Red Coral history and Torre del Greco "city of coral" par excellence  near Naples in ITALY


Italian Red Coral history and Torre del Greco  "City of Coral" par excellence

Used both as stone in jewellery as well as in the creation of decorative objects, coral (from the Greek kora halos “maiden of the sea”) is a precious creature of the depth of the sea. Indeed, it is obtained from the calcareous skeleton of small polyps living in colonies in warm plankton- rich sea beds. Corals used to create artifacts derive mainly from Japanese and Mediterranean Seas. The Mediterranean variety, caught in Italy (Calabria, Campania, Lazio, Tuscany, Liguria, Sicily and Sardinia) and in the surrounding basin, has a characteristic red color and was the most commonly used in the 19th century. The end of the 19th century was a “golden” period also for the Italian species of the waters off Sciacca, in Sicily, whose more or less salmon-red intense tone at times presented yellow stains verging on brown. Starting from the second half of the 20th century, coral colonies were discovered in many areas of the Pacific Ocean and to date the variety used the most even in our country is that from the Sea of Japan. Its colors cover a broad spectrum of different hues, from white to pale pink (“angelskin”), from bright to darker red (“deep red”). The “City of Coral” par excellence in Italy is Torre del Greco (near Naples), the country’s fourth goldsmith centre after Arezzo, Vicenza and Valenza Po. The Campania town, whose thriving manufacturing activities are renowned all over the world, employs thousands of professionals with hundreds of medium to large sized companies on the territory and a considerable number of small laboratories. Coral fishing dates back to the 16th century in Torre del Greco, but it was only in 1805 that its manufacture officially started. Indeed, in that year Ferdinand IV of Bourbon granted the Marseille-born Bartolomeo Martin the license to open the town’s first coral “factory”. Today the Campania area of Torre del Greco excels as Italy’s major coral manufacturing centre. If until 1860-70 only Mediterranean red coral was worked, starting from the 20th century Pacific coral has taken on an ever-growing important role, in particular that from the Sea of Japan. Creative imagination and stylistic perfection still make Torre del Greco’s handicrafts greatly demanded all over the world; handicrafts which are appreciated however not only for the manufacture but also for the splendid cameos in bas-relief semi-precious stones.