A New Source for Spinel
At one time spinel was most famous for being mistaken for other gems, especially ruby and sapphire. The most famous case is The Black Prince's Ruby in the Imperial State Crown of the United Kingdom. It turned out to be a spinel, not a ruby. But since this gem had been owned by British Royalty for over 600 years, it hasn't been renamed the Black Prince's Spinel. Undoubtedly it will be called a ruby forever.
Spinel is finally beginning to get the respect it deserves. The spinel from Burma has always been highly regarded by gem dealers, but the supply has never been sufficient to make spinel marketable in jewelry stores. In the last year or so we've seen some fine African spinel coming on the market and this new supply may enable spinel to reach a larger market.
Spinel has been highly regarded by dealers for its excellent hardness (8 on the Mohs scale) and very good dispersion or fire. It is also one of the few singly refractive gems (along with diamond and garnet), which gives its color a special purity and intensity. Also, unlike ruby and sapphire, spinel is always untreated. That's a pretty impressive resume for any gemstone.
However, the main source for high quality spinel has been Burma, and that has made spinel very hard to find for most buyers. We are fortunate to be located in the main trading center for Burmese gems, so we get to see a lot of the Burmese supply. But even here in Thailand it can be difficult to find good Burmese spinel, especially red spinel in sizes weighing over 1 carat.
For red spinel, Burma is still the main source. But with regard to other colors, the spinel from Tanzania is very impressive. We have been seeing excellent pink spinel gems, ranging from violet pink to red pink. The blues are superb, with the colors ranging from violet or gray-blue to a sapphire-like blue and greenish-blue. Most of the Tanzanian spinel has very good clarity, and we have been able to buy quite a few pieces with VVS or IF clarity. We have also found a number of pieces in larger sizes, with good availability, and the occasional piece weighing 5 to 7 carats. Prices of spinel are still very attractive, especially if you compare the prices to untreated sapphire and ruby. If the spinel supply increases to the point where the jewelry industry can begin to promote it, you can expect prices to increase substantially.
Recently we've added new articles on topics ranging from gemstone investing to gemstone collecting. If you're interested in gemstone history, see our recent piece on the history of briolettes. For buying advice, you might like to read our new articles on best value gemstones and buying gems at wholesale prices.
Gemstones Worth Knowing
Rhodolite garnet is the name applied to a mixture of pyrope and almandite garnet. Rhodolite tends to be lighter in color than most other kinds of red garnet. It can be easily confused with ruby because of the similarity in color. The mixture of red and violet in rhodolite is highly desirable and purple or purple-red is the most sought after color.
Deposits are found in Brazil, India, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand and the USA (North Carolina).
For more information see our rhodolite garnet information page.
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Happy gem hunting,
Your friends at GemSelect
- First Published: April-01-2008
- Last Updated: October-21-2014
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