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Spinel Gemstone Information

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About Spinel - History and Introduction

Spinel is a hard vitreous magnesium aluminum oxide that has been used as a gemstone for centuries. The beauty of spinel has caused it to be mistaken for ruby and sapphire in the past. However, spinel deserves to be recognized as a gemstone that is worthy of appreciation in its own right. Spinel occurs in a range of colors, such as rose pink to rich red; lavender to deep violet; light to deep blue, orange, yellow, brown and black.

The name spinel is thought to have come from either the Latin word, "spina", meaning thorn, due to its pointed crystal form, or the Greek word for "spark", in reference to its bright color. Spinel has been mined for centuries and one of the most famous historical spinel gemstones is known as "the Black Prince's Ruby". As the name suggests, this is a red gemstone, which was thought to be a ruby. The "Black Prince's Ruby" was acquired by Edward, Prince of Wales in 1367. It is set into England's state crown and is held at the Tower of London.

Spinel Gemstone
Identifying Spinel Back to Top

Spinel is often assumed to be other gemstones, such as ruby and sapphire. However, spinel can be distinguished from other gemstones by its octahedral crystal structure and single refraction. Additionally, spinel has a lower Mohs hardness than ruby and sapphire.

Spinel; Origin and Gemstone Sources Back to Top

Spinel occurs with ruby and sapphire, and significant deposits have been found in Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and Thailand. Other locations where spinel deposits have been found are Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Madagascar, Nepal, Nigeria, Tadzhikistan, Tanzania and the USA.

Buying Spinel and Determining Spinel Gemstone Value Back to Top

Spinel Color

The rarest and most desirable spinel gemstones are vivid ruby-like red, followed by cobalt blue, bright pink and bright orange. Paler colors such as lavender tend to be more affordable. Other popular colors include black spinel, violet-blue, greenish-blue, grayish, mauve, yellow, brown and pink spinel.

Spinel Clarity and Luster

Good quality spinel gemstones should have no visible inclusions. Inclusions typically decrease the value of spinel gemstones. However, desirable inclusions can result in asterism (the star effect). Inclusions in spinel can resemble its octahedral crystal structure or a human fingerprint. Spinel has a vitreous luster.

Spinel Cut and Shape

Spinel can be seen in faceted shapes such as octagons, trillions, squares, rounds and fancy shapes, such as ovals, pears and cushions. Vividly colored spinel gemstones are rare in sizes over 5 carats. Translucent to opaque stones are often cut en cabochon. Rare star spinel is cut en cabochon to display the asterism.

Spinel Treatment

While spinel is not usually treated or enhanced, synthetic spinel is quite common; it is used as an alternative for a variety of similar gemstone types by appearance. Most synthetic spinel can be separated from natural spinel by the use of a magnet. Natural spinel shows a weak to moderate response to magnets due to its iron content. Some light-colored and orange spinel is colored by chromium, which causes it to be diamagnetic (repelled by a magnet). Additionally, natural spinel exhibits an octahedral crystal structure. Natural spinel is widely available and all reputable gem traders should declare products as natural or synthetic.

Spinel Gemological Properties: Back to Top
Chemical Formula: MgAl2O4 Magnesium aluminum oxide
Crystal Structure: Cubic; octahedron, twins, rhombic dodecahedron
Color: Red, orange, yellow, brown, blue, violet, purple, green, black
Hardness: 8 on the Mohs scale
Refractive Index: 1.712 to 1.762
Density: 3.54 to 3.63
Cleavage: Indistinct
Transparency: Transparent to opaque
Double Refraction or Birefringence: None
Luster: Vitreous
Fluorescence: Red spinel, strong: red. Blue spinel, weak: reddish, green

Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemology-related terms.

Spinel: Related or Similar Gemstones Back to Top

Spinel occurs with ruby and sapphire in placer deposits. These are deposits caused by the effect of gravity during sedimentation.

There are a variety of trade names for different colored spinel group members, which include the following:

Flame spinel - Bright-orange to orange-red spinel, which has also been called "rubicelle".

Balas spinel - Pale-red spinel that was mistakenly called "Balas ruby".

Pleonaste - Dark-green to blackish, iron-containing opaque spinel, which is also called "Ceylonite".

Hercynite - Dark-green to black spinel that contains iron.

Gahnite - Blue, violet or dark-green to blackish spinel. Also called "zinc spinel".

Gahnospinel - Blue to dark-blue or green material that is between spinel and gahnite.

Picotite - Brownish, dark-green or blackish spinel. Also called "chrome spinel".

Spinel Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers Back to Top

Spinel is considered to be a soothing stone because of its calming energy. Therefore, it is recommended for those who are suffering from stress. It is also thought to encourage renewal and healing. Different healing properties are attributed to spinel depending on its color. Red spinel is thought to enhance vitality. Both green and pink spinel are said to encourage love and compassion. Violet spinel is associated with spiritual development and yellow is linked to the intellect. Spinel is a non-traditional zodiac stone for Gemini and is associated with the planet Mercury. In feng shui, spinel is said to carry yang fire energy.

Disclaimer: Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers and Properties are not to be taken as confirmed advice. Traditional, Ceremonial and Mythological Gemstone Lore is collected from various resources and does not represent the sole opinion of SETT Co., Ltd. This information is not to replace the advice of your doctor. Should you have any medical conditions, please see a licensed medical practitioner. GemSelect does not guarantee any claims or statements of healing or astrological birthstone powers and cannot be held liable under any circumstances.
Spinel Gemstone and Jewelry Design Ideas Back to Top

Spinel is incredibly versatile due to its variety of colors and sizes. It is ideal for almost any type of jewelry, such as spinel rings, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, hair pins and other beautiful ornaments. Those planning to use spinel gemstones in jewelry should first consider their preferred color. The choice of spinel colors is great, with yellow, orange, blue, red, purple, brown, black and pink possibilities. Spinel gemstones look equally impressive when set in white or yellow precious metals. Art Deco styles and high jewelry designers such as Dior, Louis Vuitton, Harry Winston and Chanel use spinel gemstones along with other colored gemstones or diamonds. More simple but dramatic jewelry can be designed with black spinel and white gemstones such as sapphires. Tribal-style jewelry can be made with drilled spinel gemstones or wire-wrapped spinel gemstones.

Note: Buy colored gemstones by size and not by carat weight. Colored stones vary in size-to-weight ratio. Some stones are larger and others are smaller than diamonds by weight in comparison.

Famous Spinel Gemstones Back to Top

World-famous spinel gemstones include the Black Prince's Ruby, which is a 170 carat red spinel set into the English state crown and displayed in the Tower of London.

The Samarian Spinel is believed to be the largest fine spinel in the world. It is a red 500 carat gemstone that is part of the Iranian Crown Jewels.

The Mogul Names Necklace is comprised of eleven red spinel gemstones amounting to a total carat weight of 1,131.59 carats. It sold for $5.2 million at a Christie's auction in 2011.

The Russian Imperial Crown is adorned with a red 398.72 carat spinel gemstone. It forms an integral part of the Moscow Kremlin Armory State Diamond Fund collection.

Lastly, the 352.5 carat "Timur Ruby", which was believed to be the largest ruby until 1851, is actually a spinel. It is named after the Turko-Mongol ruler, Timur and is now part of the Crown Jewels of England.

Spinel Gemstone Jewelry Care and Cleaning Back to Top

How to clean your gemstonesSpinel's hardness (8 on the Mohs scale) makes it durable and means that it does not scratch easily. To clean your spinel, simply use soapy water and a soft cloth. Be sure to rinse well to remove soapy residue. As with most gemstones, ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended. Always remove any jewelry or gemstones before exercising, cleaning or engaging in harsh physical activities such as sports. Store spinel away from other gemstones to avoid scratches. It is best to wrap gemstones in soft cloth or place them inside a fabric-lined jewelry box.

  • First Published: April-17-2007
  • Last Updated: November-08-2018
  • © 2005-2018 all rights reserved.
    Reproduction (text or graphics) without the express written consent of (SETT Company Ltd.) is strictly prohibited.
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Size and Weight

Gems are always measured in Millimeter (mm)

Dimensions are given as;
length x width x depth,
except for round stones which are;
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Select gems by size, not by weight!
Gem varieties vary in density, so carat weight is not a good indication of size

Note: 1ct = 0.2g

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