Many of my fellow handmade entrepreneurs know that “coral” became a dirty word over this past weekend - and not necessarily for the reasons you might think. It’s right up there with other words like “reseller” and “mature”. There are a lot of sellers who also worry that coral has suddenly become as controversial as fur, and they are waiting for the buckets of paint to drop.
There are thousands of different species of coral in our oceans, and only a handful of them are desirable for jewelry and decoration. The one that is causing the most trouble is red coral, or oxblood coral, which is in serious danger in some parts of the world.
Some of you may already know that corals of all types are among the long list of materials that I won’t use in my work. Even if I could legally obtain red coral, I wouldn’t, because in most cases it is a threatened species, and most methods of harvesting it harm the environment. There are some exceptions, and plenty of natural alternatives to true red coral, but I avoid those as well. I prefer to make a statement with pure abstinence. It’s a little like being vegan instead of vegetarian.
Be Good to Fish!
Still, there are plenty of jewelry artists out there that use bamboo and sponge coral, and some of it is dyed to imitate the fancy stuff. Who can blame them? Red coral and it’s imitators make for some of the most gorgeous natural beads in the world.
Although it’s hard to know what goes on during the coral harvest, most suppliers will tell you that bamboo and sponge coral are sustainable, and no more harmful to the environment than freshwater pearls. I’ve never met a beader who didn’t love those!
All of the controversy provides a great opportunity to educate people about how precious our oceans are, and how important it is to choose products thoughtfully. So today, I decided to make a little tribute to jewelry artists who are not afraid to show off their coral creations. You can see all of these creations up close by visiting the All That is Red treasury collection.