Natural red coral has been a sought after material in Tibet for many centuries. Tibetans have come to regard red coral as being more precious than gold (the most prized beads are selling for as much as $200 per gram in Tibet). Salmon orange to deep red beads are always the most valuable. Round beads are also more sought after than other shapes. Coral is primarily used for personal adornment, however, it is also prized in Tibetan medicine as an antidote to poison. In the Tibetan culture, red coral is seen as an efficacious amulet for warding off negativity. It is often heirloomed from mother to daughter or given as part of a dowry. Sometimes an entire families wealth may be invested in coral and other precious beads such as amber or dZi. Coral cabachons are also used to decorate statues, stupas and ritual items. It is particularly favoured as a material for malas because it is believed to magnify or enhance the activity of the Dharma practitioner. It would be hard to find a material that holds quite the same allure. The majority of antique 'Tibetan' red coral actually originated from the Mediterranean Sea. It travelled along the silk trade route via Iran, Samarkand, Ladakh and then finally ended up in the markets of Lhasa. It was also traded to India by a direct sea route from the end of the 15th Century. This made it much easier for Tibetan traders to get a more regular supply. Mediterranean coral is now protected from harvesting, so it is difficult to find undyed beads. The marketplace offers many fake coral beads and dyed alternatives, however, they can never be a substitute for the real thing!