What’s It Worth? The Tragic Mystique Of Coral

Gems can be rocks. Gems can be glass. Gems can be almost anything. Gems that were living, breathing creatures are extraordinary – for example, pearls, or coral.

Coral, which is a marine invertebrate, has been endangered for many years, and is only now starting to come back with careful conservation and scientific research. Recently in this very paper there was a terrific article about growing coral in labs to rebuild the imperiled reef along Florida’s Atlantic coast.

During its heyday, coral was harvested often – and certain species bring a much higher price than others. Color is very important and today we highlight an 1890s coral piece that was sent to us from a jeweler in West Virginia. It is in its original French box and has French hallmarks on the clasp that helped us identify the age. (Original boxes help in valuation.)

Because this necklace is made of natural, undyed coral, it is desirable in the marketplace. (Coral is often dyed for vibrancy, unlike this piece.) Because of its size and because the coral has been carved into a beautiful cameo – and because the pearls are natural – we offered the jeweler $2,800. It would be acceptable to appraise for retail or insurance reasons in the $8,000 to $10,000 range, because it would be impossible to replicate in an 18k gold frame as this example is. We estimate fair market value is in the $4,000 to $5,000 range; it is for sale in our store for $3,600.

We are always buying coral, as well as other fine gemstones and antique jewelry. Today, coral is rarely harvested because in some areas it is illegal and in most areas it is frowned upon, which makes fine pieces like this likely to increase in value.

Whether you want a $100,000 diamond, a $30,000 watch or a stocking stuffer, come see us. Call for a private appointment in our store, or for a private Zoom meeting.

You have seen us in Forbes Magazine, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Three former Sothebys.com associates, two art historians and 6 GIA Graduates on staff.

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