Coral is the branchlike, calcareous framework of the coral polyp. It is formed by the accretion of colonies of these tiny marine animals. The structure is radial from the center of each branch. Unlike a plant, it always grows in a direction perpendicular to the surface to which it is attached.
Coral has been used as adornment since prehistoric times. Coral inlays and ornaments have been found in tombs from the Iron Age.
Coral has a history of religious significance spreading from Romans to the Tibetans. It was held in high esteem among the Chinese and the Hindus and used as ornament in the images of their gods.
Coral was long thought to be a powerful talisman that could stop bleeding, protect from evil spirits, cure sterility and ward off hurricanes.
The value of coral varies widely, according to the color and size of the pieces. For many years, dark red was considered the most valuable, later a vogue for pale tints developed which led to the famous « angel’s skin » grade.