What can I find in this article?
- Spinel Colors
- Spinel Species
- Spinel Clarity and Cut
- Spiritual Meaning of Spinel
- Spinel and the Chakras
- Health Benefits of Spinel
- Spinel Price
- Spinel Discovery and History
- Where is Spinel found?
- How is Spinel formed?
- Can Spinel be treated?
- What jewelry is Spinel suitable for?
- How to care for Spinel
- How to tell a real Spinel
- Can Spinel change color?
- What is so special about Spinel
- Spinel - Gemological Properties
Spinel Gemstone Information
Spinel is a rare and often flawless gemstone which comes in a wide variety of colors with a durable hardness rating of 8 which is only just behind sapphire, ruby and diamond. With all these attributes one wonders how on earth it can be so undervalued and under-appreciated!
Part of the problem is the synthetic Spinel created in the laboratory and used in costume jewelry which has given the rarely occurring natural Spinel gemstone a bad name. Then there is the history of Spinels being mistaken or substituted for Rubies and Sapphires which for some reason has smeared the reputation of Spinel when really such a thing should only add to its prestige.
Anyway, this lovely gemstone is generally all-natural and receives no enhancing treatment. It is one of the few gemstones that naturally appears in blue, has a grand past in famous jewelry and is beginning to gain in popularity.
By the way there are many stories bandied around about how Spinel was featured in many pieces of Crown Jewels from noble houses from India to Russia to Britain and everyone thought they were Rubies until, shock, horror, someone pointed out that they were Spinels after all.
These are probably mythical stories as Spinel was a well known gemstone amongst jewelers and royalty as far back as the 11th Century and the criteria for gemstones to go into the crowns of kings, queens and emperors was mainly the words ‘big and red’. Being Spinel or Ruby did not really matter until the 18th century when Rubies began to be valued higher.
The rich almost ruby red (sometimes called traffic light red) is the most popular color in Spinels but the Cobalt Blue Spinel is possibly even more sought after and is certainly rarer. Naturally blue gemstones are not very common at all and sapphires, tanzanites and aquamarines unlike Spinels usually get their color from heat treatments.
The almost neon pink Spinels from Mahenge in Tanzania have raised the name of Spinel over the past decade or so and are a stunning and desired gemstone.
Like most high quality gemstones, the color in Spinel is caused by impurities or minute traces of minerals which get mixed up with the pure state of the gemstone as it forms. Spinel is a magnesium aluminum oxide and would be colorless if it did not have any impurities, however this almost never happens in nature and clear Spinel are exceptionally rare.
Trace elements of chromium can cause the red, pink and orange Spinels while iron creates the deep red colors that are so similar to rubies. Manganese and cobalt are also found in Spinel and sometimes two or three of these elements can combine to create the blues, purples, violets and grays that can also be seen in this colorful gemstone.
Green and Yellow Spinels are almost non-existent in nature but can be created in the laboratory so be a bit wary if you see them for sale. The pink, purple and orange varieties are also much-loved and the gray Spinel is getting more and more fashionable these days, especially as engagement rings or men’s jewelry.
One type of Spinel has been known to possess color-change properties where it will be bluish-gray in daylight and turn to a light purple under artificial lights.
When choosing a Spinel gemstone based on color bear in mind the tone of the stone. It is graded on a scale from very light to very dark with medium tone Spinels the most valuable.
Then there is saturation. Some red Spinels can veer towards brown while the blue, purple and violet gemstones can look a little gray. A gemstone that has a strong saturation will have a nice deep true coloring. A consistent color across the gemstone is also a very important factor.
Generally Spinel gemstones are just the one species or variety with any differentiation being just the color – Red Spinel, Blue Spinel , Gray Spinel and so on. However over the years there have been a few other names used, many just fanciful for marketing reasons and others a bit misleading for dubious reasons.
Some of these include:
- Almandine Spinel – A violet color
- Balas Ruby – An age-old name for a pink to pale red gemstone
- Flame Spinel – Orange or reddish-orange color
- Picotite – A brown Spinel
- Alexandrite-like Spinel – A color-change spinel usually from gray to violet
Gemstones can be either, transparent, translucent or opaque and in some cases all three in the one stone. Their transparency can be graded and in the case of most faceted high quality gemstones the clearer the better.
The transparency can be a double-edged sword as a clear gemstone will allow any internal blemishes or inclusions to be seen.
Generally, even completely natural and untreated Spinels are very transparent and often flawless gemstone, at least to the naked eye. Sometimes a Spinel with a distinctive fingerprint like inclusion will appear but these swirling patterns actually add to the gemstone’s charm.
Spinel is a strong and durable gemstone which can be cut and faceted into almost any shape. Special care needs to be taken with this gemstone to make sure the brilliance or brightness is enhanced and the scintillation or sparkle is maximized.
Spinel is a rejuvenating gemstone, re-energizing and inspiring you onto bigger and better things. It will lead you onwards and upwards and will not allow anything to get in your way and give you the optimism and determination to overcome all obstacles.
If you are feeling a bit negative or unsure of your abilities then Spinel should be your go-to gemstone.
Spinel will not only help your working life but also your love-life. The revitalizing strength of this gemstone will help relationships, letting you appreciate the people in your life and how important they are to you.
Spinel can also help you rid yourself of negative relationships, giving you the confidence and strength to move on from toxic people and to get over or forget past attachments.
Chakra is an old Sanskrit word meaning wheel or circle and refers to the seven energy centers found in your body each influencing a different physical, emotional or mental state.
These are the Crown, Third Eye, Throat, Heart, Solar Plexus, Sacral and Root. Each chakra is linked to a color of influence and a gemstone which has a particularly dominant color will often be connected with that color’s chakra point.
Occasionally in life, our Chakras get blocked or out of alignment and need to be realigned or cleansed. One way to do this is by the use of Chakra healing stones. The color of these gemstones or crystals correspond to individual chakras, red for the Root Chakra, orange for the Sacral, yellow for the Solar Plexus, green for the Heart, blue for the Throat, Indigo for the Third Eye and purple for the Crown Chakra.
Spinel is a very special gemstone in that it comes in almost any color of the spectrum and has a relationship with all the Chakras. The different colors of Spinel stimulate the individual chakras and resonate with the entire chakra spectrum.
Because Spinel comes in so many different colors it has been said that it is especially powerful in awakening the Kundalini or divine energy that lies within our bodies waiting to be unleashed.
Let’s look at this in a bit more detail.
- Red Spinel - encourages physical vitality and strength, activates the kundalini energy, clears and aligns the base chakra
- Blue Spinel - stimulates clear communication, clears and aligns the throat chakra.
- Orange Spinel - stimulates creativity, intuition, and balances emotions, clears and aligns the root chakra
- Violet or Purple Spinel - stimulates spiritual development and clears and aligns the crown chakra
- Pink Spinel - Protective and calming, clears and aligns the root and heart chakras
- Yellow Spinel - boosts intellect and personal power, clears and aligns the solar plexus*
- Green Spinel - stimulates love, compassion, kindness, clears and aligns the heart chakra*
*Green and Yellow Spinel are very rare in their natural form but can be found as synthetic gemstones. GemSelect do not sell synthetic gemstones. I feel that while synthetic gemstones contain the same minerals and crystal structure as natural gemstones they do not have the geological history that builds up over the millions of years of formation deep within the earth’s crust. It is this history of soaking up Mother Nature’s energy that gives the gemstone its spiritual strength.
Spinel, ‘the Stone of Immortality’, is a symbol of youth, vitality and health and it can bring those feelings back to the even the oldest of us. It will increase your stamina, reduce fatigue, allow you to recover from illness and activity quickly, get those energy levels back to what they used to be.
Spinel can ease those aching muscles, joints and bones and strengthen teeth, gums, bones, muscles and the skin. It can even boost the metabolic system which could help shed a few pounds!
We are certainly not great experts in this subject but we have gained some experience and knowledge in our time selling gemstones for nearly 20 years so when we are asked how to use gemstones for spiritual or health benefits we have a few suggestions.
The easiest way for the crystal to influence your body is wearing a gemstone as a piece of jewelry or placing one in your handbag or pocket where it can be used as a touchstone.
Place a gemstone in the palm of your hand or place one beside you while you are meditating. If you do not meditate, lay down with crystals on your body, lined up with the chakra points if possible. Have a bath with the gemstone in the water or on the edge of the tub (check the particular stone is impervious to water – Spinel is fine).
Spinel is a positive, inspiring gemstone so one on your desk at work is a great idea.
To cleanse a Spinel gemstone, hold it under running water, a spring or stream is perfect but a tap will suffice, then let it dry in the sun for a half an hour or so.
Spinel Price List
|Color||Weight range||Price range / USD|
$40 - 2000/ct
$100 - 1500/ct
|1ct +||$20 - 200/ct|
|1ct +||$2 - 25/ct|
Spinel gemstones are priced like most colored gemstones with color, clarity, cut and size being the four factors to consider.
Let’s start with color. The deep reds and cobalt blues are the most popular and most expensive colors for Spinel with some (especially the Myanmar Reds) reaching very high prices. Pink, violet, orange, black and gray gemstones can be found at much more reasonable prices considering their high quality.
Yellow and Green Spinel can be created in the laboratory but are very rare in their natural form so be wary of these two colors.
Much the same as most faceted gemstones the clarity is important with a Spinel that has no inclusions or flaws visible to the naked eye being more valuable than those with visible inclusions. The clearer the gemstone the more valuable it will be.
That being said some Spinels do have some interesting inclusions including some that resemble fingerprints which can be rather attractive. And, of course there are the star effect Spinel gemstones which are caused by inclusions.
Spinels can be cut in almost any shape although circles, ovals and cushion cuts are the most popular. As they are quite a rare and valuable gemstone they can often be cut into non-standard or non-calibrated sizes to gain the most material from the rough.
You would not want to waste any part of a rich red or deep blue Spinel for the sake of a particular size but most other colors are also available in standard industry sizes.
Spinels in any color, other than black, over 5 carats are very rare and accordingly very expensive. When buying Spinels or any colored gemstone we recommend you buy based on the physical dimensions of the gem.
Carat size can be misleading in a couple of ways. It could be cut in such a way that makes it a larger carat size but is ‘bottom heavy’, with most of the weight at the base of the gemstone where it won’t be seen.
Gemstones also vary in density so the high density sapphire weighing 1 carat will be around 6mm in diameter while the slightly less dense 1 carat Spinel will be about 6.5mm in diameter. Ignore the carats, density and specific gravity, just find out the dimensions (say 7mm x 5mm x 4mm) and you will know exactly what you are getting.
Even though Spinels are not that well known and, I think, much underappreciated, they can reach some spectacular prices. Back in 2015, the Hope Spinel, a gemstone in a brooch or pendant setting, sold for nearly $1.5 million and the Imperial Mughal necklace made of red Spinels went for over $5 million in 2011.
The origin of Spinel can influence the price with gemstones, especially the rich reds, from Mogok in Myanmar or the pinks from Mahenge in Tanzania getting better than average prices.
In 1783, mineralogist, Jean Baptiste de Lisle, finally put to rest any arguments over the identities of Spinel and ruby using the science of crystallography to test their unique properties. Royal houses across Europe soon discovered that their Ruby encrusted Crown Jewels were in fact Spinel encrusted Crown Jewels!
To be fair, as far back as the 11th century, jewelry makers, miners and historians knew that these gemstones were different species but if the ruler wanted a gemstone that was big, red and beautiful then a Spinel would fit the bill as well as a ruby.
Famous Spinels include the Black Prince’s Ruby, a 170 carat gemstone which can be found in Queen Elizabeth of England’s crown jewels. So is the Timur Ruby, also a Spinel and weighing 361 carats. The Great Imperial Crown, ordered by Catherine the Great of Russia for her coronation contains a 414 carat Spinel and the Crown jewels of Iran has the Samarian Spinel of over 500 carats as a centerpiece.
Spinel is often discovered wherever corundum (ruby and sapphire) is found so was extracted in the illustrious old mining areas of India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka but perhaps the most famous ancient site for Spinel was Afghanistan.
The mines at Badakhshan near the Tajikstan border were first explored after an earthquake exposed sparkling pink gems ‘the size of eggs’. Local women tried to use the gemstones to produce dye but when they did not work they threw them away!
The gemstones finally found their way into the hands of jewel cutters who recognized them as being softer than rubies but just as beautiful. This area is thought to be the source of all the famous Spinel found in the crown jewels of so many kingdoms throughout Europe and Asia.
Spinel is still found in the traditional and ancient sites of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Tanzania and Sri Lanka but new sources have been discovered in Australia, Russia and Vietnam.
It is most commonly mined as an alluvial deposit rather than excavated from the hard primary rock deposits. This means the Spinel has worn or eroded away from the rock in which it formed before being washed into streams and rivers by rain or floods. They then tumbled along the river beds being polished by the gravel and flowing water before being discovered and collected by traditional alluvial miners.
Spinel is usually found in the same areas and conditions as rubies and sapphires (which explains how they are often confused with each other) in igneous rock formations as the result of contact metamorphism.
Simply put this is where hot magma emerges from below the earth’s surface and comes into contact with sedimentary rock. The heat from the molten magma bakes and melts these rocks and sometimes mineral rich steam and gases are injected into the mix. Over time the new mix of rock and chemicals cools and hardens and crystals form in gaps and crevices, including Spinel.
Spinel is formed from a mixture of magnesium, aluminum and oxide (oxygen), although it is almost never that pure, with other chemicals (which produce all the colors) added during its birth and growth.
Spinel is one of the few gemstones that receive almost no enhancing treatments other than the cutting and polishing that goes on to create the lovely gems.
We have heard of some Spinel having fissure filling treatments where small cracks near the surface are filled with an oil or polymer but we do not think this is very prevalent.
Many top quality gemstones are heat treated to enhance the color and remove inclusions. There have been a few stories about heating brownish Spinel to turn them red but it is our experience that heat treatment does not improve the color in most Spinel and can be detrimental so it is not worth the risk.
Gems dealers will always be experimenting with heat and irradiation treatments to enhance gemstones and I have no doubt Spinel has been subject to all manner of cooking, microwaves and x-ray beams but at the moment still has a reputation as an all-natural gemstone.
At GemSelect we will always inform you if any of our gemstones have had any treatments.
Spinel is a colorful gemstone, with a bright luster with a notable sparkle and at 8 on Mohs hardness scale it is durable and beautiful enough for any type of everyday jewelry item.
As recently as 2016 it was made an official birthstone for August and it is the traditional gift for the 22nd wedding anniversary adding all the more reasons to make this gorgeous gemstone into jewelry.
Spinel is quite high on the hardness scale (8/10) so avoid storing it loose with other gemstones as it could easily scratch them. Conversely, anything harder, such as a sapphire, ruby or diamond, could scratch your Spinel so it is always best to keep gemstones in soft individual cloth bags.
Just clean with warm soapy water and gently wipe dry with a soft cloth.
It is unlikely for you to create such high temperatures accidently but Spinel can be affected by intense heat so please bear that in mind with any cleaning, repairing or physical activity.
I say this quite often but the best way to be sure you are getting a genuine gemstone as described by the seller is to buy from a reputable gems dealer, which has been established for a decent period of time and has a full refund policy. (A bit like GemSelect some might say)
This is not always easy when at a trade show or you spot a bargain on a website but it is especially true of Spinel as checking its veracity without all the expensive gadgets is very difficult – even for a professional.
First of all there are the synthetic Spinels created in the laboratories. These are often made with the identical chemical formula to natural Spinels so are difficult to differentiate. It is difficult to tell the difference but if you can examine it closely you might see little gas bubbles inside the gemstone and this is a good sign that it is synthetic.
To create synthetic gemstones is not a cheap process so the color can be a clue too. Cobalt blue and Traffic Light red are the most valuable colors so they will be mimicked most often so be wary of crystal clear gemstones at perhaps too good a price. Yellow and Green Spinel are almost unheard of in nature but not the lab – be careful.
Spinel can resemble Rubies, Tourmalines and Garnets with just subtle differences in their red coloring and only the optical properties and their hardness can tell which is which – and you need the right equipment to check that.
Before buying a Spinel gemstone, familiarize yourself with its appearance. Check the colors it comes in, compare its sparkle with other gemstones and look for inclusions that are distinctive to Spinel.
This has not been a comprehensive guide on how to make sure your Spinel gemstone is completely genuine but I hope it helps a little.
At GemSelect, we currently offer brief identification reports from your choice of two well-respected independent gemological laboratories, The Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences (AIGS) and Burapha Gemological Laboratory (BGL Lab).
Yes they can. Certain gemstones show a distinct or dramatic change in color depending on the light source. This is a very rare occurrence and Spinel is one of the few gemstones that show this phenomenon. A lovely version turns Spinel from a light gray blue color in the daylight to a bright violet in artificial light. Others can turn from pink to lilac or blue to purple.
Spinel is possibly the most under estimated gemstone out there. A gemstone that has graced the crowns of Europe and Asia for centuries and thought of as rubies until gemological testing put that right should be near the top of all jeweler’s lists but it is not.
Luckily for you we have lots of these wonderful gemstones in stock, mostly from Myanmar and Tanzania where the finest samples come from. For a collection or to be made into a piece of jewelry of your own design you simply cannot go wrong with this historic all natural beauty.
MgAl2O4 Magnesium aluminum oxide
Cubic; octahedron, twins, rhombic dodecahedron
Red, orange, yellow, brown, blue, violet, purple, green, black
8 on the Mohs scale
1.712 to 1.762
3.54 to 3.63
Transparent to opaque
Double Refraction or Birefringence:
Red spinel, strong: red. Blue spinel, weak: reddish, green