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Spinel Overview

The spinel is often assumed to be other gemstones because it tends to resemble either a ruby or sapphire. In fact, some of the most famous rubies in history have turned out to be spinel. But its distinguishing features, like its octahedral crystal structure and single refraction are what set it apart from other gemstones. Spinel also has a lower Mohs hardness than ruby and sapphire. Significant deposits of spinel have been found in Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. It has also been found in Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Madagascar, Nepal, Nigeria, Tadzhikistan, Tanzania and the U.S. Vivid red is the most desirable color of spinel gemstones, followed by cobalt blue, bright pink and bright orange. The more affordable gemstones are often those with paler colors, like lavender. You may also find spinel in black, violet blue, greenish blue, grayish, pale pink, mauve, yellow or brown. When shopping for spinel, a high-quality gemstone should have no visible inclusions. The more inclusions, the less valuable the gemstone. Spinel birthstones can be found in various cuts such as octagons, trillions, squares, rounds, ovals, pears and cushions.

Spinel History

Spinel could easily earn the title of “Most Underappreciated Gemstone.” Throughout history, spinel was often confused with ruby and sapphire. Mines of central and Southeast Asia yielded large spinel crystals known as Balas rubies, which became valuable property of emperors and kings, and often passed along as the spoils of war. Some of the most famous rubies in history have turned out to be spinel. Large red gems, such as the “Black Prince’s ruby” and the “Timur ruby” in the Crown Jewels of England have confirmed to be large red spinels. Many English monarchs, including Henry VIII, have prized spinel gemstones. It has survived them all, through attempted theft, bombings and fires. One member of the spinel group, magnetite, has magnetic properties. As early as the 11th century, mariners used this form of spinel known as lodestone to magnetize their compasses.

Buying Spinel

When it comes to color choice, spinel has a variety of color variations, with some being rarer than others. The most desirable is red spinel, followed by cobalt blue, hot pink, and then vivid orange. The stones that are more affordable are paler in color, like lavender. Spinel also appears in black, violet blue, greenish blue, grayish, pale pink, mauve, yellow or brown. Spinel that is devoid of inclusions to the eye is most valuable, although some inclusions can be quite beautiful, reflecting the gemstone’s octahedral crystal growth. Spinel is a hard and durable gemstone and can be found in various cuts like octagons, trillions, squares, rounds, and fancy shapes, like ovals, pears and cushions . This makes spinel ideal for almost any type of jewelry.
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