Gemstone Guide: Coral and Pearl
We love sharing details about our favorite gemstones and materials. So far, we’ve looked at opal, copper, onyx and more. This month we are talking about two unique and beautiful gemstones: coral and pearl.
Why are we grouping these two gemstones together? Though they both have their own unique history and characteristics, they also share one big similarity. Do you know what it is?
They both originate from the ocean.
Today we’ll review what makes these ocean gemstones so fabulous. We’ll learn more about the origins of coral and pearl, and review their place in history. Finally, we’ll share some of our favorite coral and pearl artisan Mexican jewelry.
Let’s get started!
What Are Coral and Pearl?
Both coral and pearl are organic gemstones made out of calcium carbonate, which is a chemical compound. In addition to coral and pearl, calcium carbonate is also the main component of the shells of snails and eggs.
The calcium carbonate in coral is secreted by organisms known as polyps. Coral is found in tropical oceans where colonies of these polyps come together to create reefs.
Natural coral ranges in color from white and light pink to warm pink, red with orange undertones, and deep ruby red.
Pearls are most commonly produced within the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusk. Calcium carbonate is deposited within the shell in concentric layers, creating a round pearl.
Natural pearls are white and cream color and have a slightly gritty texture. Real pearls are rarely “perfect.” Instead, they’ll have small blemishes or irregularities in shape.
Coral and Pearl through History
The history of these ocean gemstones is long and elaborate. Cultures throughout the world have long been incorporating coral and pearl into their adornments.
The oldest finding of coral dates back to about 3000 B.C. From the Mesopotamian civilization to Persia, Egypt, India, and Europe– coral was considered a valuable gemstone throughout the world.
Most of the coral used in the past has been for ornamental purposes: beads, necklaces, earrings, and as decoration. Because coral was considered so valuable, many civilizations were even buried with their coral possessions.
The pearl is known as the world’s oldest gem. For thousands of years, pearls have been worn as a form of adornment and used as a symbol of status.
In Rome during the 1st century, Julius Caesar passed a law prohibiting the wearing of pearls by anyone other than rulers. During the Dark Ages, knights often wore them into battle, believing the pearls would protect them from harm. And the royal courts during Renaissance were filled with pearl adornments.
Even in the 1900s, pearls were accessible only the rich and famous. In 1916, Jacques Cartier bought his iconic New York 5th Avenue store by trading two pearl necklaces in exchange for the highly valuable property.
Corals and Pearls in Mexican Jewelry
The use of both coral and pearl in artisan Mexican Jewelry and has been popular for many years. Both coral and pearl are soft materials, making it easy for jewelers in Mexico to incorporate them into various types of pieces.
Like turquoise, coral is a stable of native Mexican jewelry. In Yucatan, rosaries made with red and pink coral are common. And in Oaxaca, coral is can be found in a variety of jewelry pieces.
In the 17th century, Pearl was traded in Mexico from the orient and began appearing in silver jewelry. Pearl is used in many incredible handcrafted Mexican jewelry pieces, For example, in Guanajuato, pearls are commonly incorporated into colonial style pieces.
Coral is said to bring good luck. To take full advantage of the luck coral brings, you should wear the gem as a ring. Further instructions include:
- The ring should be worn on the ring or index finger of the right hand
- Wear the ring on a Tuesday, one hour after sunrise
Additionally, red coral is believed to increase energy and may also help:
- Overcome depression
- Stop nightmares
- Boost financial success
- Help you feel happier
- Eliminate headaches
Coral is also the recommended gift for 35th wedding anniversaries.
Ancient Pearl Myths
Every culture has its own unique story about the origin of pearls. In fact, many myths and folktales surround this beautiful stone of the sea.
- Arabs–Pearls were the result of the tears of the gods. These tears fell into the ocean and made their way into oysters.
- Greeks— Aphrodite, the goddess of love, cried tears of pearls.
- Persian— Pearls were created when a rainbow touched the ground after a storm.
- Japanese–Pearls were created from the tears of mythical beings like mermaids and nymphs.
- Chinese–Black pearls formed in a dragon’s head.
Pearls and Love
Pearls have long been associated with weddings, love, and purity.
In Ancient Greece, people believed wearing pearls would prevent a woman from crying on her wedding day.
Romans believed Venus grew inside an oyster as a pearl, and emerged to fill the world with love and beauty
Hindu folklore says Krishna gave his daughter a pearl on her wedding day as a symbol of love, union, and purity.
Coral and Pearl Today
Today, red coral and natural pearl jewelry remain highly valuable. So much so that most jewelers do not use natural coral or pearl in their pieces. These materials are rare in their natural environment and so are incredibly expensive.
Red coral is the most in-demand type of coral. However, it’s also becoming incredibly difficult to find in its natural environment. This is why many jewelers avoid using natural red coral.
At Taxco 925, the majority of our red coral pieces are actually white coral, dyed with a beautiful red color. Some pieces also contain natural resin to smooth natural crevices found in the white coral. This process gives you a similar look and feel to natural red coral, but allows rare red coral reefs to continue flourishing.
Pearls are incredibly rare. They naturally form in only one in 10,000 oysters! This makes natural pearls incredibly expensive– one of the most expensive gems in the world.
Here at Taxco 925, our handcrafted Mexican jewelry utilizes synthetic pearls– also called Mother of Pearl. Mother of Pearl is the iridescent nacre coating found on an oyster’s inner shell layer. Using Mother of Pearl makes our jewelry pieces much more affordable.
Our Favorite Coral and Pearl Jewelry
Silver & Coral Bead Filigree Floral Earrings
We love the hand wrought silver work on these earrings! The ornate beaded design is punctuated by beautiful coral beads.
950 Silver Parrot Bracelet
This vibrant parrot bracelet boasts exquisite detail and depth. The natural coral stone details are stunning!
Taxco 950 Silver & Red Coral Necklace
What a gorgeous blend of superior 950 silver and red coral stones! We love the depth of this necklace and the 3-dimensional explosion of color.
Silver & Pearl Floral Lovebird Earrings
We love these vintage-inspired earrings. It’s labor-intensive artistry at its finest. The floral silver work is accentuated by elegant pearl beads.
Mexican Silver & Pearl Flower Necklace
This sterling silver necklace features a gorgeous floral design pattern and beautiful pearl inlays. It’s a fine example of authentic handcrafted artisan jewelry.
Mexican Silver & Pearl Floral Earrings
Authentic Taxco earrings with 4 beautiful pearls. These earrings are perfectly accentuated by a partially oxidized silver finish.
Caring for Your Coral and Pearl Jewelry
Natural coral and pearl jewelry both require careful care. Both these gemstones are extremely soft, so need to be treated delicately. To limit damage and keep your jewelry looking fabulous, there are a few things you should know.
Coral is a soft and porous gem so can be easily scratched. Whether you have white or red coral jewelry, you should always remove your piece before washing or moisturizing your hands. It’s also best to avoid exposing your coral to extreme temperatures.
To avoid scratching, store your coral away from other gemstones. When cleaning your coral pieces, avoid the following products:
- Nail polish remover
Instead, for best results, gently wipe your jewelry with a soft, moist cloth.
Whether you have natural pearl or mother of pearl jewelry, proper care is important to protect your investment.
Avoid letting your pearl come into contact with cosmetics, hairspray, or perfume. You should also take off any pearl finger or hand jewelry before washing the dishes or preparing food. Avoid exposing your pearl jewelry to acidic or alkaline substances, including:
- Baking soda
Never use harsh chemicals to clean your pearls. Instead, a soft cloth with warm, soapy water or a damp microfiber cloth is sufficient.
Shop Our Selection of Handcrafted Coral and Pearl Mexican Jewelry!
Are you ready to own your own coral or pearl Mexican jewelry piece? See what we have available now by clicking below.
Do you have a favorite gemstone we haven’t written about yet? Let us know what you’d like to learn about next!