By reuvenveksler
September 14, 2021
5 min read
S for Spinel
S for Spinel

A ruby? A sapphire? What gemstone is it? Well, it is a spinel – the most underrated stone in the gem world! 


Spinel is a beautiful gemstone with a wide range of colors, highly sought-after by gem connoisseurs and praised by collectors. Chemical composition of its mineral is similar to corundums (rubies and sapphires), but differs from them in an isotropic structure. 

It’s interesting that red spinels were previously confused with rubies. It was only at the beginning of the 20th century when spinel characteristics were differentiated from the ones of a ruby. Even today, spinel and ruby can be told apart only in laboratory conditions.

Spinel’s color range is very diverse and includes pink, red, orange, blue, purple and even black colors. Also, there are white, yellow and green stones. Its color depends on the content of impurities of various chemical elements. 

Mineral: spinel
Color:  red, orange, pink, purple, blue, black
Mosh Hardness: 8
Origin: Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Pakistan, the USA, Italy
Superpower: attracting love and helping in long journeys 
Birthstone: August



Spinel has been known since ancient times. However, it was usually confused with better-known stones like rubies and sapphires. 

In ancient times, the mines of central and southeast Asia yielded exceptionally large spinel crystals. These stones became known as Balas rubies, and some of them became treasures of kings and emperors. As a result, some of the world’s most illustrious “rubies” are actually spinel. 

Traveler Marco Polo, who visited the Pamirs, called the pink Badakhshan stones “rubies of balé”. In Europe this stone was called “balas” according to the ancient name of Badakhshan – «Balas». In France this name was transformed into “ruby balé”. And when it became clear that this was a spinel – “balé spinel”.

S for Spinel

One of the most famous ruby stones is “the Black Prince’s ruby.” This crimson-red gem is set in England’s Imperial State Crown and displayed in the Tower of London. It first appeared in the historical records of 14th century Spain, and was owned by a succession of Moorish and Spanish Kings before Edward, Prince of Wales—the “Black Prince”— received the stone in 1367 as a trophy from a victorious battle.

Since then, many other English monarchs — including Henry VIII — have cherished the gem. It outlasted them all, survived fires, attempted theft, and World War II bombing raids, to become—along with the Koh-i-Noor diamond—one of the centerpieces of England’s Crown Jewels.

S for Spinel
The Black Prince’s Ruby
S for Spinel
The Timur Ruby

Another large spinel in the Crown Jewels, the “Timur ruby,” weighs over 350 ct. Several Persian inscriptions were carved into the gem to testify its age.

Spinel has always been one of the most expensive gems and symbolized power of the royalty and adorned the imperial crowns of Russia, Great Britain, France, Germany and the thrones of the Eastern kings. This gem was also selected to decorate the Russian Prince “Monomakh’s Cap”. A unique sample of 398.72 carats, which had previously decorated the “Monomakh’s Cap” is now at the top of the first Russian imperial crown made in 1762 for Catherine II.

S for Spinel
The Monomakh’s Cap

Lucky charm

For a long time, enchanted spinel was worn in rings and rings, in order to bring love to its wearer. In European countries, these stones were worn for rejuvenation, and it was even believed that this stone could prolong life. 

It is also a talisman of travellers.

Quality factors


Coming in a variety of colors, spinel attracts gemlovers, designers and collectors. However, the most stone’s commercially important colors are red and pink. Mauve- or lilac-colored spinels are also popular, and some blue shades are also in demand. The best and most highly valued blue color gems resemble blue sapphire with intense violet-blue to pure blue colors that are neither too dark nor too light.


Spinel without eye-visible inclusions is more valuable. However, these gems have some very beautiful inclusions that reflect the gem’s usual octahedral crystal growth. Some even appear in groups that resemble human fingerprints.


Spinel is cut in a variety of shapes and cutting styles. The most popular ones are oval and cushion shapes. 

Carat weight

Larger spinel sizes rise considerably in per-carat price. Today this gem is in great demand among gemologists and gemlovers. Therefore, this closed the spinel vs. ruby-and-sapphire price gap.

Reuven’s comment

“Only 20-30 years ago, there was almost nothing known about Spinel. However, in recent years there has been a real boom: Burmese Spinel is at the peak of its popularity today. Moreover, an incredible variety of Spinel called Jedi enjoys special attention from collectors and gemlovers too. This stone has an unreal neon pink-red color.

Cobalt Blue Spinel is considered an investment stone, the price of which has increased to tens of thousands of dollars”.

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