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coral - auspicious, sacred and endangered

blood of the ox
Made up of calcium carbonate, and growing in branches that look like underwater trees covered with barnacles, lime, and salt, coral is the "skeleton" formed by individual coral polyps, tiny plant-like animals, that form branching structures as they grow.

corallium rubrum in its natural state with feeding tentacles visible

When hearing the word coral, minds tend to drift toward the romanticized coral reefs of the Caribbean or South Pacific. However, these coral reefs are formed by a different species than the coral traditionally used in jewelry.
The most well-known coral used in jewelry, sometimes referred to as "ox blood coral" is corallium rubrum (also known as corallium nobile). It lives in the temperate waters of the Mediterranean, particularly in and around the Gulf of Naples near Genoa (and Mt. Vesuvius), and near the Cape Verde islands off the west coast of Africa, also an area of volcanic activity.
The next most important are corallium japonicum, corallium secundum and corallium elatius which are found off the coasts of Japan's Ogasawara and Ryukyu Island chains in the Sea of Japan, as well as off the coasts of China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philipines and some isolated archipelagos in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
going, going...gone
Highly endangered, jewelry-related corals could soon become extinct if not carefully managed. While early civilizations could find coral beds in waters as shallow as 30 feet deep, due to over harvesting, pollution and disease, both corallium rubrum and corallium japonicum can now only be found 300 -1020 feet below the ocean surface.
Studies by the Monaco Scientific Center indicate that yields from the Mediterranean have been reduced by 66% in just the last fifteen years. Japan -- who has exported significant amounts of coral to the Mediterranean-based coral factories for hundreds of years -- is now imposing strict quotas on coral divers due to their own dwindling supply. Japanese fish and wildlife authorities are also enforcing strict coral quotas aimed at sharply restricting coral harvesting, especially by Taiwanese coral fishers who frequently use "tangle nets" -- a cost effective but environmentally invasive harvest method.
With an extremely slow grow rate -- approximately ΒΌ" per year -- coral trees of harvestable size may exceed 50-75 years of age. This lengthy lead time, in addition to the cost of labor to harvest as well as to turn the rough material from its underwater form to a polished form suitable for jewelry -- plus the fact that it is becoming ever more scarce -- is what can make coral pieces so expensive.

symbolic attributes

birthstones
traditional Taurus
geographic
state gem Hawaii (black)
state stone Florida (agatized)
miscellaneous
anniversary 35th
metaphysical
energy receptive / yin
planet Venus
element water. fire