Hawaii State Gemstone or Gem

Black Coral


Adopted on April 22, 1987.

Black coral was adopted as Hawaii's official state gem on April 22, 1987. The black coral which grows in Hawaii's offshore waters has been established as the official state gem. Hawaii's state gem was promoted by scuba divers, perhaps supported by the local jewelry trade. Surprisingly, the Department of Land and Natural Resources testified in favor of its adoption.

In the Hawaiian language, black coral is called 'ēkaha kū moana, since its discovery by early Hawaiian divers, harvesting of the spectacular corals has led to the establishment of a thriving black coral jewelry industry and enhanced visitor and resident appreciation of Hawaii's ocean resources.

Black Coral: Hawaii State Gemstone or Gem


Coral is created by sea life. It is the skeletal remains of coral polyps. Coral is calcium carbonate with a trade of carotene. Its color ranges from white to red. Red, pink, and white coral is mostly calcium carbonate. Black and golden coral is conchiolin. It is beautiful in rings, necklaces, and pendants.

Black corals are a group of corals that belong to the order Antipatharia. Black corals are found all over the world and at all depths. Typically, however, they are known as deep-sea corals and can be abundant in certain areas. Black corals are rarely black, but rather vary in color from white to red, green, yellow, or brown. They also range in shape from small bushes to bottle brushes to fans to single stalks. The black corals differ greatly from stony corals in terms of their skeletons. All black corals have a skeleton made of protein and chitin (the same material as an insect skeleton). In addition, black corals do not have symbiotic algae associated with them, and they do not require light which enables them to extend into depths where light is not present.


Of the 200-plus black coral species, more than 15 are found in Hawaii. Although found at all depths, black corals can be a dominant feature of Hawaii's unique deep coral reef environment. Particularly, black corals are very common in the Au'au Channel, between Maui and Lanai. This unique area has a high abundance of black coral habitat and has been the basis of a coral fishery for almost 50 yrs.

Hawai'i Law

The law designating the black coral as the official Hawaii state gem is found in the Hawai'i Revised Statutes, Volume 1, Chapter 5, Section 5-15

Volume 1.

[§5-15] State gem. The black coral is established and designated as the official gem of the State. [L 1987, c 9, §1]

Taxonomic Hierarchy: Black Coral

Kingdom: Animalia - Animal, animaux, animals
    Subkingdom: Radiata
Phylum: Cnidaria Hatschek, 1888 - cnidarians, coelenterates, cnidaires caravela, cnidario, coral, hidra
    Subphylum Anthozoa
Class: Anthozoa Ehrenberg, 1834 - corals, flower animals, sea anemones
    Subclass: Hexacorallia
Order: Antipatharia Milne-Edwards and Haime, 1857 - thorny corals, black corals
Family: Antipathidae Ehrenberg, 1834
Family: Aphanipathidae Opresko, 2004
Family: Cladopathidae Kinoshita, 1910
Family: Leiopathidae
Family: Myriopathidae Opresko, 2001
Family; Schizopathidae Brook, 1889

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