Spinel come in a range of colours, including red, orange, pink, purple, blue, blue-green, grey and black, with all sorts of variation of hues. Spinel gemstones are known for their vibrant shades and intense saturation.
Where are they mined?
Historically, spinel were mined throughout southeast Asia,
which produced exceptional, large gemstones that were coveted by royalty. In more recent history, spinel was fossicked in the gemstone gravel of Sri Lanka and mined in the ancient and prestigious Badakshan province in modern-day Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The Mogok mine in Myanmar also yielded impressive spinel stones. Modern spinel-producing mines are located in Vietnam, Tanzania, Kenya and Madagascar.
Qualities to look for
As with most gemstones, colour holds big sway over the value of the individual spinel. Some colours are more desired, such as bright reds and pinks, vivid orange and cobalt blue, whereas other colours such as pale lavender spinel are more affordable. Eye clean spinel is imperative, as inclusions that are easily visible will lower the value of the stone, even if the colour is bright.
How to wear
Spinel is fantastic for all types of jewellery, everyday or occasional, as it is strong and highly resistant to scratching, with a hardness of 8/10. It’s perfect for bridal jewellery as, with the proper care, it will last a lifetime.
What makes them special?
Spinel is the birthstone for August.
The name spinel comes from the Latin word ‘spinella’, which
means spine and relates to the pointed, double pyramid shapes that the uncut crystal forms.
In Myanmar, spinel are called ‘nat thwe’, meaning polished by the spirits, because in their natural uncut form the crystals are so perfect.
Because of its strength, spinel is synthetically replicated for use as glass sheets, which are used in the military.
One of the members of the spinel group, magnetite, has magnetic properties that make it perhaps the most important mineral ever to be
Mariners as early as the 11th century used this form of spinel known as lodestone, which literally means 'way stone', to magnetise their compasses and guide their ships at sea. This also saw the beginning of the art of cartography, as seamen began to plot the courses of their voyages and create the earliest maps of the world.
Spinel in history
Until the late 18th century, despite having been mined and used in jewellery and ornamentation for centuries, spinel was unknown – it had been historically mistaken for other gemstones, particular rubies, since it was first discovered.
In 1783 mineralogist Jean Baptiste Louis Rome de Lisle discovered that spinel was a completely unique mineral, and this gave birth to the science of gemmology.
The famous Black Prince’s Ruby, discovered in the 14th century, and featuring in the British Imperial Crown, is actually a red spinel, as is the Timor Ruby which also belongs to Queen Elizabeth.