First, the coral has to be bought, that’s not so easy! We face cut-throat competition, the Neapolitans! Heavy users, and well-installed since the beginning of time, they buy huge amounts and buy everything that is harvested, nice or not, large or not, but absolutely everything!
“I remember in the 1980s I bought raw coral in Spain, for it was so difficult in Corsica” but little by little, ties are built, trust prevails and things carry on much better...
We work with coral harvested in Corsica, but for how long? Many of the fishermen have stopped or they are no longer of harvesting age, or the time has come to change careers, or as many say, the harvest is no longer satisfactory with respect to the constraints on life style, higher costs and above all, the great risks this trade in particular entails.

In our Porto Vecchio workshops, as in Torre del Greco, we work only on specific pieces, special sizes, on adjustments or other work requiring quite a large raw coral. With production costs running too high, we can no longer accomplish everything a workshop should, in using all its coral, the tips ‘barbaresque’, the medium sized and the large… So, I tried to purchase only large coral, the ‘pincers’ or lovely branches! This was possible for a few years when supply was still abundant, but in recent years when the beautiful pieces are lacking, the Neapolitans are more demanding on divers and quarrel if too many large pieces of coral lack in the batches…

One important aspect, besides the fact of buying properly, is using our raw coral correctly, we can’t just cut right into any piece of coral! The loss is already considerable. If all goes well in a classical workshop, we come out with 40% of cut coral and on special pieces, we achieve 20%, which means an 80% loss…

 

The first phase is cleaning the coral; we soak it in water and chlorine for a few hours and the branches shed their ‘skin’, they let their natural colours appear; we roughly scrape off any excess substrate (rock) and then do an initial sorting by size. At the same time by hand, we take out the tips which may be broken, enabling us to become really familiar with our raw coral! That’s when we know whether or not we made a good buy!

The next phase is vital for making a return on the stock!

Marking - with a pencil we draw in the cuts to be made, this means we have to know what the demand is! The large workshops which keep stocks know, the smaller ones hesitate and wait for the demand, that’s safer!
“For my production, I gradually, one by one, look for the piece which corresponds the best in the raw coral to criteria such as shape, size, colour and quality”.

With a diamond-edged circular saw and a trickle of water, the coral, which is sensitive to heat from a flame as well as from a heated tool, is cut up. This is why there is always water when sawing, grinding or piercing, in order to protect this precious and delicate matter. Coral is not too hard (3.5), it is worked with a diamond-edged tool, tungsten grinding stone or carborundum wheel and is sensitive to vibrations, as they can crack the coral. We have to be very careful.  After the carving, comes the polishing, this operation is different depending on the type of product. Pearls, cabochons or small carved pieces such as hearts, for example, are polished in large quantities in tanks filled with water and pumice stone. In Torre del Greco, a lot of workshops do the polishing in a traditional manner, in a jute bag manually swished around in what may look like a wooden wash house. The multitude of coral pieces rub against each other with the pumice stone and water, like pebbles in a river current and are polished in this way. The larger, more fragile or sculpted pieces are polished on turns with soft brushes and various abrasive pastes. The polishing gives a lovely brilliance and finally shows the coral’s colour. 

Advice
For the maintenance of the precious, delicate coral, which with time takes on a natural patina, it is recommended to wipe it following wear and not expose it to any cosmetic products. Should its shine become dull, you can wash it in cold water with household soap, dry it well and nourish it with grease such as Vaseline or natural oil.

Colour, quality and price…
More than ten shades of red exist in the Mediterranean Sea. The orangey-reds are most common, the rarest are very light, almost pink or very dark carmine red and are the most expensive! Colour is not a criteria for quality. In order to define a classification, a distinction must be made between the quality of the substance and quality of the manufactured item. Good coral mustn’t be porous, mustn’t be pierced or have breaks or cracks. In terms of work, it’s a bit more complicated: there mustn’t be any lack of substance, there should be good symmetry for the cabochons or geometric forms, or a nice roundness for pearls and no splinters during piercing. For sculpted pieces, it’s each artist’s taste and assessment that counts!

The price is initially defined by the size of the raw coral used and the coral obtained, by its quality and manufacture time (labour), and recently (2000), there could be a mark-up of up to

 

30% on large, very dark pieces due to its rareness, but also because of the demand, which has focused on this dark red.

Often wrongly, our customers think the very dark red is a sign of quality and is more beautiful! In our shops, we have always explained that colour is a question of taste. To find one’s colour or rather one’s shade, the piece of jewellery should be tried on, since the skin tone, hair colour and even dressing habits, render the choice of colour all the more apparent.

In recent years with restrained harvesting and rareness of large branches, prices have increased considerably: 10 to 25% for large coral and even more if, as explained earlier, it is very dark. Coral is often mounted on gold or silver, precious metals which have also risen in price recently.

As you can see in the “Coral” folder, there exist several species of precious coral, two of Japan’s corals, the Moro (Aka) are very rare and very expensive.
The Angel Skin (Boké) has a particularity, the branch of this species is never pink from bottom to top and often has white veins. It is difficult to extract a piece of uniform colour or, for example, to match several pieces, which makes it expensive.

 

Coral gems, precious and fascinating, are always present in prestigious collections and regularly, coral is highlighted in the world of fashion, not only for jewellery designers, but also dress designers or even interior decorators. To dare wear coral jewellery is a means of distancing oneself from classical and conventional codes. Once worn, it will be remarked and will make you someone special!

 

As native peoples have stated for thousands of years, it will bring you good luck! 
“I hope so!”

 
Mentions Légales| |Glossaire La Taillerie du Corail : OR Rouge
La Taillerie du Corail : OR Rouge English