Spinel Gemstone

A Spinel is a beautiful colored gemstone. 

Until the British conquered Burma spinel and ruby were considered the same since they looked very similar and came from the same source they all where within the corundum family which includes ruby and sapphire stones.

Until the 18.th Century no analytic method was available to recognize any difference of this stones so they were just thought to be the same only later because of the advance in technology people found out that there are some major differences between ruby (corundum) and spinel stones.

Spinel gemstone.

Genuine Spinel Gemstones.

Although the market value and pricing of spinel gemstones won't match ruby and other corundum gems but from the appearance it can match easily. It is no coincidence that until the British conquered Burma red spinels were classified as ruby. 

Cambodian spinel at central market Phnom PenhWithin this findings, it was discovered that even the British crown included a piece of spinel which the jeweler in London who made it falsely defined as ruby. The pictures here show a few spinel faceted and unset gemstones with black plus pink color. Included are also intense red. The heaviest spinel ever found is the 500 carat  Samarian stone today part of the Iranian Crown Jewels.



The red colored raw spinels pictured at left are from Burma (Myanmar) and very similar to rubies. Another marketplace for lower end spinel gemstones is Mae Sot in Thailand where all gems for sale are smuggled in from Burma and most are bought by Indian gem dealers the situation is similar to Chanthaburi near Pattaya where the Spinels on sale come from Cambodia.


The attraction of the gems is for sure the intense color and the rather low price. A gem shop owner fro Yangon's Bogyoke Market gave it to me to have a look. 

Hardness of Spinels

This red gemstone is of magnesium aluminate. The intense color comes from "trace elements"  of chromium and iron. Hardness is 8 on the Mohs scale which is not much difference to ruby and other corundum stones such as sapphires.


The physical structure is similar to diamonds and when the gems are created by a real expert it is difficult to see the difference to "the king of stone" at all.


Today the best sources of Spinel stones are Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma) where both red stones are found beside each other. Actually, there are another half dozen countries the gems are found.
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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 gemologists designate as Spinel comes in just about all colors, 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 colors but it is the Ruby-like red variety that is the most coveted and sought after. The coloring 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 coloring, 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 coloring due to the presence of iron.

Hercynite...Is also a dark green to black member of the Spinel group,and again iron is its coloring 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 coloring of these stones are quite similar to Gahnite, ranging from blue to dark blue or green, colored 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.

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