Precious Corals Of Hawai’i
From the hundreds of coral species that inhabit the earth’s warmer waters, only a few varieties are highly prized for making jewelry because of their beauty and hardness. These are Black , Pink , Gold and Bamboo Coral, which can be found in Hawaiian waters. This is also the order of rarity of the corals of Hawaii.
The majority of corals are soft, and needing light to survive, build their colonies on reefs near the surface of the ocean. These reefs protect the islands from large waves, while providing a complex ecosystem for ocean life.
Precious corals grow at such depths, a submarine from the University of Hawaii is required to gather them. Precious corals are hard thus ideal for jewelry making. In 1977 the State of Hawaii passed laws regarding harvesting of specific coral beds. The precious corals of the Hawaiian waters are strictly regulated by the University of Hawaii, thus ensuring their longevity.
Black Coral - The Hawaii State Gem Stone, was the first of the precious corals to be found in Hawaiian waters - growing at depths of 250 to 350 feet. Annual rings, like those found in the trunks of trees, are present in Black Coral. These rings are counted to determine the age of the coral. Black Coral grows approximately 2-1/2 inches per year.
Pink Coral - is commonly found at 1100 feet and deeper. Pink Coral grows only 1/3 of an inch annually, with a life span of approximately 70 years (that's less than 2 feet in its lifetime!) Pink Coral colors range from a very light pinkish-whitish, to a deep shade of pink.
Gold Coral - is currently being strictly regulated and therefore is scarcer and more expensive. Some species reveal hints of bluish-green, opal-like colors. Gold Coral is found only in Hawaiian and Alaskan waters - growing at depths of 1150 to 1600 feet.
Bamboo Coral - is the most precious and rarest of the corals. Bamboo coral is found in ONLY in Hawaiian waters. Bamboo and Gold Corals produce their own light called bioluminescence. Known as lepidisis -- or "olapa” -- after the Hawaiian word for flash. Bamboo Coral like Gold Coral Grows at depths of 1150 to 1600 feet.
How to care for your Coral - Because Coral is produced by a living organism it cannot be put into jewelry cleaning solutions. The best way to protect your coral jewelry is to rub mineral oil on about every 6 months to preserve their natural luster. To own a beautiful piece of Hawaiian precious coral jewelry is a treasure that is sure to last a lifetime and beyond.
Additional reading: National Geographic Magazine Vol.155, No.5 May 1979 “Hawaii’s Precious Corals”