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Gemstone of the Month: May

Welcome to May’s Gemstone of the Month. 

The month of May brings happiness and joy to many of us as the days become longer and warmer, and we put the long winter months behind us.  Traditionally, Emerald is associated with this month and those who can afford such a stone are truly lucky since it is one of the “big four” and its price reflects this.  Emerald is a member of the Beryl family and by its nature, stones are usually included.  These inclusions are not considered defects, but rather they make each stone unique and enhance its beauty.  That said, unincluded stones are highly sought after and accordingly more expensive.

So now that we know the drawback of having emerald as the birthstone for May birthday, let me offer an alternative or two!  There are other gemstones associated with May and its star signs of Taurus and Gemini.  To name but a few, those born under the sign of Taurus can count sapphire, amber, coral, aventurine, rose quartz, and turquoise among their birthstones while those born under Gemini can enjoy agate, chrysoprase, citrine, moonstone, pearl, tiger’s eye and white sapphire

I highlighted Amber as my Gemstone of the Month for April.  This month I would like to introduce you to Coral:

Gifted by a generous sea, endowed with sacred & mysterious properties unlike most other gemstones which are of mineral origin, Coral is organic, formed by living organisms. It is slowly built by very small marine animals known as coral polyps. These tiny, soft-bodied creatures form with minute, hard shells that accumulate as the colony grows. Over time, the colony begins to form complex branches and skeletal structures composed of hardened calcium carbonate, and coloured by carotenoid pigments. These biological formations grow very slowly, often as little as just 1 millimetre per year, ranging in size from small, hand-sized structures to enormous coral reefs. When the coral polyps die, the hardened skeleton remains, and this material becomes the gemstone. Most coral is white, but nature can create coral in several other colours, including the popular orange to red forms. This Red Coral, or Precious Coral as it is often called, is the most used gemstone form of Coral.

Coral is an ancient gemstone, and has been used for thousands of years. Since the beginning of the 1st millennium, precious coral has been highly prized as a gem believed to be endowed with mysterious, powerful and sacred properties. The Gauls often used coral gems as ornamentation for their helmets and weapons in the belief that it was a protective stone. Ancient Egyptians placed coral in tombs to protect against evil spirits because they believed each coral gem actually contained divine blood. The Romans hung branches of coral around the necks of their children to protect them from danger. In the Jyotish and Vedic practice of planetary gemology, red coral is the planetary stone for Mars. The Pueblo Indians considered coral to be one of the four elemental stones.  Among the Hopi and Zuni tribes, the 'road of life' is symbolized by coral, jet, abalone and turquoise (the four elements). Finally, even as recently as the early 20th century, Italians used coral for protection from the 'evil eye' and many used it to aid infertility.

Aside from the lovely solid colours found in Coral, it can also have colour zones or swirls, with white, pink, orange, and red being the most prevalent. Coral gemstones can be either solid or porous, depending on the polyp formation. Despite Coral's pretty colours, it is very soft and brittle, and needs to be treated with care. Coral of Hawaiian origin is protected under the Lacey Act and cannot be harvested and exported from the USA. Other types of regulated coral (mostly from China and Hawaii) may require permits for international trade, although they can usually be traded domestically. Due to environmental protection laws worldwide, production of Coral for the gemstone trade is now on the decline so it pays to treasure any specimens you have. Coral is used as cabochons and beads. It is also sculpted into small carvings such as flowers for pins and brooches. Small branches of Coral are sometimes stranded into spiky, dangling necklaces.  Additionally, a more affordable and environmentally friendly way of owning coral is to use reconstituted coral – which is manufactured using coral dust and small particles.  It is still ‘real’ coral but can be moulded into shapes instead of needing to be carved.  

Keep an eye out for Kristaval pieces using Coral as you scroll through our pages…

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