It was a day in May 1875 when Alberto Maniscalco, called Bertu Ammareddu, decided to take his small fisherman boat to the fishing shoal south-west of Sciacca where he used to fish with the longline for excellent fish.
The day seemed like any other, but soon it turned into one of those moments that change history.
A splendid piece of coral emerged from the seabed caught on a hook.
Conscious of having found a treasure, Bertu triumphantly returned to Sciacca and managed to sell the position of the coral bank to the other fishermen for the sum, fabulous for him, of 250 lire, the equivalent of many months of work.
But Trapani was the place where were all the boats of Torre del Greco, which went every year to the North African seas for coral fishing. The news spread quickly and a huge number of boats poured into the sea of Sciacca.
The bank seemed inexhaustible, despite the intense exploitation it continued to supply large quantities of coral.
A second larger bank was discovered in 1878 and a third, even larger, in 1880. Up to 2,000 boats came from all over the world, with a ‘fishing’ population of 17,000 men.
Fishing for coral, with ups and downs, lasted until 1914 when, with the start of the First World War, German submarines invaded the Sicilian Channel making fishing impossible.
The quantity of coral caught in those previous years was enormous, almost 20 million kilos, twice the weight of the Eiffel tower.
Corallo di Sciacca was exported all over the world and huge warehouses were filled with unsold quantities causing the price to drop.
The reason for this immense wealth was only discovered after many years. These were deposits of fossil coral, which, uprooted from the slopes of the submerged volcanoes of which the sea of Sciacca is very rich, had accumulated, over thousands of years, in deep pockets at the bottom of the sea.
There, immersed in the volcanic mud, it had begun to fossilize, becoming harder and taking on extraordinary shades of colour not found in the coral caught alive.
Today the Sciacca Coral, being respectful of the natural environment as it is of a fossil nature, is very precious. Having become almost impossible to find, it is worked by very few laboratories for the creation of unique jewellery.
Its history is inextricably linked to that of Ferdinandea Island, a volcano that in July 1831 emerged from the sea of Sciacca amid roaring, flames and fumes and which, a few months later, disappeared. In fact, it was made up only of ashes and was immediately eroded by winter storms.
In its immediate vicinity the second of those miraculous coral reefs was discovered.
In 1905, at the height of the coral epic, the jewellery of Concetta Nocito was born in Sciacca. She was wife of the last offspring of an ancient family.
She created an enormous amount of Gulere, the classic necklaces made up of thirty-three coral spheres (as many as the years of Christ) finely faceted and decreasing in size.
Today, after four generations and one hundred and fifteen years of history, Nocito jewellery is still there in the same family building where it was born. Laura Di Giovanna, granddaughter of the founder, is the creator of unique jewellery worked with the skill of the ancient Sicilian coral masters.
The Sciacca Museum of Coral History, the result of twenty-five years of research and set up in the premises of the Nocito atelier, is ready to tell you about the magic of that extraordinary epic.