Coral has been worn in jewelry throughout history. It was especially prized by the Victorians.
Many stylish women today are in love with antique coral jewelry and consider it their favorite. It is chic, rare, sumptuous, and utterly tempting.
But with so many beautiful colors of coral to choose from, how do you pick out the right shade for you?
It pays to inform yourself before you start your antique coral collection. After all, you may become a coral addict and will need everything to match.
Some Things to Know About Coral
- Coral is considered to be one of the ‘organic gemstones’. (The others are amber, jet, and pearls.)
- Angel skin and oxblood coral are usually considered the most valuable today.
- The more solid the color, the more valuable it is.
- There are some other colors (black, gold, lavender, blue) that are so rare it is unlikely you will come across them in antique jewelry.
- It has been said that coral experts can classify over one hundred shades of red!
Definitions of Coral Colors
It is interesting to note that neither Christie’s or Sotheby’s or the V&A Museum generally refer to coral pieces by their color. The more reputable dealers on the Internet tend to try and describe the nuanced color of each piece rather than simply labeling the colors with one of the labels you’ll find below.
Nevertheless, it seems that these are practical ways of describing the colors that are agreed upon.
(Please note: The Italian names have also been added here. Although they are not generally used in the Anglo world, they are relevant as Italy is and was the center of the precious coral industry. The French name has been added when it is sometimes used in the Anglo world.)
This is pure white or somewhat beige coral. If there is some hint of pink it will be sometimes be called blush.
French: ‘peau d’ange’
Italian: ‘pelle d’angelo’
Can also be called ‘Fresh rose’
This color of coral was particularly prized in the Art Nouveau period. Angels’ skin coral is solid pale pink or solid pale peach color, but sometimes blush coral is referred to as angel skin.
Salmon coral (Sciacca)
Italian: ‘Rose pallido’ (pale rose) or ‘roso vivo’ (bright rose)
Salmon coral ranges from a pale orange-pink to a deep, rich dark orange. This is the ‘coral’ color that most people associate with coral (ie coral lipstick etc). Salmon coral was particularly prized by the Victorians.
Red coral or Oxblood (also known as Sardinian or royal coral)
Italian: ‘Rosso’ (red) or ‘rosso scuro’ (dark red) or ‘carbonetto’ or ‘arciscuro’ (meaning darkest red of all)
Red coral or oxblood coral is greatly prized and rare. It ranges from very dark orange to red to dark purplish red.
If it is more orange than red then it should be defined as salmon but could also be called ‘dark salmon’.
Are you ready to choose your coral color?
Now that you know a little bit more about the different colors found in antique coral jewelry, are you any closer to making a decision?
They are all beautiful. It’s hard not to want all of them.
Ultimately, however, you must go with the one that most draws your eye and makes your heart sing.
As always, it is recommended that you buy your antique and vintage jewelry from a reputable dealer.