Origin: Burma, Sri Lanka, Tanzania
Birthstone: August (new)
Wedding anniversary: 22nd
One of the most famous gemstones of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom is the Black Prince’s Ruby, set in the Imperial State Crown. You can see it on public display in the Tower of London. This, almost 5cm long, glowing red uncut stone is estimated to weigh 170 carats. It has been in the British Royal Family since 1367. Named ‘The Black Prince’s Ruby, it is a remarkable stone. However one of the most amazing things about it is that it’s not a ruby at all but actually a fine red spinel.
Prior to scientific study of minerals, all red gems were called ‘ruby’. In 1783, mineralogist, Rome de Lisle, was the first scientist to clearly distinguish the differences between true ruby and spinel. However, The Black Prince’s Ruby was not correctly identified as spinel until far more recent times.
Spinel is composed of magnesium aluminate, coloured by chromium and iron. It is quite hard, 8 on the Mohs scale, and forms as cubic crystals like diamond formation. Due to spinel’s excellent dispersion, spinel gems can possess vivid fire. The intensity of spinel colour is partly due to the fact that spinel is singly refractive.
Spinel is mined primarily in Burma, Sri Lanka and recently in Tanzania. Large stones are extremely rare; spinel gems weighing ten carats are practically non-existent.
The most desirable colours that are sought after by collectors are Bright Blue Cobalt Spinel, most popular is red, and every variation of pink. Any spinel weighing over two carats is rare. The most valuable spinel is red or reddish-orange. One of the attractions of spinel is that it comes in a wide range of gorgeous colours: lavender, purple, flame orange, blue-green and black to name a few. For red spinel, the finest colours tend to be similar to ruby, i.e. a rich, intense red, however, spinel tends to be more of a brick red than ruby. Like all gems, the most coveted are those with intense colour, being neither too light nor too dark.
So what is the great secret of spinel? The answer is that spinel is in many respects the equal of ruby and sapphire. Though ruby is slightly harder (9 on the Mohs scale), spinel contains fewer inclusions than ruby, and has greater fire and brilliance. Spinel is never heated nor treated in any way; ithere is no known treatment for improving the colour or clarity of spinel.
Currently, spinel is typically available at commercially favourable prices, making spinel currently tremendous value as prices for fine gems are rising every year. The reason that spinel is less well-known and currently priced so favourably is that supply is very limited. Due to this fact, the gem industry hasn’t readily promoted this gemstone when supplies are small and unreliable and sparse in availability. Spinel, therefore, continues to be mainly a collector’s stone. Spinel is still a secret, but a secret we’d like to share with our customers.
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