A year ago, August babies rejoiced at the news that spinel had been added as an official birthstone for the month to help alleviate their suffering at having the single-hued peridot as their only choice. Spinel brought to the table multiple colors and great life, along with a great deal of exposure for this underappreciated gemstone. So, what is it about this gem that prompted it’s rise to glory?
Although spinel was not commonly known, it has a rich history and was often misidentified for its close mineral cousin, ruby. In fact, one of the most famous rubies in the world, the Black Prince’s Ruby, is not a ruby at all, it is a 170 carat red spinel. This spinel is the centerpiece in the Imperial State Crown of England and it sits above the 317 carat Cullinan II diamond. It was given to the Black Prince, Edward of Woodstock, in 1327. The 350 carat Timur Ruby, presented to Queen Victoria by the East India Company in 1851, is another example of a spinel that was assumed to be a ruby.
Aside from its historical significance, spinel is an incredibly beautiful gemstone. Vivid red is the most prized color, but pink, purple, orange and blue are also very valuable. FIne red spinel is very rare, even more rare than fine rubies. They were mined historically in the mountainous regions in modern day Afghanistan, but now most spinels are mined in Burma(Myanmar), Tanzania, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. Unlike most sapphires and rubies, spinels are not typically treated in any way to improve color or clarity.
Spinel mining in Burma. Photo: GIA – V. Pardieu
At Omi Privé, we love the versatility and liveliness of spinel, pairing it with diamonds and other colored gemtones. As a featured center gem, spinel always grabs attention with its strong color and the way light works through the crystal. As accents in smaller sizes, spinels can provide great contrast to other gems or add additional life to spinels of the same color. Some of our most recognizable pieces have spinels as the focal point, such as the 2016 AGTA Spectrum Award-winning ring below.
We expect the popularity of spinels to grow as the word spreads about this very special gemstone. With spinels being a personal favorite of President and designer Niveet Nagpal, we plan to continue to create jewelry for our collections that includes spinels as the focal point and as accents. So, keep your eye out for the latest releases and look to add a spinel piece to your own personal collection.