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> To everyone that is considering utilizing natural coral in their
> designs, please consider doing a search on 'coral reef initiative'
> or similar to become familiarized with the state of coral reefs
While that might be interesting research to engage in for its own
sake, it has little to do with the types of coral used in jewelry.
Precious corals aren't reef-building species; they inhabit rocky
seafloor environments around the world as individual colonies. The
major threats to them are fishing operations that drag nets along the
seafloor, and over-harvesting. What's necessary to preserve their
populations are regulations that control bottom-fishing in sensitive
areas, the provision of marine sanctuaries which can act as nurseries
for the corals and the organisms they shelter, as well as limiting
harvesting to select larger colonies, leaving enough to breed future
generations. These rules have been shown to work when enforced
intelligently, in places like Hawaii and the Costa Brava. In other
places which lack regulation of the harvest, it's been a "tragedy of
the commons", where there's no incentive to conserve the stocks,
since each person figures that whatever they don't take will be taken
by the next diver or dredger who comes along.
Even if large numbers of people were persuaded to boycott coral
jewelry, all that would do is reduce demand a little; there would
still be plenty of people around the world who would want it,
especially at the slightly lower price which would be the main
consequence of a boycott. As jewelers, what we should be aiming at
instead are the implementation of rules and policies that would
insure a continuing supply of this beautiful material from
sustainable sources. If you want to read more about these issues,
here's an article I found quite informative:
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/1vu [PDF file]
> And if you do have a bunch of old coral be sure to keep it wet and
> wear a mask if you plan to cut or grind on it.
I haven't heard that precious coral skeletons (the parts jewelers
work with) are particularly toxic (although the live polyps of other
species certainly are, if you cut yourself on them while diving.)
While I generally agree - it's always a good idea to avoid breathing
any kind of dust, and working these materials wet will avoid damage
due to over-heating, what toxic agent do you know of that is present
in them which must be specially guarded against?