Wearing an exquisite gemstone created under extremely rare geological conditions over hundreds of millions of years certainly deepens our connection to Nature, and reminds us that the earth, wondrous and unflagging, continues to bestow us with magical gifts.
Coral fossil is one such magical gift. And, it's one of our favorite gemstones featured in our current line like in our new Fossilized Coral Cuff, which complements the flavor of Fall with splashes of rust red, cyan and forest green.
So, how did ancient coral become this fabulous gemstone?
(1) Sunshine on the Shore (2) Domed Wrap Bracelet (3) Fossilized Coral Cuff
Coral is a Rare & Treasured Animal
Coral reefs are breathtaking to see, a firework display of marine life bursting with color under warm tropical seas. Though resembling an underwater plant, coral is actually a small sac-like animal called a polyp related to sea anemones and jellyfish.
These animals often live in colonies made up of thousands of polyps that can spread for hundreds of miles. They develop a hard outer skeleton by combining their own carbon dioxide with lime found in seawater to create carbon carbonate.
And, like a tree trunk, coral is also a record keeper. Each layer of carbon carbonate that the coral secretes bears a microscopic scar that scientists can count to not only determine how old the coral is, but also to learn how long and what type of seasons existed millions of years ago.
The Great Barrier Reef takes up an area of 133,000 square miles.
An Amalgam of Animal + Mineral
Some ancient coral (which are different than the species we have today) became buried and pressurized in sediment due to environmental changes like volcanic activity, tectonic shifts, earthquakes, the fall and rise of oceans, and climate changes.
Over a period of 20 to 30 million years, coral's stony outer skeleton is replaced with agate or crystalline quartz as a result of silica-rich ground water seeping through limestone rock. The result is fossilized coral that has transformed into an entirely new creation - A gemstone that is an amalgam of both animal and mineral.
The magnificent sunbursts or floral-like patterns on the coral fossil (also called agatized coral) are the cellular and surface features of the original coral. A full spectrum of color is possible, mostly determined by the fossil’s mineral content like iron and manganese, as well as from weathering and oxidation. Each fossil coral is also one of a kind.
When cut and polished (and sometimes heated in brick kilns) the patterns and color of the fossilized coral are further enhanced.
Fossilized coral looks different depending on the species of fossil.
Hunting for Fossil Coral
Coral fossils, also called agatized coral, come from various regions around the world like Madagascar, Morocco, Panama, and Indonesia, as well as right here in the U.S. in Nebraska, Florida, and Utah. Many of these fossils are located in areas that were once at the bottom of a tropical sea over 300 million years ago.
Large deposits of fossilized coral have been found over the last decade in the volcanic mountains of Indonesia in Sumatra and Java. Often entire coral beds are found and are preserved in excellent condition. These are where most of our coral fossil has been sourced.
How Can We Help to Protect Modern Day Coral
Don’t confuse fossilized coral with the endangered coral in our oceans today. There are over 2,500 species of coral in the world, but due to over-fishing, pollution and changing water temperatures, modern day coral is suffering, and in some cases dying. And as they die, the local eco-systems, as well as fishing and the tourism industries that they support, die as well.
Coral that is dying turns completely white or "bleaches." It has recently been discovered that minute amounts of oxybenzone in sunscreen in products from companies like Aveeno, Coppertone and Neutrogena can cause coral to bleach rapidly. This may help to explain why coral bleaching is more severe in tourist areas like The Great Barrier Reef, The Virgin Islands and Hawaii. Imagine that 140,000 tons of sunscreen enter the world's reefs every year.
So, how can you prevent cancer while protecting coral? Use alternative mineral sunscreens that use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Yes, it may leave that white film on your skin, but better we turn white than precious coral.
NEW RELATED ITEMS
Wide Oval Cuff - BR6221FC
Fossilized Coral Cuff - BR1771
Domed Wrap Pendant - NK4449FC
Domed Wrap Bracelet - BR4445FC
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Jan Michaels, Inc.