Spinel is the great impostor of gemstone history. Many famous rubies in crown jewels around the world are actually spinel. The most famous is the Black Prince's Ruby, a magnificent 170-carat red spinel that currently adorns the Imperial State Crown in the British Crown Jewels. Henry V even wore it on his battle helmet! The Timur Ruby, a 352-carat red spinel now owned by Queen Elizabeth, has the names of some of the Mughal emperors who previously owned it engraved on its face, an undeniable pedigree!
In Burma, where some of the most beautiful colors are mined, spinel was recognized as a separate gem species as early as 1587. In other counties the masquerade lasted for hundreds of years after that. Spinels were most often referred to as "balas rubies" which may have its roots in the color of origin of the gems.
Now treasured for its own sake, spinel is a favorite of gem dealers and collectors due to its brilliance, hardness and wide range of spectacular colors. In addition to beautiful rich reds, spinel can be found in a range of lovely pastel shades of pinks and purples. Of particular interest is a vivid hot pink popularly known as “Jedi” spinel found only in Burma. It is one of the most spectacular gemstone colors in any gem species. Spinel also comes in beautiful blues which are sometimes called cobalt spinel, but these are extremely rare.
A prime example of Mahenge, Tanzania, Hot Pink Spinel - Learn more about this gem here.
Because synthetic spinel made in a laboratory is often used in cheap imitation jewelry, many people think "synthetic" when they hear the name "spinel." Unfortunately, most people have never even seen the natural gem, therefore, many do not even know of its existence.
Fine spinels are much more rare than the rubies they often imitate. Strangely, they are also much less expensive. In the gem world, too rare can be a drawback because so few people ever get a chance to see and appreciate these gem varieties. In addition to Burma, now known as Myanmar, spinel is mined in Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Tajikistan and Vietnam.
Spinel is a durable gemstone that is perfect for all jewelry uses. It is most often faceted in oval, cushion and pear shapes and is mostly small calibrated sizes due to its rarity. A fine spinel of over two carats is an exquisite treasure to be enjoyed for a lifetime, and for many future generations.
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