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Spinel

by Roderick Wolf on May 07, 2020

Discover the Beauty of Spinel

Nowadays bright open coloured spinels are one of the most rare Gemstones in the world. In the following text we will explain more about this unkown gemstone.

Birth of gemology

Mineralogist Jean Baptiste Louis Rome de Lisle identified spinel as a different mineral than ruby in 1783. Distinguishing spinel from ruby gave birth to the science of gemology.

Gemstones are exceptionally rare. The vast majority are formed as crystals, with growth determined by a harmonization of materials (such as carbon, clay. Silica, lime, magnesia and alkalis), environment (pressure and temperature), and time (millions of years)

General facts about spinel

Natural spinel is a very fine gemstone, with many characteristics that make it almost equal to ruby and sapphire. Spinel is judged by color and clarity, the same qualities as other colored gemstones. The finest spinel gemstones have highly-saturated, pure color with minimal brownish or gray overtones. It is very hard (8 on the Mohs scale, compared to 9 for ruby and sapphire) and it forms as a cubic crystal like diamond.

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.

Burma and Sri Lanka are the traditional sources for fine spinel and the Burmese material is generally recognized as superior. However, the supply is limited and insufficient for the retail jewelry trade. Therefore, many jewelers simply do not stock spinel and as a result the market does not promote it. This can make natural spinel quite difficult to find.

The Black Prince’s ‘Ruby’

The Black Prince's Ruby is perhaps one of the most famous gems of all the British Crown jewels. Despite its name, the stone is neither black, nor is it a ruby, which is possibly why the stone has become so well known. The Black Prince's Ruby is actually a glowing red uncut spinel which has been owned by the British Royal Family since 1367. The gem was named after the 'Black Prince', Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, and is one of the oldest of gems included in the Royal Collection

Color

Spinel has been making a name for itself over the last couple of decades, and the demand for these fine stones  exceeds the supply. In fact, spinel is in great demand among gemologists and gem connoisseurs. Some spinel colors are more rare and valuable than others. In general, red spinel is the most desirable, followed by fine cobalt-blue spinel, then by vibrant hot pink and vivid orange stones. Violet and bluish purple to purple, or lavender, stones tend to be less attractive, and less in demand than other, rarer colors.

Red & Pink spinel is colored by chromium, the same trace element that colors ruby and emerald.

Cut

Spinel is cut in a variety of shapes and cutting styles. As with many colored stones, ovals and cushion shapes are very popular. Because of the scarcity of spinel on the market, most fine-quality rough is cut in non-standard sizes to save weight, instead of in standard industry sizes.

Clarity

Spinel that has no inclusions visible to the eye is more valuable than spinel with inclusions that can be seen. The more visible any inclusions are, the more the value drops. Spinel can have some very beautiful inclusions that reflect the gem’s usual octahedral crystal growth. Some appear in groups that resemble human fingerprints.

Carat Weight

Larger spinel sizes rise considerably in per-carat price. Availability drops and prices rise sharply for fine red, pink, and blue stones above five carats.

Red Spinel

Red spinel rivals ruby’s color, it is singly refractive and very transparent, but it costs much less. If you desire passion that can be actually touched, tasted and admired, spinel is the gemstone for you. Red spinel is colored by small amounts of chromium and has the extraordinarity to take light of other colors and transform it into a red luminance. Red and pink spinel are the two only gems that possess this quality, which is why ancients believe there was a fire burning inside of the gem. Red spinel, mined by the people in Tanzania illustrates their vivid spirit demonstrated in their traditional Masaï jumping dance

The Burmese mining city of Mogok beholds the fine red Mogok spinel and is widely accepted as a classic and unique gemstone.

A gem that comes from the earth and retains its nature forever is believed to spark your passion. Its vibrant and pure red, as bright as a flame, illuminates the dark and manifests our dreams of eternal love.

Cobalt blue

If you think of a blue gem stone you may think of a sapphire, lapis or maybe tanzanite, but there are a number of other blue gemstones which come in different shades, for example the cobalt blue gemstone.

Blue is the color of the element of Water. It symbolizes the ocean, sleep, the sky, and twilight. Blue is considered pacifying and refreshing, calming and healing and it is thought to promote patience and happiness.

All cobalt blue comes from mainly one source: An Phu, near Luc Yen in Vietnam. The karst mountains produce tiny quantities of tiny stones. Just a small part of this intoxicating treasure is a merciful one, its striking color, like the lightning thrills your senses.

Hot pink

Sometimes a gems seems to speak directly to the emotions of the viewer This particular color makes an impression as no other spinel color can. Even in smaller sizes this gem can draw someone into the depths of his own emotions and can evoke an intense feeling of clarity. The color surreal yet vibrant suggests an origin that is not of this world.

Technically speaking, it is not a pink color but an impression of pink formed in the viewers mind when awareness at each end of the spectrum reaches the brains in a complex way. This is the reason what makes vibrant pinkish-red spinel so magical and mysterious, affecting the beholder on a deep level.

These spinels are therefore perfect for the artistry of the lapidary as well as the precious stone expert and jeweler.

This gem is found in parts of Sri Lanka, and Vietnam and very occasionally in Pamir or Tanzania. The queen of these stones is found and mined in Burma.

Royal pink

When Yesenin became romantically involved with a beautiful lady to whom he dedicated several poems. In these he called her by the name of a precious stone ‘lal’. The word portrays color, beauty and the gem in one single word, which pays homage to the virtue of femininity. If there were one gem that represented the very nature of a woman, it would be a pink spinel

The Kuh-i-lal deposit in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan is known since historic times for its pink spinels of finest quality and large size. Traders traveling the legendary Silk Road on their way to Russia passed by Badakshan, home of the Kuh-i-Lal with their famous ‘Balas Rubies’ and collected some pink gems to add to their goods. It comes as no surprise that the Russian royal court started to develop an affinity for these graceful pink gems.

Orange Spinel

The most valuable spinel colors are red and pink, but the flame orange, though quite rare, is also popular with collectors. Most orange spinel comes from Tanzania or Burma. The orangey red fire in this natural spinel is incredible and makes for a very bright and lively gemstone. The intensity and brilliance really needs to be seen in the hand but if you like the pictures you will love the stone. Orange as the primary body color is an unusual color for Spinel. This color is also due primarily to traces of chromium. Why orange rather than pink is not known, but we can speculate it might be related to a charge transfer process and/or to additional traces of manganese, or perhaps traces of iron (Fe3+).

Lavender

Lavender is one of the most strongly desired, best loved varieties of spinel found in all the major mining facilities: Birma, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Vietnam and Tanzania. The palette ranges from sweet pink lavender to vibrant violet lavender embracing the full range of the color, with the Tanzanian stones having a remarkable neon glow. Lavender is known for its highly-saturated, pure color with minimal brownish or gray overtones.

The desirability of the lavender spinel is growing, not only because of its royal charisma, but also because of its rarity, kept in collector’s vaults, and never show to the public.

My orientation towards rare and unusual gemstones require a determined effort to keep finding the stones that perfectly fit into my exquisite jewelry

Color Change Spinel

Along with a rich range of hues, spinel offers color-change varieties. Color change spinel usually appears violet blue under fluorescent light and purple under incandescent light. Spinel is one of few gemstones that requires no special treatments; its beautiful, vivid colors and clarity are entirely natural. Because of its  hardness, toughness, and that it is  more affordable than ruby or sapphire, spinel is excellent for use in jewelry.

Star Spinel

Star spinel exhibits the optical phenomenon called asterism, a star-like pattern created on the surface of a gemstone when light encounters parallel fibrous, or needle-like, inclusions within its crystal structure. Light that strikes the inclusions within the gem reflects off of the inclusions, creating a narrow band of light. When two or more intersecting bands appear, a star pattern is formed. Depending on the crystal, the star may have four, six, or even twelve rays.

Iron Blue

Gem-quality blue spinel is the result of intense metamorphic processes. Cobalt is its main coloring agent, even though iron is predominant in its chemical composition. Unlike red or green gems, blue stones are often clean and large. Napoleon blue, royal blue, navy blue, denim blue: it is a color of both the people and the Court. Holistically seen, the blue of a spinel is the blue of the soul.

Local miners with their weathered faces carry years of burning sun and swarming rains on their skin. With their hands of steel, they are marked by the endless hammering and monotonous sieving of grit and water while they are searching for something preciously gleaming in the gravel. While most gems, or what will become gems, are picked out of the sieve as muddy lumps and fractured pebbles, the large translucent clear crystal, that iron blue spinel is, stands out even in this rough stage. They are already giving away a glimpse of how they transform into the fine lustrous treasure that this deep iron blue stone is, once faceted

Grey spinel

The most distinct features of a gray spinel are its outstanding metallic luster and dazzling reflection. The presence of zinc in the chemical formula brings out the spinel’s naturally strong brilliance. Nuances of purple, blue and lilac do not cover the body color. On the contrary: they are enhancing the multidimensional effect for the eye. Bold and cool, gray spinel twinkles dashingly and with a liveliness that is stunning the eye and the wearer.

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