Why is Spinel so Special?

Spinel has long been one of the most under-appreciated gemstones on the market, yet it is coveted by collectors and gemologists for its range of hues and spectacular optical properties. Spinel was recently added as an official birthstone for August, raising its exposure to new heights. Recognized and prized for its hardness, brilliance, and unlike many other gem types, spinel is never treated or enhanced in any way. Many believe the name spinel comes from the Greek word for ’spark’. This name suits spinel well since it is a singularly refractive stone and is formed with cubic crystals similar to diamond, which gives this gemstone remarkable brilliance and fire. Blue spinel is an incredibly rare color of spinel such as the emerald-cut spinel surrounded by a halo of alexandrites seen below.

Spinel comes in many different colors; however, red and blue are the most notable.  For centuries red and blue spinels were commonly mistaken for ruby and sapphire. One of the most famous rubies in history was discovered to not be a ruby at all, but a red spinel. This shocking discovery is what gave birth to the study of gems and gemology. The Black Prince’s stone was given to him in payment for an expensive military campaign, and the “Balas Ruby” became treasured by many English monarchs. This stone, with much appeal and allure is now known to be a 170 carat red spinel. While we may not have a red spinel ring that large, we do have a fiery 3-stone spinel ring set in yellow gold to highlight the brilliant natural beauty, see below.

Spinels are an attractive alternative to ruby and sapphire as the same trace elements that color corundum are also what colors different spinels, which come in an array of colors – ranging from a continuum of intense reds and pinks, down to the cool hues of blue and violet. Chromium causes the fiery red color of red spinels, and a mixture of cobalt and iron colors the striking blue color of stones from Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a top source for blue “cobalt” spinels, which are sought after for their vivid, intense blue color. cobalt spinels exude a color truly remarkable and we have handcrafted an oval cobalt spinel into an elegant ring as seen below.

Mahenge spinel can be noted as redefining a gemstone lover’s look and value toward spinels. In 2007, very interesting shades of reds and pinks were found in one specific area in Mahenge Tanzania and it quickly garnered quite a reputation. The original mining deposit yielded some of the largest and most magnificent red spinels ever found. Mahenge spinels are now famous for their vivid and intense pink color. While most spinel gemstones tend to have a slight grey undertone, Mehenge does not. The recently founded gemstone also is known to be incredibly pure and have a “glow-like” quality to it, as seen in Paraiba tourmalines. We adore this particular spinel due to its rarity, color and hardness making it the perfect gemstone for any jewelry piece such as the hand-made 3-stone ring seen below.

In addition, the Mogok region of Myanmar (much like Burmese rubies) is a renowned source for the finest red and hot-pink spinel. While all colors of spinel are beautiful in their own way, red is the rarest in nature and the most valuable. In addition to similar trace elements, and sources that are shared with ruby and sapphire, spinels form in the same metamorphic rock as corundum and are found in the same deposits. Wear a piece of rare history with any of our beautiful spinel pieces or view them in person at an Omi Privé Authorized Retailer.