In ancient times, our ancestors used coral as one of earliest jewelry materials. According to gemologist Barbara Smigel, archaeologists have found Neolithic amulets made of coral in Switzerland from as early as 8,000 BCE. Over the years, almost every civilization--whether through proximity to tropical seas or accessibility to trade routes--has enjoyed the beauty of corals. Bamboo coral is a rare and poorly understood variety.
When corals are alive, they are colonies of filter-feeding invertebrates that make their "homes" from calcium carbonate shells. Bamboo coral is in the taxonomic subclass Octocorallia, order Alcyonacea and family Isididae, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The corals can live for centuries, and their strong structures form habitats for crabs and larval fish.
Bamboo coral is also known as "sea bamboo" because of its banding pattern. The coral is naturally gray, green, white or reddish brown. Bamboo coral is commonly dyed to red to enhance its color, and sometimes it is dyed pink.
Religion and Homeopathy
Coral is one of the seven treasures in Buddhist scriptures. Throughout history, it has been considered a talisman against bleeding, evil spirits and hurricanes. According to Rings & Things, the word "coral" may derive from the word "goral," the name for the stones used to cast an oracle. Homeopathically, it is used to treat difficulties of the lungs and digestion, and many people claim it helps improve circulation, restore harmony and end depression.
The skeletons of bamboo coral consist of finger- or branchlike calcium carbonate material interspersed with jointlike regions, which give the coral the appearance of a woody plant. Bamboo coral is considered soft by the standards of gemologists, Smigel says, but it will take a high polish.
If you own bamboo coral jewelry, it should be worn and cleaned gently. Use mild detergent and warm water to clean your pieces. Bamboo coral can be damaged by exposure to acids and high heat and long exposure to water, Smigel warns.