Red, pink and orange gem coral is available from a number of areas of
the world. The Mediteranian is possibly the oldest (or the Red Sea
perhaps). During the 60’s and 70’s, 90% of the worlds gem coral was
coming from an area just off Okinawa. The Chinese fishmen living on
Taiwan found it and dredged it very heavily for at least 10 years.
The Taiwanese carvers became some of the best in the world. I still
have several pieces done by Taiwanese friends. In the mid 70’s the
largest and best pieces were being brought to the island and I
remember seeing pieces 4’ long by 6" thick of very high quality rough.
Much of the material being carved at that time by the Italians were
bought as rough in Taiwan. In fact, once when a friend took me to the
coral auction, they didn’t want to let me in fearing I was Italian and
I would buy all the material…leaving none for the native carvers. I
was permitted entry when they found I was American…and would pose
As late as the mid 1980’s Taiwanese were still dredging and cutting
though both the quality and quantity was on the decline and by the end
of the 80’s about the only thing they were producing in any quantity
was beads and most of them were dye enhanced low quality coral. In
addition to having dredged out the supply…the more recent
international agreements virtually stopped trading in this protected
Having said all that, there may still be some nice rough available
somewhere in Asia. I know India still works some gem coral, and the
PI too. I am checking my sources to see what might be out there.
Cheers and happy holidays from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in
chilly SOFL where simple elegance IS fine jewelry!