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Using Florida Black Coral

The workshop is one day Saturday, 13 Jan from 1:00 to 5:00PM.
Basic hand tools are required but I will be providing the coral and
many required tools. 

Is it legal to harvest black coral from the ocean?

Why are you supporting the endangerment of the larges living
organism on the face of the earth. Maybe we should look at the
priority of the practice of using coral. There are many other
beautiful materials that are far less destructive to our, our, our
world. Sorry for the negitive comment, and I hope your new show is
educational and a success. I look forward to debate and rebuttal to
my ideology. Thank you, Craig

Is it legal to harvest black coral from the ocean? 

No it is not legal!!! Please see my article on Black Coral published
in the August 2000 edition of the Lapidary Journal.

Cheers from Don in SOFL


You know, at first I thought your comment didn’t deserve a response.
But then, I decided it is a good opportunity to point out to all
Orchadians the right way and the wrong way to make comments on our

For example:

Why are you supporting the endangerment of the larges(t) living
organism on the face of the earth. 

Craig, If you had spent a few momemts to check the Orchid archives
or do a Google on Black Coral or my name, you would have found many
articles that I have offered and published about black coral, its
uses, how to work with it, and how to protect it! There should be
little or no “debate or rebuttle” to your comments because it has all
been said before…many times. You would also find that I do not
support the endangerment of anything nor am I proposing that others
do so either.

As it turns out, the coral I use (Gorgonian- shallow water) and that
used by my students has been picked from the beaches of South
Florida…all has been harvested by Mother Nature. There is no
reason to harvest live coral (which I have pointed out many times
before is illegal and immoral) because there is so much of it
available without live harvesting. After all, the beach-side cities
of South Florida drag the beaches each day and in doing so rake up
tons of black coral only to be either buried in the sand or hauled to
the land fill!!! What a waste of a beautiful medium.

If you wish to discuss the use of antipatharian (deep water) coral,
such as that found in Hawaii; the divers who harvest the live coral
there are certified and liscensed and are only permitted a
predetermed harvest per year. Very tightly controlled and legal.

Maybe we should look at the priority of the practice of using

We who? There are already dozens of agencies and organizations
monitoring the use of all corals as well as the truly distructive
practices of cities and countries pumping millions of tons of waste
onto our delicate reefs. Every word I have printed on the use of
coral has already been reviewed and approved by the cognizant

There is no need to apologize for a negative comment Craig…but I
would ask that you do some homework before trying to invoke a
needless debate on a subject already put to rest.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry!

Well Don, It’s good to hear that you are not a coralnut. Gorgonia
ventalina is it’s correct name I believe, and it is a common coral
that can be found all over the world. Even live on ebay, for
aquariums. Some pretty cool colors too. You wanted to draw attention
to your workshops so you dropped the big (black coral) word. And
anyone who is familiar with working with coral assumes one is carving
antipatharia. Grinds cuts and polishes beautifully like soft wood.
You can even bend it with house hold chemicals. It has been called
the king’s coral for hundreds of years because of the desire for it’s
beauty. So you got my attention. There is an article on the National
Geographic site about black coral that might give some insight into
what is going on down their with the animals that can grow deeper and
bigger. Contrary to the notion that this animal is being harvested
legally is the tip of the iceberg. Don, why in the world would it
occur to me to research coralnut? You are very upset about debate,
well you are in one and it is good. You have freely taken your right
to express your point of view, and so have I. Actually I have asked
the question before if a piece of jewelry can be a comment other than
just buttons and insignias. If you say to the people who are working
with this material what you have said here, it can be. The piece is
the catalyst for an infomercial, and great conversation starter. You
win! I agree with you whole heartily.

Regards, Coralnuttoo

Craig…but you see, I am a coralnut!!!

To clarify, Gorgonia ventalina is just one of the
Gorgonacea…commonly known as the sea fan. You are correct that it
is used in aquariums but wrong that it is commonly found all over the
world. In face, black corals are found only in an unequal belt on
either side of the equator around the world. There are some
exceptions to this based on ocean conditions. Actually, there are two
species of the sea fan, the ventalina, known as the common sea fan,
and the flabellum or Venus sea fan. They are but two of many black
corals. Antipatharia is an enigma. Many people consider all black
corals as from the order antipatharia. But that disregards the
gorgonian order and does not accurately classify the two.

Read on for a more complete description of “black coral”.

Oh, and I am neither upset about debate nor am I in one. I am
perfectly comfortable with my knowledge of this resource and do not
feel I need debate it with anyone.

All coral is a living invertebrate animal. Scientifically, corals are
classified as hard and soft, depending on the type of skeleton they
have. Hard corals deposit around themselves a solid skeleton of
calcium carbonate, most familiar to us as chalk and which ultimately
may become limestone. Soft corals have microscopic needlelike
spicules of calcium carbonate embedded in a soft matrix rather than a
solid hard mass. Taxologically, the classifying of coral is based on
the characteristics of the polyps–the living animals. There are two
recognized types that correspond generally to the natural division
between soft and hard corals. The polyps of soft corals always have 8
tentacles and 8 septa. Thus, soft coral is also known as octocoral.
Octocoral polyps are unique in another way in that they are always
pinnate-that is, they have small lateral projections, giving their
tentacles a feathery appearance. Hard corals have 6 or more
tentacles, but never 8 and, though the tentacles have various shapes,
they are never pinnate.

All coral belongs to the major taxology group Phylum Cnidaria and to
the class Anthozoa. Anthozoa has two major subclasses: Alcyonaria
(soft octocorals) and Zoantharia (hard or stony corals).

Under subclass Alcyonaria we find the order Gorgonacea, the Gorgonian
species of octocorals including; Sea fans, sea whips, sea feathers,
sea plumes, sea rods, sea blades and other Caribbean soft corals
which include the black coral varieties.

It is recognized that in the subclass Zoantharia, in the order
Antipatharian (i.e. a hard coral based on classification of the
polyps) the various species have a soft (or horny like) skeleton. In
fact, the Antipatharian species referred to in both scientific and
legal documents as “black coral” have the same skeletal form made
from the same materials as many of the Gorgonian soft octocorals. The
chief differences between the black Gorgorian and Antipatharian
species appears to be that the former has polyps with 8 tentacles and
grows in shallower waters while the latter has polyps corresponding
to the 'hard coral" anatomy and is normally found at greater depths.
Furthermore, the soft Gorgonian octocorals include some species that
conform to the building processes indicative of hard coral with quite
hard skeletons, such as Blue coral, red organ-pipe coral and red or
pink “precious coral” used for centuries throughout the world to
make jewelry.

These apparent “cross-overs” can be confusing and have given rise to
support for the additional classification horny coral, to
differentiate them from the true calcareous hard corals and the true
soft octocorals which lack the axial skeletons of the horny
Antipatherian and Gorgonian black corals.

From the aspect of jewelry making, the term “black coral” is also
confusing. In the scientific and legal communities ( e.g., The
Endangered Species Act of 1973) only the Antipatharian species are
identified as “black coral” when, in fact, many of the Gorgonian
species are also “black” when dried, cut and polished, and the two
cannot be differentiated.

The skeletal body of Gorgonian coral is an erect central rod and
offshoot branches consisting of many layers of the organic protein
material called “gorgonin” and, when alive, is surrounded by a
cylinder of calcareous spicules and polyp organisms, in branching,
plantlike (or treelike) forms. The spicules often contain pigments
that give the Gorgonian coral an orange, purple, red or other bright
color, though many species appear brown, tan, gray or even white.

I am glad we are in agreement

Cheers from Don in SOFL!

Don, This collection of scientific knowledge is a very nice source of
data, and a good lesson in Latin. I do need to correct the statement
of Gorgonian and Antipatharia growing all over the world to all
around the world. Most reefs range from about 30 degrees north and
south of the equator. Maybe you can tell me if Antpatharia has
skeletons that dry to other colors besides black and brownish? And
how do agents of the EPA distinguish the difference between the
skeletal remains of the Gorgonian and Antipatheria? If I may ask if
you know if any of the octocorals have toxic systems that feel like
nettles or stinging when one swims through them? And one more
question, is the gorgonin a product of the coral itself or part of a
symbiotic relationship that corals have with algea? O.K. so you are
a coralnut, but an educated one.

Thanks for replying. Regards, Craig


You have many good questions and I would like to respond to them
all…however, my time is quite limited these days. The information
I provided was the result of about 4 years of research and was part
of the text I submitted to the Lapidary Journal as the basis for my
article in the Aug 2000 issue. In addition to the feature article,
three ‘how to’ projects were published in the Aug, Sept and Dec
issues of Lap Journal. You will also find a special section dealing
with the ‘legal’ aspects of collecting and using BC.

But, I fear we are straying from the subject of using black coral in
making jewelry. There are many excellent sources available that you
can use to gain more depth of understanding of the coral itself and
the legal/environmental aspects. So I offer a few in lieu of using
more valuable bandwith.


June Culp Zeitner, Black Coral Pendant, Lapidary Journal, March 1996

Baughman, C.A., Lapidary Use of Black Coral, Lapidary Journal, April
1981, pp142-144

Steinhilber, N., The Black Coral of Cozumel, Lapidary Journal,
January 1981, pp 2280-2281

Getsee, G.P., More about Florida Black Coral, Lapidary Journal, June
1973, pp 416-417

Krause, P.D., Cutting and Polishing Hawaiian Black Coral, Lapidary
Journal, July 1965, pp 494-495

Stewart, J., Black Coral Story; Part I, Lapidary Journal, July 1962,
pp 388-392

Stewart, J., Black Coral Story, Part II, Lapidary Journal, August
1962, pp 490-491

Kaplan, E.H., Coral Reefs; Peterson Field Guides, Houghton Mifflin
Co. 1982, pp78-95

Reingold, S. C., Coral, Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1995

Coral Forest Web Site, forest

South Florida Sun Sentinel Archives, Keyword: Sun Sentinel,
Search-Black Coral

Florida State Statutes, para 370.114; Taking of marine corals and
sea fans regulated

Florida Marine Fisheries Rule (Florida administrative code), paras
46-42.001 to 46-42.009; Restrictions on marine life industry

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531-1544, 87 Stat.
884) as amended

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Web Site

U.S. Department of Environmental Protection Web Site

Note there are many Lap Journal articles. That is because much of my
interest in writing the article concerned how BC was looked at as a
resource in the earlier days before regulation and how that view has

One more wonderful reference that only came to my attention after
publication of my article is ‘Reef Coral Identification’ by Paul
Humann and Ned Deloach, New World Publications, Jacksonville, FL,
second edition 20-02. You will find some different views expressed in
this book from those of the earlier ones above, but some of the
questions I posed 6 years ago have yet to be resolved.

By the way, I doubt if the EPA agents have any idea of how to
distinguish Antipatharia and Gorgonacea. In their view, black is
black! Many taxologists have problems doing that themselves without
having parts of the live animal, which tends to fall off soon after
the colony leaves the reef. And, as I said in my last post, it is
very difficult to determine which is which after it has been
processed because the skeletons are virtually identical in
construction. Even the Humann and Deloach book seems to miss this
point. One last comment, there is a symbiotic relationship between BC
and algea but it is mostly one of color…the gorgonin appears to
be a product of the coral animal and its relationship to the reef.

Good luck in your research and cheers, Don in SOFL.