Jewelery + Accessories coral jewelry. cc photo by flickr user andrew3000

Published on March 30th, 2010 | by Becky Striepe


Coral for Jewelry is Devastating Fragile Reefs

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Red and pink coral beads are popular in handmade jewelry as well as in couture jewelry lines. Coral beads are beautiful, but unsustainable harvesting methods mean they’re also not so great for the planet.

Coral reefs are actually living things. They grow incredibly slowly – less than one millimeter per year. Some of these reefs that we’re exploiting for fashion purposes live to be up to a hundred years old! The reefs provide critical habitats for marine life.

Trade in coral beads for jewelry is a multi-million dollar industry, and harvest yields have been on the decline due to a decline in coral population. At this year’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), U.N. delegates voted down a proposal to limit coral trade and protect these fragile habitats.

David Allison from ocean conservation group Oceana commented on the decision:

Vanity has once again trumped conservation. Today is yet another example of CITES failing to protect endangered marine species.

Red and pink coral were not given the trade protections promised during the last CITES Conference more than two and a half years ago.

These corals are increasingly harvested to support the growing demand for jewelry and souvenirs. The unregulated and virtually unmanaged collection and trade of these 31 species is driving them to extinction.

What You Can Do

The easiest thing to do is avoid coral in your jewelry-making. There are so many lovely alternatives out there! If you really need coral to finish a piece, maybe you can hunt down a vintage strand to harvest in your craft room?

The failure at CITES only applies to pink and red coral. Black coral is already protected under CITES, so you can feel a bit better about using it in your work.

I’ve heard of coral that is sustainably farm-raised but couldn’t find any certifications to make sure that you’re getting what you think you are. Fish farming has its own set of environmental issues, though, so you might be better off just avoiding coral all together. What do you guys think?

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by andrew3000

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About the Author

Hi there! I'm Becky Striepe, a green crafter and vegan foodie living in Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and two cats. My mission is to make eco-friendly crafts and vegan food accessible to anyone who wants to give them a go. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .

6 Responses to Coral for Jewelry is Devastating Fragile Reefs

  1. Vincenzo says:

    Many mistake in this news.
    First of all, you talk about coral for jewellery, do you know what coral are used? After you talk about coral reef. Do you know that coral for jewellery and coral reef are different?
    Why didn’t you study what are the differents?
    Multi-million dollar? With the coral? Its a craft, an arts. Are all handmade, its not an industry.
    Why you don’t talk about blood diamons? Do you know that each years many peoples died for diamond business?

  2. Kara says:

    I stick with vintage and faux coral. There are some really good imitations out there!

  3. Melanie says:

    Vincenzo, I’m interested in your comment. Would you mind stating what you know and have researched, along with your sources of information so we may all benefit? Thank you!

  4. Jayne says:

    Love the Blog!

  5. skeptis says:

    The species they are talking about when they talk about jewelry coral is red coral:

    When people claim coral is farmed they are not talking about red coral which is the one that is critically endangered and who’s sole purpose is making jewelry, but the live corals used in fish tanks for aquatic hobbyists. There is no such thing as farmed red coral.

    Red coral lives in very deep cold waters and since 2007 a worldwide ban on it’s collection was overturned by the votes of the Countries who stood to benefit from the trade.

    Red coral jewelry IS expensive. If you see red coral jewelry that is cheap it’s more likely bamboo

    or other cheaper corals that have been dyed, filled with resin and polished.

    I have no problem finding antique red branch coral to use in my own jewelry. They are available in all kinds of colors and are undyed. There is NO excuse for using new red coral.

  6. Ramy says:

    Thank you for posting this. More people need to be informed about the precious corals that are becoming endangered because of unsustainable harvesting. Not only is it devastating for the corals themselves, but also the fish and other marine life who reside within and around them.
    The pink and red corals are both desirable and are suffering, it is a disappointment that they did not get listed under CITES.
    Factoids: Red/pink corals are polyps that colonize to make the larger cohesive coral you see in the ocean. They are primarily used in jewelry, but are also harvested for aquarium trade and as decorative pieces.

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