The Passion of
A symbol of power, victory and new hope.
With increasing prominence, a wide color range and
reasonable prices, spinel is highly sought after by
high-end jewelers. The name spinel comes from the
Latin “spina” meaning “thorn,” which refers to the shape
of spinel crystals. Spinel has often been mistaken for
other gemstones, especially ruby. The most famous
170 ct “Black Prince’s Ruby” given by the Spanish
king to the Black Prince of England as a payment for
a battle victory, and the 361 ct “Timur Ruby” are
actually fine large red spinels. Other large spinels
are treasured in the royal collections of India, Russia
and other countries.
Spinel occurs in a range of hues, from orange to intense
red, vibrant pink, and all shades of purple, blue and
violet through bluish green. Intense reds and pinks
are caused by traces of chromium. Orange and purple
stones contain a mixture of iron and chromium. Violet to
blue spinel can be colored by iron, whereas rare vibrant
blues owe their saturated color to cobalt.
Lighter colors of spinel are expected to be relatively
free of inclusions but saturated reds and blues are rare
and sometimes included. The most valuable spinels
have no eye-visible inclusions. However, some spinels
may have beautiful inclusions which reflect the gem’s
octahedral crystal growth. When they appear in groups,
they resemble human fingerprints.
Fine large spinel crystals, historically referred to as
“Balas rubies,” were mined in central and southeast
Asia. Key mining locations are Myanmar, Tajikistan,
Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Tanzania.
Some spinel might be subjected to heat treatment
to improve clarity, but it is a stable treatment.
In rare cases, spinel may also be fracture filled to
improve its apparent clarity.
Spinel has a large range of hues including red,
pink, lilac and blue, which are considered the
most commercially important and available.