Its colour and rarity once gave coral the same status as diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies. In recent times, coral’s popularity has varied as concerns about environmental issues made buyers of jewelry opt for a different stone. Environmental laws now control the harvesting of coral, protecting reefs from long-term damage, so maybe it is time to reconsider this precious gem.

Corals are small marine animals called polyps. They live in colonies, either in reef systems in warm, shallow water or in deep sea colonies. They build on the calcified skeletal remains of their dead, forming treelike structures. Coral “branches” are found in a variety of colours depending on the coral type, its location and the depth of the water.

There is a great deal of misinformation on the environmental damage that occurs as a result of coral harvesting. Of the 2,000 types of coral in existence, only certain varieties are at risk of extinction and the main threats to those do not come from the jewelry industry.