Moral Coral

In the last week I’ve liberated two pink coral necklaces from the Value Village — both for under $4. The torsade with a gilt silver clasp was in a bag o’ broken jewelry but was in perfect shape. The larger, 7mm bead necklace was broken, so I spent a good chunk of the afternoon restringing (and hand-knotting) it. I did take the time to test the authenticity of the coral by immersing it in vinegar to watch it bubble away Alka-Seltzer. It was also a much longer necklace, but I got tired of knotting and decided to “set aside” some of the beads to make a matching bracelet and earrings.

Coral has been used in jewellery since forever, but the Victorians had a particular mania for it. In fact, it was so overused that it came to be considered gaudy. Pink coral made a comeback in the art deco era and then again in the art deco revival of the 1970s (which is when I reckon these two pieces date from). These latter pieces turn up with some frequency in thrift shops and are one of those rare items that the store seems to consistently underprice. Maybe because its hard to tell the difference between glass and coral. Maybe its because in the ’70s, coral wasn’t particularly expensive.

I remember going into Ling’s Importers in Bloor West Village and admiring some New Old Stock vintage pink coral jewellery. I was surprised at the price, but the proprieter Alex Ling told me that good pink coral is becoming harder to come by so the value had more than doubled in just 10 years. In just 30 years, overharvesting and pollution have endangered the coral reefs. There have been frequent calls to ban coral altogether, just like ivory. Tiffany & Co. discontinued using coral in 2002.

What’s my point? I’m not sure. I like these necklaces because the colour is flattering to my aging complexion. But I’m sure that I can find glass or plastic beads in this shade. I like to think that because it’s vintage, I’m not contributing to the overharvesting, but that is rationalizing somewhat.