Spinel - Rare and Spectacular

by : Nigel Makin

The Spinel Gemstone is the forgotten jewel of the Gemstone world, it is not a birthstone and it has no association as an anniversary gem. The species that gemmologists designate as Spinel comes in just about all colours, however only a few are of Gemstone quality.
The best sources of Spinel are Cambodia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, with other good sources coming from Afghanistan, Brazil, Madagascar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Tanzania and Thailand.

Spinel Gemstones are available in just about all colours but it is the Ruby-like red variety that is the most coveted and sought after. The colouring agents are iron, chromium, vanadium and cobalt. Spinel has long been confused with Ruby for many years, this is probably due to the fact that the Gemstone is found among Ruby and Sapphire deposits.
Typical inclusions present in these stones are rutile needles and very small octahedral crystals. Synthetic Spinel has been made for nearly a hundred years; they imitate not just Spinel but Ruby also. Unlike a lot of Gemstones, Spinel is very rarely irradiated or heat treated to improve its colouring, so you can assume with confidence that the stone will be as natural as can be.

Types of Spinel.

Flame Spinel...In the past was often referred to as Rubicelle, this is the Gem trade term for the orange to orange-red variety.

Balas Spinel...This is a pale red variety of the Gemstone that has wrongly been called Balas Ruby in the past.

Pleonaste...Also known as Ceylonite, this variety is a dark green to black opaque Gemstone.
It gets its dark colouring due to the presence of iron.

Hercynite...Is also a dark green to black member of the Spinel group,and again iron is its colouring agent. Hercynite is slightly denser than Pleonaste.

Gahnite...Sometimes called Zinc Spinel, this variety comes in blue, violet or dark green to black.

Gahnospinel...The colouring of these stones are quite similar to Gahnite, ranging from blue to dark blue or green, coloured by iron they are slightly less dense than Gahnite.

Picotite...Also called Chrome Spinel this is the yellowish brown, dark green or black variety.

The earliest recorded use of Spinel was ornamental on a Buddhist tomb in Afghanistan.
The Spinel Gemstone is associated with love, it helps the wearer put their ego aside, and become devoted to another person. Many famous Gemstones that were thought to be Rubies, are actually Spinels. The "Black Prince's Ruby" in the English Crown and the "Timur Ruby" in a necklace in the English Crown Jewels are both Spinels. Two huge Spinels that weigh 520 carats each are on display in the British Museum of London.

Spinel measures 8 on the Moh scale of hardness and is a very durable Gemstone, because of its lack of cleavage, this makes it ideal for every day wear, and is suitable for just about all Jewelry purposes. Spinel is difficult to chip and scratch with faceted edges remaining sharp and the stone keeping its appeal. Spinel Jewelry does not have too much public awareness as yet but as more and more people are getting to know this Gemstone, the price of Spinel Jewelry will most certainly rise. A faceted Spinel Gemstone when in the right proportions can rival a diamond for fire and brilliance and even outshine the Ruby it has been confused with for so long.