When I started my hobby as a gemstone collector many decades ago, I was definitely wondering; spinel? What is that? And why would I want to buy one when I can buy a gorgeous sapphire or a stunning ruby?
And so why should you buy spinel? Well, for starters it is beautiful. One of the most under-appreciated gemstones, spinel is coveted by collectors and gemologists for its range of hues and spectacular optical properties. But spinel is also fast becoming a hot global gem commodity. Global average prices for spinel have consistently risen in recent years, while ruby and sapphire have fluctuated due to changes in the supply of quality gems available. A world record price for spinel was set last year, with the 50 carat ‘Hope Spinel’ selling for over USD $30,000 per carat. Spinel is thought to protect the wearer from harm and to soothe away sadness. However, the strongest reasons for buying a spinel are its rich, brilliant array of colors and its surprising affordability.
Found in Myanmar (AKA Burma), Sri Lanka and East Africa, spinel comes in a variety of colors including pinks, blues, lavenders, mauves and vivid reds. While common in sizes up to two carats, larger clean/flawless gemstones can be expensive. Recognized and prized for its hardness, brilliance, and unlike many other gem types, spinel is rarely treated or enhanced in any way.
Spinel has in fact long been mistaken with rubies. It is known as an “Imposter” due to its stunning attributes similar rubies. In fact, many famous rubies, including some in the British Crown jewels, have actually turned out to be spinel. It wasn’t until recent modern scientific techniques allowed scientists and gemologists to closely study the structure and composition of gems that they discovered the difference between Spinels and Rubies. Since red spinel is singly refractive and ruby doubly refractive (splitting an incoming beam of light into two weaker beams of light), the primary red color in spinel can appear purer and more intense than the reds seen in many rubies. The limited supply and thus rarity of spinel accounts for its status as one the gem world's best kept secrets, and yet it is far more affordable than its look-a-like, ruby. Top grade red spinels often sell for a fraction of the cost of a ruby of comparable size and quality. Furthermore, red spinels are generally available with better clarity grades than rubies.
Prominently displayed on the Imperial State Crown of England is the 170-carat Black Prince Ruby, which is actually an uncut spinel (picture is from GIA website) below:
When it comes to clarity spinels can show some very beautiful inclusions reflection the gems usual octahedral crystal growth. Some even resembles human fingerprints. See picture (copied from GIA site) below:
What can you do with a Spinel?
Due to its excellent hardness (8 on Mohs scale) and high clarity, Spinel can be set on fine jewelry in various cuts and shapes. It can be used as an everyday jewelry making it perfect for rings.
Besides being the newest birthstone for the month of August, Spinel is indeed one of the most classic gemstone types frequently used in gemstone rings. Spinel is also very-well suited for all other types of gemstone jewelry too, including gemstone earrings, pins and brooches, as well as in necklaces and fashionable gemstone pendants. Knowing how beautiful/sparkly spinels are without any treatments or enhancements, I decided to go after high quality spinels and sell it thru my site. I even went the extra mile to have my top investment grade / premium gemstones certified by GIA. If you see “investment grade” or “premium quality” tagged on any items listed on this site; rest assured, that gemstone is the handpicked and are some of the very best/top stones available in the market. It can be hard to find high quality spinels over 2 carats so trust me when I say this, a lot of work went into finding these from various sources in Sri Lanka, Bangkok or other mines throughout the world. You will see lower priced spinels in my store as well but by no means they are bad. I only pick VVS or IF clarity spinels regardless of its appearance. But the “Investment grade” or “premium quality” are completely different beast. The high saturation, clarity, luster and brilliance are hard to explain, earning the “premium” title.
Spinel can have some very beautiful inclusions that reflect the gem’s usual octahedral crystal growth. Some appear in groups that resemble human fingerprints.
See GIA website for more details on Spinels.