GIA has said “Spinel is a good candidate for the title of ‘History’s Most Underappreciated Gem.’” And it could not be truer. Throughout history, Spinel has had a privileged yet unknown heyday. It appears in everything from the British Crown Jewels and the Austrian Imperial Crown, to the Russian coronation crown for Catherine the Great in 1762.
The largest Spinel in history is part of the Iranian National Jewels — still currently used to back the Iranian currency. Known and valued by the crowns of the world, Spinel have been found and pilfered as the spoils of war. The now-known ‘Black Prince’s Ruby’ — alas, a perfectly red Spinel — was given as payment to Edward, Prince of Wales, for a victorious battle in 1367.
Historically, this gemstone has been confused with corundum (ruby and sapphire). Why? Mostly because it is regularly found in the same mines and because it comes in similar colors. What makes Spinel distinctively different? It is a singly refractive stone, while corundum is doubly refractive.
As far back as the 1300s and 1400s, the largest and most valuable crystals in corundum mines were proclaimed ruby or sapphire (depending on color) when they were actually Spinel. They simply didn’t have the tools to tell the difference (I’m looking at you, refractometer).
So, what makes spinel so captivating?
Shades of Spinel
Begin with the crisp nature of the stones and its alluring shades of color. Then throw in the limited supply, and you have yourself a gemstone that is as tempting for customers as it is valuable. Unfortunately, it tends to be overlooked because few customers know the facts.
Red is the most sought-after color, but cobalt blue runs a close second for its rarity and intensely bright blue color, getting its name from a small deposit of cobalt in the crystal structure. This gemstone can be found in many colors:
- Green (rare)
- Yellow (rare)
This makes Spinel a perfect option for any color occasion!
In an age of ecological awareness, Spinel’s beauty comes entirely from nature giving it a significant advantage with certain customers over a treated stone such as corundum. The most valuable spinel have no eye-visible inclusions, but this is overlooked with rare colors. You can also expect beautiful makes and cuts with a stone that takes an excellent polish.
In most colors, stones under two carats are relatively easy to find. But those larger than two carats can be much more difficult depending on the color. It’s nearly impossible to find Cobalt Spinel in larger sizes.
This gemstone all but sells itself. Coming in a broad range of colors from cobalt blue to true ‘ruby’ red and nearly everything in between, it has become a bit of a cult favorite. And it’s as durable as it is hard, measuring an 8 on the Mohs scale, which makes it great for everyday wear.
Shop Spinel Gemstones on Stuller.com in our calibrated gemstones or in our Noble Gemstones™ collection.
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