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Black Coral Encore

If any of you caught my articles about black coral in the Aug and
Sept 00 edition of LJ, don’t miss the follow-on project in the Dec 00
Jewelry Journal on how to make beads from this wonderful medium.

The response to my earlier post on black coral was great and I want
to thank everyone who contacted me off-line.

Now it is time for the ‘beaders’ out there to try black coral as
well. After the article comes out, give me a hoot if you want to
discuss it at @coralnut .

Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple elegance IS fine

Hi Don,

I did read your LJ articles with great interest. I inherited some
black coral, apparently collected by a relative in the Philippines
during WWII. I’ve only made one project, and that was back in 1980
when I was a senior in high school! This was a pretty elaborate
project, back when sterling was $35 an oz.!

The material I have is three relatively straight branches, about 12"
long and 1/4" in diameter. I used segments about 1.5" long which were
polished and swung on pendulums on the bottom of a rectangular

What I noted with great interest, and wonder if you see the same in
FL black coral, is that after abrading the skin and polishing (with
ZAM or rouge), I found orange “flakes” that seem almost reflective and
metallic. The surrounding material polished beautifully, looking like
onyx, ebony, or possibly black lacquer.

Does this strike you as unique to the coral I have? Anyone else have
any insight?


Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Dave, can’t say positively unless I can see the coral but it sounds
like a variety of Gorgonian coral known as sea plumes or sea feathers.
These corals grow quite large and are very graceful underwater,
looking just like their namesakes. But when on land and dry, their
lose their gracefullness and the long limbs branching from a short low
trunk get very spiney and sharp. They are a lighter brown color than
most other Gorgonians and get very hard. Until recently, I could not
use them because I had found no easy way to bend and form them short
of boiling water or direct heat and even that was iffy. Then I
smoothed and polished a limb and found much the same colorations as
you. It almost looked luminesent. Quite beautiful. Then I cut some
beads from it and they really are quite nice. If the stuff you have
is actually from the PI, then it might be a similar species to what I
have described. I believe some similar coral is also available off
Cheju Island, Korea though that seems a bit far north to be either
Gorgonian or Antipatharian black coral.

Do you have any that has not been processed? If you want to send me
your snail-mail address, I will send you a sample of what I have been

Cheers, Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SO FL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry!