Although some people think that coral is a plant - it is actually an animal that lives in the world seas. It can be of different colours and its potential lifespan is five hundred years. What divers can see is a colony of animals in deep waters. They are passive filter feeders. Corals reproduce between spring and summer and their speed of growth depends on their location and food supply but it is always slow.
The jewellery making industry utilizes the skeletons of dead corals. Their colour, porosity, hardness and luster determines if they are estimated as precious or semi-precious. There are about 6000 known species of coral in the world.
Red coral is the most valuable of all the corals and the one from the Mediterranean (including the Adriatic Sea one) called Corallium rubrum is highly estimated. It grows on rocky sea bottom, with low sedimentation, typically in dark environments and in clean waters. Unfortunately, it risks to get depleted over time.
Greek legend says that red coral owes its existence to the blood gushed from the head of Medusa. In Christianity it symbolizes the blood of Christ. Red coral has been attributed magical powers and healing properties. It has been seen as a protection against the evil. Pregnant women trusted that the red coral can protect their unborn child. As child mortality rate was rather high in the past very often children were protected with the help of red coral. Some believed that red coral could heal anemia, blood diseases, infections and infertility.
Red coral was an important trading good in times of the Republic of Dubrovnik. However, the island of Zlarin in Šibenik area was always well known for the its red corals and coral divers. The first records of such activity there date from the 13th century. The know-how was carried over from father to son and the tool used was “St Andrew’s Cross” facilitating them the task. Ladies would see the off and a priest would bless their endeavour.
In 2010 the Croatian Tourist Board proclaimed the Adriatic red coral on stone the best souvenir of the year.
If you would like to treat yourself, or your dear ones, you can buy a piece of red coral jewellery in good jewellery shops in Croatia or see the workshops in Dubrovnik or on the island of Zlarin.