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CIBJO Report: Climate crisis impacts shallow-water reef corals

As the world jewellery industry converges on the 2023 CIBJO Congress in Jaipur, India, slated to open its doors on 3rd October 2023, the ninth pre-congress Special Report has been released. This comprehensive report, prepared by the CIBJO Coral Commission, under the leadership of Vincenzo Liverino, sheds light on the persistent confusion between precious coral varieties and their climate-endangered reef counterparts.

Liverino underscores the pressing need for accurate coral terminology, as outlined in the CIBJO Coral Blue Book. This authoritative source meticulously categorises precious coral into just three groups, all of which belong to the Corallidae family: Corallium, Pleurocorallium, and Hemicorallium.

Under this stringent definition, the majority of coral species, including those occasionally found adorning jewellery, are classified by CIBJO as ‘common corals’, he affirms. Furthermore, the Blue Book categorisation excludes thousands of other coral species, notably those shallow-water reef corals currently grappling with the dire effects of climate change.

Liverino stated, “Effective communication of these trade definitions is paramount, given the widespread misconception among industry professionals and consumers alike that jewellery-grade corals originate from colonies situated in shallow waters, such as the Great Barrier Reef. The corals defined as precious by CIBJO inhabit entirely distinct ecosystems, thriving in much deeper and colder waters.”

The tendency to cluster together all types of coral was reflected in a decision taken more than 10 years ago by the authorities in Thailand, which banned all trading in the material after the magnitude 9.0 Great Tohoku earthquake off the coast of northeastern Japan on 11th March 2011.

The devastating tsunami that followed considerably damaged the local reef coral ecosystem.

The Coral Commission President noted, “The Coral Commission at CIBJO has been actively engaging with authorities, urging them to acknowledge that the coral species affected by this natural disaster are not the ones coveted for gemstone purposes in the jewellery manufacturing sector, which represents a robust industry in Thailand. We have underscored that precious corals do not inhabit the same ecosystem as those impacted by the tsunami and, as affirmed by CITES, are not deemed endangered species.”

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