is usually understood to be denoted by the word רָאמוֹת (ramoth', literally heights, i.e. high-priced or valuable things, or from its upright growth; Sept. μετέωρα, but in Ezekiel ῾Ράμοθ), in Job 28:18; Eze 27:16; and this interpretation is not unsuitable (comp. Niebuhr, Beschr. p. 41), although the etymology is not well made out (Pareau, De immortalitatis notitiis Iob [Daventr. 1808], p. 321 sq.), and the dialects afford little support. According to the Rabbins, it means red corals. The ancient translators were evidently much perplexed to determine whether the word פּנַינַים (peninim', literally branches; rendered "rubies," Job 28:18; Pr 3:15; Pr 8:11; Pr 20:15; Pr 31:10; La 4:7) meant corals or pearls. This will always be doubtful; but the text in La 4:7, by describing the article as red, suggests a preference of the former. It is scarcely credible, indeed, that such a product should have circulated under two different names (if ramoth also means coral); but surely there is no difficulty in conceiving that one word may have denoted coral generally, while another may have distinguished that red coral which was the most esteemed, and the most in use for ornament (see Gesenius, Thes. Heb. p. 1113, 1249).
Coral is a hard, cretaceous marine production, arising from the deposit of calcareous matter by a minute polypous animal, in order to form the cell or polypidom into whose hollows the tenant can wholly or partially retire. The corals thus produced are of various shapes, most usually branched like a tree. The masses are often enormous in the tropical seas, where they top the reefs and cap the submarine mountains, frequently rising to or near the surface, so as to form what are called coral islands and coral reefs (see Kitto, Pict. Bible, on Job 28:18). These abound in the Red Sea (Wellsted, Trav. 2:181; Ruppel, Abyssin. 1:140), from which, most probably, was derived the coral with which the Hebrews were acquainted; but coral is also found in the Mediterranean. The coral brought by the merchants of Syria to Tyre must have come from the Indian seas, by the Euphrates and Damascus (comp. Plin. 32:2). Coral was in higher esteem formerly as a precious substance than now, probably because the means of obtaining it in a fine state were not so efficacious as those now practiced. It is of different colors — white, black, red. The red was anciently, as at present, the most valued, and was worked into various ornaments (Plin. 32:11; comp. Hartmann, Hebr. 1:275 sq.). For the scientific classification of corals, see the Penny Cyclopoedia, s.v. Polyparia. The red variety is the stony skeleton of a compound zoophyte, allied to the sea-apemones of our coasts. It forms a much-branching shrub, the beautiful scarlet stone constituting the solid axis, which is covered during life by a fleshy bark, out of which protrude here and there upon thesurface minute polypes with eight tentacles. It is found attached to the rocks at considerable depths, as from 20 to 120 fathoms. The demand for it has given rise to a fishery of some importance, about 180 boats being employed in it on the coast of Algeria, of which 156 fish in the neighborhood of Bona and Calla, obtaining 36,000 kilogrammes (about 720 cwt.) of coral; and this, selling at the rate of 60 francs per kilogramme, produces a return of $450,000. The mode by which it is obtained is the same which has always prevailed, and is rude and wasteful. A great cross of wood loaded with stones, and carrying at the end of each arm a sort of net formed of cords partly untwisted, is lowered from a boat, and dragged over the bottom. The branches of the corals are entangled in this apparatus, and, as the boat moves on, are torn off; at intervals it is pulled up, and the produce secured. Of course a great deal must be broken off which is not secured, but yet it is a profitable employment. A boat manned by nine or ten hands has been known to bring in 80 or 100 kilogrammes in a day, yielding $100 or $125; but such success is rare. The fishery is prosecuted from the 1st of April to the end of September, during which there may be on the average about 100 days in which the fishermen can work (Milne Edwards, Hist. des Corallines). SEE GEM.