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Spinel Gemstone Properties, Facts and Photos

three rough spinel stones in a museum display cabinet

Spinels are Generally Red or Pink

Spinel is best known as a red or pink coloured gemstone but can also be blue to mauve, dark green, brown or black.

For thousands of years spinel was believed to be ruby or sapphire.  The confusion was not only because of the similarity in colour but also because they're found in the same location and have similar properties.

As a result many rubies some of which now belong to crown jewel collections around the world have since turned out to be spinels.  The most famous example is the Black Prince's Ruby set in the British Imperial State Crown.

single red spinel on display in a museum display cabinet

Although a hard stone spinel is not quite as hard as corundum.  Ruby and sapphire are both varieties of the mineral corundum.

Like many minerals, in its purest form spinel is colourless but impurities of aluminium and magnesium introduce a variety of colours. 

Spinel is known to have been mined as early as 750 to 950 in Badakhshan province, north eastern Afghanistan.  Most of the earliest spinels are likely to have come from here.

Another famous ruby that turned out to be a red spinel is the Timur Ruby.  This 352.5 carat stone is now in the collection of Queen Elizabeth II.  

A 412.25 carat spinel is mounted in the Great Imperial Crown first used during the coronation of Catherine the Great.

The largest collection of spinel gemstones which includes one of 500 carats is part of the Crown Jewels of Iran.

Unlike ruby, spinel gemstones are often flawless hence clarity is extremely important.    

The spinels in our first picture are on display in the Harvard Natural History Museum, Massachusetts, USA.  Photo by Stone Mania.

The red spinel in our second picture is on display in the Natural History Museum Los Angeles.  Photo courtesy of Stan Celestian.  Both photos are clickable and redirect to the original non-compressed image.

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