Corallium, also known as red or pink coral, is the most valuable species of deep sea coral used to manufacture jewelry and sculptures. Its value is immense, often exceeding the value of gold. In auctions, raw, unprocessed colonies may fetch $150-$2000 per kilogram, while individual necklaces and carvings can cost more than $20,000.
The harvest, which has continued for over 5000 years, is marked by boom and bust cycles of discovery followed quickly by overfishing and rapid exhaustion of precious coral beds. In the Mediterranean sea, this coral once formed vast forests of colonies each 50-1200 cm in height, providing habitat for innumerable species of invertebrates and fishes. The growing demand has greatly reduced colony density and shifted the size and age structure to small immature colonies that have a lower value and lowered reproductive output. The unsustainable harvest is equivalent to clearcutting a forest -it has effectively converted high relief “forests” of corals to unproductive grasslands dominated by colonies that are a few cm in height. To date, few effective management measures have been applied to the fishery and attempts to protect the coral through international regulations within the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) have been foiled by strong political and social pressure.
This coral, along with other deep sea coral species, is too precious to wear and should never be purchased.