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Torre Del Greco, Italy. The Coral's Capital

The origin of coral has been lost in the mists of legends for centuries: Ovid in his “Metamorphosis” and Pliny the older in his “Historia Naturalis” both attributed coral the same mythical genesis; the blood from Medusa’s terrible head, cut off by Perseus, dripped into the sea and turned into coral. With its warm and bright color, its marine origins, its ambiguous nature, coral must have had a profound effect on the early Mediterranean peoples who started working and disseminating it throughout the world.
It is not a plant, even though it has branches, and as André Peyssonnel, a doctor from Marseilles, discovered only early in the 18th century, it is not even a mineral, even though it is petrified. It is in fact the calcareous secretion of a marine polyp colony.
Some archaeological sites in Sicily, Sardinia and Syria where ornaments in coral have been found, would lead us to believe that coral was already known thousands of years ago, but it is evident that the ancient Greeks valued it either as a jewel or as a medicine. Alexander the Great’s ambitious plan to unify East and West as one large empire, not only through military campaigns, but also through cultural exchanges enhanced by heavy commerce, melted together peoples of different cultures and customs and thereby helped the diffusion of coral as far afield as India. Pliny gives precise evidence of this spread in his “ Naturalis historia” saying : “Indians value coral as much as Romans value Indian pearls, the cost varying according to the importance given by each population”.


Torre Del Greco is a sunny, small town in the Naples Bay, at the foothills of Mount Vesuvio. It is famous worldwide for becoming throughout the centuries, the capital of the finest red coral.
This activity was almost imposed on the inhabitants by the constant menace of napoli map.jpg (14036 bytes)the volcano which, over the centuries, forced the people of the coast to look to the sea for a dependable source of income.  It was the Bourbons who originally stimulated the development of a coral industry at the turn of the eighteen century, with the first factory being established in 1805. By 1837 there were eight factories, then, around 1850, an authentic explosion took place in this industry producing luxury objects to sell to rich European customers.

Nowadays, Torre Del Greco is for coral, what Bangkok is for colored stones or Antwerp for diamonds: The worldwide center for coral production. With the depletion of the Mediterranean coral banks in the current century, Torre Del Greco also imports corals from Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Spain, Morocco, and the Pacific to meet the national and international demand. This rough will be then transformed in single cabochon pieces for jewelry, strands necklaces and magnificent carvings.
In Torre Del Greco, working coral is a family business. There are no big size manufacturers, but instead many small family-based enterprises, where employees are often members of the family and their relatives.

Getting untreated and undyed material is becoming an arduous task. Like with sapphires, it is estimated that less than 5% or so of all the coral present in the market today, is completely untreated. The rarest and most prized of all the coral is that of the Sciacca coral bank, a beautiful pink-orange variety of vulcanic origin from off the coast of West Sicily that is today completely extinct. The little of it that is remaining available today on the market is the Torrese production of a century ago. It commands huge prices among connoisseurs.
Then, the ox-blood variety, a deep red color, which is becoming very rare as well. Today, this beautiful coral demands very high prices in any quality found.
Common red coral is averagely orangey in color and it is the standard quality found anywhere. It is not very expensive in small sizes, but increasingly hard-to-get in bigger sizes. However coral can hue from snow white to black, to blue and shades of pink & red and any muted colors in between.

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