New Stitches with Beaded Earrings, was the one on the coral technique by Anne Helmenstine who also happens to be a scientist. It is a branched fringe method of beading.

An easy coral beaded necklace tutorial is this one by the Cottage Industrialist:

The coral reef inspired bead and chain jewelry set tutorial from last Saturday's post is another excellent idea.

UPDATE - The proposal failed so coral is still not trade protected.

Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 



  1. Pearl, thanks so much for letting us know about this! I had no idea. That crab photo is really sad! I won't buy coral ever again!

  2. Interesting information Pearl...I think this deserves further investigation!
    Thanks for the heads up!

  3. Pearl you amaze me - not only are you a great beader and teacher but an environmentalist. I agree with SueBeads - I will not buy it again. There are lots of non-threatened gems to buy.

    I really appreciate this information.

  4. Genuine Red or Pink corals are extremely expensive, if they can be found in the jewelry marketplace at all. The USA has long had a ban on the importation of Red Coral. Focusing world wide attention upon coral's plight is certainly a step in the right direction, however as long as our population continues to expand exponentially our oceans, our planet and ultimately our very species will be endangered.

  5. Geez, I had no idea. Thanks Pearl!

  6. Great post, thank you for the information. I love coral, but I know it must be protected. I have not bought Coral for some years now, but I do have some beads from long ago. Coral is too precious to be lost.

  7. There are so few gemstones which are truly red but I don't think it's right to keep exploiting coral just to get it.

  8. I've decided not to buy any more coral. That said, all of the coral I've seen in the last several years at gem shows is sponge or bamboo coral, and every bit of the red coral was dyed. A lot of the sponge coral is dyed too. Even though it's not protected, I'm afraid that buying it may encourage harvesting of the protected varieties.

  9. WOW!!! I did not know this but DO want to thank you for education us on this beautiful treasure. I am making it a point of sharing this info to as many bead and jewelry artists as I can. Once again Pearl YOU are an invaluable source of info!!!

  10. What I should someone do if they have vintage pink coral jewelry? I had an antique store and bought a lot of vintage jewelry. It's a necklace and earring set, which the owner framed. I didn't know about coral at the time. I never put it out for sale, because I didn't think anyone would buy framed jewelry. In packing, a friend saw it and commented on the fact that it looked like real coral and to be framed, it must be. Any idea how I can find out or any buyers that might be interested?

  11. Maybe you could ask a qualified gemmologist? Or take it to a reputable gemstone dealer?


  12. Thanks so much for the info.