The location of the raw product led to two jewellery industries being based around the Mediterranean Sea. The first was coral jewellery, the second cameo carving which used shell and coral.

In Europe, coral fishing was centred around the Mediterranean Sea. The coral found there was Corallium coral which included colours ranging from red, through to white. Red coral (Corallium rubrum) which ranged in colour from red to salmon was a major coral in the area.There was also some black coral. Corallium coral was able to be carved into intricate figures and faces. The coral industry was based in a number of Italian towns and in Marseilles.

Antique coral and 18ct gold brooch (on NavetteJewellery on Etsy)

The town of Torre del Greco near Naples became the main coral fishing area although processing and carving of the coral was undertaken in Livorno. From around 1787, the Torresi began to plan to process the raw coral themselves. Supported by Ferdinando IV of Bourbon, a ‘Corallino Code and Company Code was created in 1787.In 1805, the Reale Fabbrica di Coralli (Royal Coral Factory) was established and engraving and carving of the raw coral was undertaken.

Georgian coral and gold bracelet

Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister Caroline was Queen Consort of Naples and supported the coral jewellery industry. She encouraged the Napoleonic Court to purchase coral jewellery in the form of tiarras, hair combs, earrings, necklaces and bracelets. The coral was often carved with beautiful cameos of Greek and Roman gods, flowers, and criss-cross patterns. The Victorian were particularly keen of coral jewellery as part of their love for nature. Coral was also used in archaeological revival jewellery.

Antique gold ring with coral cameo

In 1876, a School for the Manufacture of Coral and Cameos was founded by Umberto I to train coral carvers and engravers was established in Torre del Greco. The town has remained a centre in coral and shell carving.

One useful reference for this post was an article by Lucio Sandon,